Watoto Children’s Choir
The Watoto Children, who come from Northern Uganda, had every reason to lament and mourn over their difficult situations of sadness and despair. But during their performance, every single child in the choir had a radiant face, grinning from ear to ear, to share with the audience the joy of being never forsaken.
It was an incredible evening in Heep Yunn School, when the Watoto Children’s Choir presented Watoto’s mission through heart-warming music. They sang, they danced, and they shared their tragic stories associating with poverty, AIDS and children soldiers’ crisis to us all. Even though the children from Uganda put on a smiling and cheerful face, we could still see the poignant past haunting in their eyes, which are memories that pierce their hearts, leaving deep scars which only time can heal.
Problems Found in Uganda
Uganda is a land-locked country in East Africa, a country suffering from poverty, effects of wars, deprivation of rights as well as health problems. In Northern Uganda, the civil war against the Lord’s Resistance Army since the early 1980s. The Lord’s Resistance Army, the last remaining anti-government organization from the Uganda Civil War, continues to remain a threat to the country by assaulting remote areas. The Army is notorious for their brutality and inhumanity, which prefers to prey on innocent civilians with killing, raping, mutilating, brutalizing and turning children into slaves. Thousands of children as young as eight were captured and become puppets of the Army, their weapons in war, or were used as wives in Gulu.
Feeling miserable for their grievous pain already? It is only the start of Ugandan children’s long suffering. Sexism is a serious issue in Africa, where women are considered as inferior, and are often abandoned by their husbands. A large number of them even suffer from AIDS. This results in the increase number of orphaned or neglected children in Uganda. Although Uganda is one of the rare successful stories in combating AIDS, its health situation still lags behind the rest of the world, with life expectancy as low as 50.2 for females, and 49.1 for males in 2005, below the current world average of 67.2. Children are the future leaders and pillars of a country.
The failure to let them develop healthily in suitable environment is the failure in the country’s future development as a whole.
What’s worse, illiteracy is also common in Uganda. Most public education focuses on memorization and repetition. Apart from this, lives in Uganda are harder than what we can imagine. Citizens are forced to leave their home occasionally to flee from armed conflicts. These homeless people then move into the overcrowded camps, trying very hard to make themselves at home in such strange places. Due to the huts’ extreme close proximity to each other and the poor sanitary condition, fatal diseases and fire can spread easily. This gives us a brief idea on the dreadful living conditions people in Uganda are suffering from. As long as the children there are deprived of education, physical care and basic human rights, the vicious cycle will just go on and on.
True Stories of Ugandan Children
Zalwango Suzan is one of the unlucky ones in Uganda. When she was just a two-month-old infant, her father passed away, leaving her and her siblings on their mother’s hands. Their mother was an epileptic and alcoholic. Under the intoxicating effects of alcohol abuse, her mother was unable to take care of her forlorn children. So Suzan and her siblings were further transferred to their uncle’s home for food and shelter, yet their uncle himself was short of resources to provide them with the care they needed. Suzan, an orphaned girl of such a young age had to bear the family burden and strive for survival; her huge dark eyes could only see the hopeless future spreading in front of her.
Tusiime Viola and Waguma Edrisan Tendo share a similar story of Suzan. Viola was abandoned by her parents, whereas Tendo’s mother died from AIDS and his father, also a carrier of HIV, failed to fulfill the responsibility of feeding and educating Tendo.
The three children’s early lives tell a hopeless story commonly found in Africa. Nevertheless, their lives are changed, and their stories are retold in hope and faith after they have received help from Watoto, an holistic care programme aiming to rescue, raise and rebuild.
The inspiring stories of Suzan, Viola and Tendo start with despair and end in delight. They have all joined the Watoto Children’s Choir, in which they leap out of their own sadness for a while and enjoy music. Once they had a crinkled face of bitterness and frowns, now they smile broadly and genuinely.
Once they were lost and feared for their future, now each of them find a dream in their life.
Once they were bounded in their own country, now they are exposed to other cultures, broadening their horizon.
We Can Make a Difference
“I am not forgotten…God knows my name,” sang the transformed blissful children in unison.
They still have a long way to go, however, through Watoto’s continuous efforts, their own determination and our support, children can be raised into future African leaders and rebuild their nation. As students, we may think that there is not much we can do. But our small yet firm support, no matter financially or mentally, can make a huge difference.
Let us show our whole-hearted support and love to the faraway children in Uganda, so that their legends can continue to change their homeland, inspire and warm thousands of hearts wherever they go.