A church in Antioch will become the host of a world-touring singing group and the community far and wide is invited to support the cause.
On Sunday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m., Antioch Church Family will host the African Children’s Choir in a performance that will be one of many in a tour along the West Coast – a tour that will guarantee an education to each singer involved.
“The Antioch Church Family is thrilled to host this amazingly talented group of children who are on a mission to spread joy around the world using their heart-warming musical talents,” said Joyce Howell, the pastor’s wife and Antioch Church Family event coordinator. “In 2013, when they were here, the community responded overwhelmingly, and we are looking forward to what happens this time.”
The children are all from Uganda and between the ages of 8 and 10. According to Janelle Hoekstra, a tour leader with the group, the children are selected to tour based on need. After asking pastors and educators in their hometowns which children are at risk of not receiving a consistent education, officials behind African Children’s Choir recruit those children and eventually comprise a choir that tours the world.
“It’s an amazing experience traveling with them – they view the world with such infinite joy and excitement,” Hoekstra said, noting many of them go bowling or horseback riding for the first time, among other activities. “We travel on a coach bus and, at every place, we stay with host families. They’re really what helps this tour run – they give us a place to stay and food to eat but they really open the children’s eyes to the world and opportunities around them.”
However, the children only tour once before a new choir is formed, and when they return, the focus is on education.
“The children go on the tour, then they return home and become enrolled in African Children’s Choir Primary School in Entebbe, Uganda,” Hoekstra said. “After that, they go to Empower International Academy, a brand-new high school opening this year. And after that, they’re sponsored to attend college, a university or trade school – or whatever they’re interested in.”
The choir was formed in 1984 after Ray Barnett, a relief worker providing aid after a brutal civil war, gave a child a ride in his car and was mesmerized by the child’s joyous singing. He launched what would become a program to generate funds for education for the children of Uganda in the form of a choir.
“Since then, African Children’s Choir has continued to tour the world to raise funds for education and break cycles of poverty,” Hoekstra said. “The goal is to give the children the opportunity to be change-makers in their own country.”
The choir visiting Antioch Family Church is comprised of 17 boys and girls in what is African Children’s Choir’s 49th choir since inception. Church members have opened their homes to host the visitors.
“These children show how much potential, beauty and dignity there is in Africa,” Hoekstra said.
Antioch Family Church is located at 55 E. 18th St., in Antioch. The performance is free, however, donations are encouraged. For more information, contact 925-778-7454.