A few years ago, Elvis Sewankam was abandoned by his father outside Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. When local authorities failed to find his family, Elvis was rescued by Watoto Child Care Ministries, which houses, teaches, feeds and clothes orphans in Uganda.
Elvis, now 10, is part of Watoto’s Children’s Choir, a traveling group that performs in the U.S. and across the globe. The choir dances and sings in multiple languages, often for presidents and other heads of state.
The group performed two shows at the Church of the Redeemer in Gaithersburg on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2.
Gideon Kitzo leads the 22-member children’s choir, which has been on the road for the last eight weeks. He first got involved with the choir six years ago, as a leader in the Watoto church in Uganda. The church is Christian, with roots in Pentecostal beliefs, Watoto spokeswoman Jeanine Bedell said.
“They sing about Jesus, they sing contemporary, upbeat African songs,” Kitzo said.
The choir provides the children with voice training and tutors for them to keep up with their school work, Bedell said. The children are taught English in Uganda. She said some children are sponsored by donors, who give $35 a month to help raise them.
“The children are very excited to be able to travel on the choir tour,” she said.
Majorine Nabulime, 11, has been with the choir for the last nine months.
“I like playing for people and I like meeting people,” she said.
The care of orphans is a “complex issue” in Uganda, Bedell said, and “children are orphaned due to poverty, due to war, due to the HIV/AIDS crisis.”
Majorine’s father passed away, then she lost her grandmother in 2008. She joined Watoto Childcare Ministries when her mother could no longer make ends meet, according to a biography released by Watoto.
She lives with eight “brothers and sisters,” as she calls the children who share a Watoto home with her. Children often stay in the homes, and are raised by an assigned mother, until they go to college or a vocational school.
Majorine said she got to meet the mayor of Philadelphia when the choir performed several shows in Pennsylvania.
“It’s bigger than just a performance, they’re child ambassadors,” Bedell said.
Bedell said after the children perform a tour, usually just a few months of traveling, they go back to their home in Uganda to resume classes.
But, Elvis said, “I enjoy the bus.”
The children audition for the tour, and are excited to have the opportunity to travel, Bedell said, especially when they can share their knowledge of Uganda with the public.
“They’re excited and eager to be able to bring that awareness to individuals around the world,” Bedell said.
The choir’s next performance in Montgomery County will be at Silver Spring’s Colesville United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. on Dec. 8.