The energy, smiles and songs of 20 children from Uganda can be seen Sunday in Newton.
The internationally renowned African Children's Choir will perform at 10:30 a.m. July 30 at First Presbyterian Church, 900 N. Columbus in Newton.
The children have appeared in thousands of concerts around the world, including concerts at the Pentagon and the United Nations.
"We do about four concerts a week," said Tina Sipp, choir manager. "They have a great time doing it."
The children perform an 80-minute concert of contemporary Christian music, standard gospel favorites and ethnic worship songs accompanied by a 17-piece synchronized African drum ensemble.
"It's really kind of intricate; it changes as they dance as well as drum," Sipp said. "It's an audience-pleaser for sure."
Wearing brightly colored costumes, children between the ages of 8 and 10 put smiles of joy on the faces of their audiences.
"They're incredible performers," Sipp said. "I think what people get from the show is the spirit of the children. People are just really magnetized by them."
The children are selected for the choir on a basis of need and undergo several months of training and education before they tour.
"Some of the children may have had a term here or there, but no consistent education until they come to our program," Sipp said.
Being a part of the choir gives them an education that is paid for through the university level, something many of the children in Uganda and several other African countries cannot afford.
"Education's just not accessible to everyone," Sipp said. "This is what they are desperate for. ...They will do anything to have an education."
As they tour, the children participate in schooling and raise funds through their concerts for themselves and others in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.
"The money that's raised is going to support 35 different education programs over seven countries, so the children you see on the stage are really helping thousands of other kids get an education," Sipp explained. "They truly are ambassadors for the kids back home."
Most of the children in the choir start out not knowing English, despite it being the language lessons are taught in at most African schools. Bringing the children to the United States, where they are immersed into English, gives them an opportunity to learn the language quickly.
"I think subconsciously we think poor means ignorant, and it doesn't — they just have untapped potential," Sipp said. "These children are very bright and talented. ...Being on tour, their English soars."
Receiving an education can result in a child being able to support their family and educate others as they grow into adulthood.
"It dramatically changes the course of that life as well as the lives of others they affect," Sipp said. "We are investing in the children so that there is leadership for African communities, cities and countries in the future."
Sipp was quick to note the children are not pressured into choosing any particular occupation.
"We don't do it on the basis of what they might become, we do it because they deserve the chance," Sipp said.
Beyond schooling, instilling moral values in the children is a priority of the adult volunteers who travel with the group.
"We are a faith-based organization. It's important for us to model Jesus to these children and to build character that is beyond themselves," Sipp said. "We have a very hands-on, close range potential for impact."
An appreciation for basic necessities and a focus on living in the present moment are things the adult mentors learn from the children.
"That's all that we see in the media — the challenges that they face, but there are things they've held on to that the United States lost a long time ago," Sipp said.
The African Children’s Choir have educated more than 50,000 children and have helped an additional 100,000 children through its relief and education projects.
A freewill offering is taken at the performance to support African Children's Choir programs.
For more information about the African Children's Choir concert, visit https://africanchildrenschoir.com or call First Presbyterian Church at at 316-283-0504.