By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: Apr. 3, 2018 | 3:05 p.m.
MCKENNEY – After extensive planning, logistics, rearranging, and “many prayers,” the world-renown African Children’s Choir is once again set to perform in the cafetorium of McKenney’s Sunnyside Elementary School, on Wednesday, April 4, at 7:00 p.m.
“Let’s pray this second attempt to have them perform in McKenney is the charm,” said Becky Winn, Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. Winn was instrumental in planning a concert by the choir that was to have taken place in McKenney, in early-January.
After spearheading this initial attempt to have the choir perform in McKenney, arranging for homes and McKenney families to house all of the children of the choir and their chaperones to stay for their visit, arranging for transportation for everyone, and all the other myriad of logistical details to make this happen; all systems were a go. Everything was in place. The children and chaperones were all housed. Everything, down to the last detail was set. Then, the snowstorm came in.
“It snowed, and snowed, and continued to snow. Before we knew it, school was canceled and the evening’s performance had to be canceled as well. As devastated as we were on the cancellation of the performance, all of us that kept the children in our homes had so much fun! The children were so polite, charming, cheerful, appreciative of the smallest of things, and were so excited about the snow. They were ecstatic at being able to build snowmen! Though the concert for January was canceled, all of us were Blessed to have these beautiful children in our homes,” said Winn.
Children of the African Children’s Choir happily building a snowman!
(African Children’s Choir)
Because of the popularity of the choir, most were certain that there would not be another opportunity for a performance in McKenney, and there almost wasn’t. Winn explained that the only other remote possibility of a concert, was perhaps on April 4. Upon investigation, she learned that Sunnyside School, where the concert would have to be held, was closed on that date for Spring Break. Some may have considered this a sign and given up, especially with all the logistical work that had been done in December and January, for what was originally to have been the choir’s performance. Thankfully, Winn did not give up.
Kevin Massengill, Dinwiddie County Administrator was contacted. Massengill contacted Wanda Snodgrass, Principal of Sunnyside Elementary, and bada bing, bada boom, he was able to make the school available. Winn secured the April 4 date with the Music for Life choir organization, and then again began meticulously working on the myriad of details to make the performance a reality.
“We owe both Mr. Massengill and Mrs. Snodgrass a great deal of thanks for making the concert possible. Most of the families that housed the children In January, will be housing them again because we all enjoyed it so much. This concert will be such an uplifting experience for everyone that attends—the young and old. The joy of these children’s voices joined in song is beautiful, stirring, and quite emotional. I especially hope people will bring their children to the concert in particular. After all, school will be out for spring break,” said Winn.
Over 30-years ago, Ray Barnett, Vancouver, British Columbia, was on a humanitarian trip to war-torn Uganda, when he gave a small boy a ride from his war-torn village to the safety of another village. During the journey, the child did what he knew how to do best–he sang. That simple song of dignity and hope became the catalyst for a program that has changed the lives of thousands of children, and reshaped the future of the African continent.
The first choir brought 31-children to the West, inspired audiences with their stories, and raised enough funds to open the first Children’s Home–a stable environment and quality education for both the choir children and additional children who needed help and care. This success brought about a second choir, and over the next few years, six more homes were established to care for vulnerable children. Additionally, a number of special Literacy schools were established in Uganda, where the children learn to read and write, and gained confidence and skills that continue to ensure a brighter future for so many children.
The organization has helped, and continues to help, children from Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, and Rwanda. The goal is to give these children an experience that is life-changing. They are not just singers and dancers in the Choir. The goal is that this experience will enable these children to be free, to hope and to better educate themselves, and to return to uplift the countries from which they come.
The goal has been met, and continues to be met. So many of the little boys and girls taken in by the choir and its ministries have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, and many other professions and vocations that could not have even been dreamed of or imagined in the seemingly-hopeless circumstances of their youth. Many of these professionals have returned to their villages of origin to help, serve, and make a true and discernable difference in effecting positive change in the lives of others. The performance of the children is awe-inspiring; but the knowledge of the dignity, change, education, and improved circumstances of each of their lives is extraordinary.
The concert is totally free for everyone. There will be a love offering at intermission. T-shirts, CDs, and other items that help support the Choir will be on sale in the lobby.
There will also be information in the lobby, for those that may be interested in sponsoring one of the children in the choir, or one of the children in school in the Music for Life organization.