African Children's Choir making stop in Tri-Cities

Every few years the African Children's Choir tours the United States on a mission of hope.

The choir, which is made up of children ages 6 to 11, will make a stop in the Tri-Cities on Thursday for a concert in the Art Fuller Auditorium at Kennewick High School.

The choir was originally scheduled to sing at Richland High's auditorium but the concert had to be switched to Kennewick because of a conflicting event.

The Children's Choir organization, formed in 1984 by human rights activist Ray Barnett, has several choirs made up of children from Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya.

"Most of the kids in this choir coming to the Tri-Cities are orphans and the rest are disadvantaged in some way," said Marylynn Merriman, a member of First Presbyterian Church, which is sponsoring the event. "They are all from Uganda and many have lost one or both parents to AIDS."

Uganda is where the choir was first envisioned about 25 years ago, and it's where most of the choirs are still trained.

"It's truly an inspiring performance and I truly believe you leave the concert feeling like a better person because of it," she said.

Admission to the concert is free but donations are always welcome.

The choir touts itself as an ambassador to some of Africa's neediest and vulnerable children. The young performers show their audiences that despite the trauma of their impoverished lives there is still a wealth of beauty, dignity and remarkable talent to be found.

"The money these kids raise with their performance tours is used to build schools, educate and make Africa a better place to live," Merriman said.

In other words, the choir's mission is to inspire a higher quality of life for the people of Africa instead of expecting the rest of the world to take care of them, she added.

"What makes this concert so special is that with so much bad news happening in the world you see such hope in these kids as they sing and dance, and it makes you feel good to watch them," she said.