BY Tara Zanni
On Wednesday, Oct. 24, a large crowd gathered in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit to welcome the Destiny Africa Children’s Choir, who made a stop at Sacred Heart University on their tour through the United States.
The Destiny Africa Children’s Choir is based in Uganda and was formed by the Kampala Children’s Centre. The facility is located in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, where orphaned children are taken in and given homes, food, education, and access to a medical facility.
The centre opened in 2005 and is currently home to about 1,000 children. Each home on the property houses 12 children; this is done in an effort to provide the children with a family environment.
“The children got healing from singing [compared to the theraputic benefit of]any kind of social work,” said Tori Long, Destiny Africa’s tour manager.
Initially, the children would sing with their house mothers. Through the support of Arnold Muwonge, the center’s director, the Destiny Africa Children’s Choir was officially formed in 2007.
This year, Sacred Heart had the opportunity to host the choir with the help of Francesca DeRiso, the University’s Director of International Admissions.
DeRiso became involved with the organization through family and friend connections. She visited the center last summer and wanted them to perform at Sacred Heart during their next U.S. tour.
John Michniewicz, the director of Choral Programs at Sacred Heart was provided this information. He thought it would be a great opportunity for the Liturgical Choir and other Choir Program participants to interact with them.
“It was an honor to coordinate their visit here on campus. They are truly amazingly talented musicians and dancers. Our choir members and those in the audience had a remarkable musical and educational experience hearing and seeing the concert, testimonials, videos, and even performing some musical selections with the group,” said Michniewicz.
“We heard some of the choir members talk about how they went from being children abandoned and raising themselves on the street, hardly able to scrounge food together each day, to being raised and educated by the children’s center, and now have finished college and are making plans for a successful life. It was so inspirational to see these young students as they are now, energetic, happy and full of life, despite the incredible challenges they have faced and overcome.”
The performance included songs in English as well as other languages. It concluded with Sacred Heart’s Liturgical Choir and Destiny Africa Children’s Choir singing two songs together, one being “Amazing Grace,” the other a traditional African song.
“It is a great opportunity for Sacred Heart to be hosting a choir from halfway across the world, and for me and the Liturgical Choir to be performing with them,” said Sophomore Kim Mulvihill, a member of Liturgical Choir.
During the performance, the audience was shown a video about Kampala Children’s Centre and how people can contribute toward its success. Along with a donation basket, there was a table in the lobby selling merchandise made by women and children in the Kampala community.
“We buy it directly from them because it’s how they make a living, and we sell it on tour and put the money directly towards Kampala Children’s Centre, so we’re helping the community as well as the center,” said Tori Long, tour manager.
The Children’s Centre is currently finishing the top floor of their hospital and donations will aid their progress. Destiny Africa Children’s Choir will have its next U.S. tour in 2020.
“It was incredible how two groups could come together through music,” said junior Kiera Lehr, a choir member at Sacred Heart. “It’s amazing.”