To say the past three weeks have gone by in a whirlwind would be an understatement!
We have had such an exciting time here recently at Abaana because after months of preparation the New Life Choir have finally arrived in Northern Ireland and have embarked on the start of their tour! It was lovely to be able to see the children come through the gate at Belfast City Airport and to welcome them to our homeland. As soon as they came through the excitement was clear to see, as the kids rushed to jump on ‘Uncle Scott’ and all of the Northern Irish chaperones at arrivals. The choir then treated passengers and staff at the airport to an impromptu performance of one of the traditional African songs that they are performing at their concerts which was a beautiful scene.
You can see a clip of this on the Belfast City Airport Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/belfastcityairport/videos/1402816866419927/
In the three weeks since the choir arrived they have been getting accustomed to the weird and wonderful surroundings in Northern Ireland. In particular the drop in temperature from their home in Uganda has come as quite a shock, as the kids (and chaperones) continue to layer up as much as possible. Some have even been seen to resort to hugging radiators to try and stay warm.
The choir have now completed their first run of shows and the buzz around the concerts was impossible to miss. The concerts have been packed out and we have loved seeing such a fantastic response from the audience in singing and dancing along to the songs. The Northern Irish chaperones, who will often be hidden away at the back of the concerts, have also been caught dancing along with all the moves of the choir on numerous occasions. While a certain Mr Scott Baxter was brought up on stage at Portadown Elim to try and show the kids what ‘dad dancing’ is.
The joy, the excitement and the love that has been shown by the choir and reciprocated by the hosting churches and schools has been an unbelievable blessing for all of us at Abaana. We would like to say a massive thank you to all who have made it out to our concerts so far, who have hosted the choir and have spread the word. We hope to see you all soon at more concerts over the coming months
Keep up to date with all of the concert venues and dates at the link below to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to see this incredible choir and hear their amazing story.
We have another New Life Choir update straight from the Abaana Guest House! The children are still in choir training camp and are all becoming really good friends, which inevitably leads to some hilarious moments. Check out some of the stories we have been hearing from Uganda about what the children have been getting up to this week.
In preparation for the New Life Choir tour, the children are having traditional African uniforms made for them to wear on stage during their concerts. This week, a tailor visited the Guest House to take measurements of each of the children. They asked, “What is going on? Why are we being measured?” When they were told they were getting uniforms, they were so excited! For a few days, they would not stop asking when they would arrive. Finally the uniforms arrived, later in the week and the children put them on as quickly as they could. They were so delighted with their new outfits and did not want to take them off! Some of the uniforms had to be taken in as they were too big for the kids – but when they saw that they were being taken away, they panicked! Some of the kids even went and hid their uniforms in their suitcases!
Every Friday, the children and the Abaana staff get together for a time of devotions. In one of their recent meetings, our Ugandan staff member Esther was sharing about anger and teaching the children the dangers of harbouring anger. One of the boys Rooney, who comes from Ayila Primary, leaned over to Uncle Mustafa and said “Uncle! I have hanger in my room where I hang my clothes! Must I throw it away because God will not be happy with me?!” Everyone had a good laugh – and then explained the difference between ‘anger’ and ‘hanger’ to Rooney!
Water Filters for Mpata
Thanks to donors from the UK, Abaana were able to buy 100 water filters for people living in the community at Matthew Cardwell Primary School. The filters needed to be assembled and the first job was to open all the bags and sort the parts. As soon as the choir children saw that there was a task to take on, they all crowded around the table and were eager to help! Very quickly all the parts where sorted into the buckets. It was great to see the New Life Choir working together to bring clean water to a community in Uganda.
Check out this video below to see the impact that the water filters have had:
We are still looking for chaperones to travel alongside the New Life Choir and help them to have the best experience ever while on tour.
Do you think you can chaperone?
In Ugandan culture, the children call older people ‘Uncle’ or ‘Auntie’. We are looking for volunteers to become uncles or aunties to these children. We need volunteers who will help care for, mentor and disciple these special young lives.
We also need some specific skills within the team to look after some specific areas including: Leadership (Tour leader), Administration, Merchandise, Teaching, Sound and Lights Technicians, Bus/Minibus/Van Driver.
This is a really exciting opportunity to play a massive role in the life of a child. Our CEO, Scott Baxter recalls his personal experience:
“I toured with a choir when I was 18 years old. It was an amazing experience that changed me for life. 20 years later I still meet some of my choir children (now adults) in Uganda, and it is incredible to see how these children, coming from a background of poverty have developed into beautiful young men and women serving God in their local community. I am proud to be able to have played a role in their lives.”
What do I need to be able to be a chaperone?
• Ideally we need chaperones for four months (Feb–June 2017)
• You must be at least 18 years old (but there is no upper age limit)
• Chaperones must be able to raise £500 to cover personal expenses (food and lodging is provided by the hospitality of host families/churches/venues)
• Chaperones are required to agree with Abaana’s Statement of Faith as we are a faith–based organisation.
We also require some chaperones to travel to Uganda in December to help prepare the children before they arrive in the UK.
To find out more, or to download an application form, check out: http://www.abaana.org/chaperones
After spending the whole summer at home with their families, the children are back at the Abaana Guest House for another choir training session! February is fast approaching and the New Life Choir are really working hard now to hone their talent for their big tour of the UK and Ireland. Check out some of the stories we have been hearing from Uganda about what the children have been getting up to this week.
Girls will be Girls
When the children arrived at the Guest House for the second training session, all of the girls were given a doll and some clothes that had been donated from the UK. As you can imagine, they were all so excited about this – girls will be girls after all! When shower time came around, each of the girls were given a towel too. After their shower, they would not stop jumping around their room trying to dry themselves. When the aunties asked what they were doing, they said they had already used their towels to dry their dolls’ hair and so they were shaking themselves dry! You can just imagine how the aunties laughed at the big towels on the dolls’ heads!
Lost in Translation
The children have been trying to master the words of ‘My Lighthouse‘ with Uncle Tony – very tricky lyrics for Ugandan children! They were all asked if they understood the words that they were singing and Vicky, one of the children from Coo-rom, said no. However, when she realised that everyone else had understood, she quickly said that she did know what they meant! Uncle Tony asked her again later, in private, and she admitted to him that she didn’t understand what she had been singing. He explained to her that Jesus is our light and that He guides us through life. In the next rehersal, Vicky was asked to sing alone and she surprised everyone with how beautifully she sang the words!
Home Run for Kenan
During a bit of free time at the Guest House, the aunties and uncles decided to teach the children how to play rounders. They were divided into two teams – children from Northern Uganda versus the children from Central Uganda. The competition was fierce! The northern team started out as fielders and scattered across the field, ready to catch the ball when it came. The central team swung the first bat of the game and Kenan from Pallisa ran after the ball and picked it up from where it had landed on the ground. However, instead of throwing back to his team at the bases, he sat down with the ball in his hands while the rest of his team screamed, “We won! We won!” We think they misunderstood the rules a little! The aunties and uncles made sure they knew what they were supposed to do, and we hear they are becoming a force to be reckoned with on the rounders field!
After two weeks in the Abaana Guest House, the children of the New Life Choir are starting to settle in. No longer are any of the kids struggling with homesickness and the group are really bonding and coming together as a family.
The children of the New Life Choir are drawn from all over Uganda, some coming from in-and-around the big cities and some coming from the more traditional rural areas. Over 40 languages are spoken across Uganda and so you can imagine the melting pot of cultures and languages we find in the Guest House!
Even though English is the national language of Uganda, not all of the children are fluent. They are being taught and encouraged to speak to each other in English, as it is the language they all have in common and also the language they will be speaking on tour! The staff have already noticed a vast improvement in the kids who struggled with English at the start, and assure us that they will be confident English speakers by the end of their time with the choir.
The kids have been really enjoying their downtime while in training. The staff though it would be an amazing treat to host a cinema night for all of the kids, especially as many of them have never had the chance to watch a film before. The pick of the evening was a Disney classic – The Jungle Book! We were told that the kids absolutely loved it and we have no doubt that they were swinging around the Guest House all night, singing their favourite songs!
Pray for the New Life Choir
We are so grateful to our supporters for all of their excitement and generosity so far, and we are only in the planning stage for the choir! However, we would also love to have your full support in prayer as we move forwards. We have included some prayer points for the New Life Choir below:
- Thank God for the health of the children. They have all had the opportunity while in training to have a number of blood tests run, including a test for HIV. Thankfully, they have all come back negative. The children have also been dewormed and are eating nutritious meals, and so we are grateful for that.
- Pray that passports will be approved. We are currently trying to procure passports and documentation to allow the children to arrive in the UK. Unfortunately, things are moving slowly and so we would ask that you pray for the cooperation of all the families and the agencies involved, and that things would move along smoothly.
- Pray for the Ugandan staff and chaperones. We are so blessed to have an amazing team in Uganda who are looking after the children and preparing them for this trip of a lifetime! We would ask you to pray for them; to be encouraged and strengthened as they keep up their hard work; to be blessed for giving of their time and energy to serve in this way; and to have wisdom, patience and understanding as they teach, train and mentor the children of the New Life Choir.
The New Life Choir have been at the Abaana Guest House for a whole week now and it’s safe to say that it has been an interesting week. We have had all sorts of stories relayed back from the staff in Uganda – from the sad to the thought-provoking to the downright hilarious!
When the children arrived, many of them had literally nothing with them, except for the clothes they were wearing. The kids were all given new clothes, but they didn’t quite understand the concept of the pyjamas they were given – clothes to wear in bed?! They all immediately pulled them on to go outside and play! It just seemed like such a waste to sleep in such comfy clothes. The children had to be persuaded to keep their new PJs for night time rather than for play time.
The indoor bathrooms have caused quite a stir with many of the children, who are used to fetching their own water, rather than running water from a tap. The children have been bathing indoors and have been very inquisitive about the strange things found in the bathrooms. One child argued with the staff that he wanted to fetch water for his bath from the ‘well’ – being the toilet! We are so excited about all of the new experiences these children are going to have while touring in the UK and Ireland next year!
The children have been given some ‘western food‘ so that they will get used to the food they are eating on tour – minced meat, spaghetti and even jam sandwiches are on the menu, and are all completely foreign to them! All of the kids were amazed by the sweet red substance on their bread and proceeded to lick it all off until the bread was soggy.
Great excitement has taken over the Abaana Guest House in Uganda as 26 enthusiastic young children descended upon it yesterday! Our staff team have chosen the children that will make up the New Life Choir, which will be touring the UK and Ireland from February 2017, and these children have arrived from all over the Uganda to begin their first set of training sessions.
Thirteen boys and thirteen girls, all drawn from different Abaana schools, are moving into the Guest House for the next three weeks to start the journey of becoming a choir. They will be doing vocal excercises, practicing songs in English and learning harmonies. Having heard some short audio clips of how they are sounding already, we are all very excited to hear what the finished product will sound like!
While at the Guest House, the children will also be continuing with their schooling, they will be learning to live together (and away from their families), they will be sampling some of the strange western food that they will be eating on tour and they will be having lots of brand new experiences! We will be keeping you updated with stories from the Guest House over the next few weeks.
The Ugandan children are about to start training and we have just recorded the backing tracks for the next year’s concerts!
Big thanks to the musicians from New Irish Arts for all their hard work (Pete Comfort, Mark Johnston, Stevie Johnston and Jonathan Rea). For more information on how you can get involved, check out our website at: www.abaana.org/choir
The recruitment process is underway for the New Life Choir! Our staff team in Uganda have spent the last two weeks travelling around the 13 different Abaana schools across the country, holding auditions with the kids.
The choirmaster is aiming to select two children from each Abaana school to represent their classmates, which means that the choir will be made up of a diverse range of kids. Some children will be from in-and-around Kampala, the capital city, but some will be from the more rural and traditional villages in the northern and eastern parts of Uganda. Many of them will be from very different cultural backgrounds and will even speak different languages from each other!
During the auditions, the kids have had to showcase their singing voices, their dancing ability, their rhythm on the drums and of course their winning smiles! Our staff have been blown away by the talent they have seen so far and are really excited to start putting a short list together for the very first Abaana New Life Choir.
In February 2017, Abaana will be bringing over the New Life Choir, with children from across our various different projects! We will be touring the UK and Ireland and hopefully be at a venue near you.
For more information on the choir and how you can get involved, visit: http://www.abaana.org/choir/