DINUBA – A children’s choir with a special international purpose is coming to a Dinuba church later this month for a free concert that features contemporary gospel music infused with traditional African songs and dancing.
The African Children’s Choir will perform at 10 a.m. on Nov. 26 at Living Word Fellowship, a nondenominational Christian church located at 105 Westgate Way in Dinuba. Supported by nonprofit parent organization Music for Life Institute, the African Children’s Choir is composed of children ages 8 through 11 from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda.
“The mission is to take children from Africa’s most disadvantaged backgrounds … (and) impact their lives so one day they can turn around and impact their communities,” Sandrah Nakalanda, a choir chaperone, said.
Through tours across the United States, the African Children’s Choir raises funds for its programs that are scattered around countries in eastern Africa. In addition to the choir, the Music for Life Institute has a primary school, kindergarten program, secondary school and outreach program that it offers to children from vulnerable backgrounds.
The organization was established in 1984 and has provided educational opportunities and relief aid to many communities since then. According to the African Children’s Choir website, the organization established numerous schools in South Sudan throughout the 1990s, provided medical relief aid to Somalia during wartime and opened children’s homes in Uganda.
Later this November, Dinuba will have the chance to see the 52nd iteration of the African Children’s Choir in concert. Nakalanda said concertgoers can expect to see the most energetic performance they’ve ever experienced.
“Deeper than that is the joy that they (the children) carry,” Nakalanda said. “They love that they are able to do this. … (It’s) about taking the gospel to the world … encouraging people to have hope and (know) that no matter what, they are going through they will overcome it.”
A personal impact
Nakalanda herself toured with the 24th choir in 2003 and said it completely changed her life; not only did the program provide her with educational opportunities she would not otherwise have had, she said the experience showed her how much potential her own future held.
Born and raised in one of Uganda’s biggest slum areas, Nakalanda said it had been clear to her from a very young age that she would get to a point where she had to quit school and start working. Just before that time came was when the African Children’s Choir visited her school and she was selected to join, she said.
“I had never seen anything like the things I saw on tour,” Nakalanda said. “So much possibility and so many things. I always tell people it is so hard to become what you cannot see or what you don’t even know what to imagine, and that’s where I was before the choir.”
As an example of what she was exposed to, Nakalanda said that as a child, she had wanted to be a nurse because that was what a woman in her neighborhood did. While on tour with the choir, she met a woman in one of their host families who was a doctor, and seeing a female doctor “absolutely blew my mind,” she said.
“That small understanding of ‘Oh, wow, just because I don’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,’” Nakalanda said. “I returned home just filled with so much courage … and I did what so many children can’t even dare to do, and that is dare to dream.”
After graduating from university in 2020, Nakalanda said she is now giving back to her community and trying to create change just as it was created for her. Similarly, she said a lot of the African Children’s Choir alumni are leading change in their own communities, working on education equality, sustainability, hunger initiatives and more.
“That is because someone dared to give us a chance, and we have taken a chance and turned around and said, ‘It can’t stop with me … other children have to be given the same opportunity,’” Nakalanda said.
Nakalanda said that while the organization can only bring so many children on tour, it ensures children who are not selected still have access to programs, education, mentorship and a caring environment.
The concert will include popular children’s music, traditional spiritual songs and African cultural pieces. Tickets to the concert are not required, but donations to the organization are appreciated.