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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

African Children’s Choir brings tour to Spokane area

The African Children’s Choir will be performing at churches in the area.  (Courtesy of Sarah Wanyana)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The African Children’s Choir is making several stops in Spokane and Spokane Valley this week as the group of performers spends several months touring the western United States singing, dancing and drumming.

Choir director Tina Sipp said she is excited to bring the group to her hometown to perform. The choir includes 20 children from Uganda who are between the ages of 7 and 11. The tour is sponsored by Music for Life, an international nonprofit organization that raises money to provide education for poor students in African countries.

“The goal of the organization is to provide education for orphaned and impoverished children,” Sipp said. “We’re really trying to raise a new generation.”

In Uganda, there are private schools that cost money, but public schools also require uniforms and school supplies.

“They really can’t afford that,” Sipp said. “They’re just trying to get food for the day.”

There’s an open audition process for children interested in joining the choir, but the focus is more on who needs help the most rather than talent, Sipp said.

“There’s kind of an innate talent for singing and dancing with the children,” she said.

The children picked for the choir are promised an education through the university level and work with tutors while they travel. But the fundraising performance tours also support even more students back home, 58,000 of them in the last 38 years, Sipp said.

“The work of the choir does support hundreds of other children,” she said.

While the children are on tour, they have the opportunity to have other experiences, such as visiting aquariums and going to the beach.

“They just get a lot of opportunities to see and do and meet,” she said. “Then they go back to the school they started from.”

Sipp said she’s been working for the organization for 20 years and loves seeing the pure joy the children experience doing things that might be taken for granted here, including swimming in a hotel pool.

“I really enjoy the process of seeing the children grow,” she said.

The group on tour left home earlier this month and will return in January. In addition to Sipp and other volunteers, they are accompanied by four Ugandan chaperons, all of whom were choir members when they were children. They speak during performances about the impact receiving an education had on their lives, Sipp said.

“The ripple continues,” she said. “It is profound the difference that makes in a person’s life.”

Those who attend the performances can expect to see traditional African dancing and singing, as well as some English songs put to African rhythms.

“A good portion of the show is in African languages,” Sipp said.

People are asked to make a love offering during the performances. There are also handcrafted products such as baskets available for purchase at each performance, as well as T-shirts and CDs.

“We want people to come and partner with us,” Sipp said. “It is no small investment.”