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Uganda Children’s Choir gives voice to AIDS epidemic

An upcoming concert in La Jolla will give voice to a crisis happening half a world away.

Voices of Women is hosting “An Evening in Africa,” a special educational event that will feature a performance by the Uganda Children’s Choir at the St. James By-the-Sea Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27. The event is designed to increase awareness about the AIDS epidemic in Uganda and raise money for Ugandan children.

The Uganda Children’s Choir is made up of 10 orphans whose ages ranges from 10 to 12 years old. The members of the choir are from villages in the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria, Uganda. The members of the choir were selected because of their talent for singing and dancing and they have been touring the United States and Canada for the past several months.

The impetus of the tour was to bring attention to the crisis in the Ssese Islands. The children’s villages in the Ssese Islands are populated by hundreds of orphans who have lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic.

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Voices of Women, which is sponsoring the performance, is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to educating the public about international relations and U.S. foreign policy, according to Voices of Women founder and president, Jenni Prisk.

Prisk was born in New Zealand, but she has lived in the U.S. for 23 years. She founded the organization directly after the Sept. 11 attacks because she wanted to increase awareness about the influence the U.S. has on the world.

“We are founded on a three-pronged mission,” Prisk said. “Firstly, we want to educate ourselves and others on U.S. foreign policy. Secondly, we want to find a means for non-violent global conflict, and thirdly, our mission is to empower women throughout the world.”

In addition to the singing portion of the event by the Uganda Children’s Choir, there will be a speech by Dr. Shirley Weber, chair of San Diego State University’s African Studies department. Dr. Weber will speak about how Americans can help Africans build a new, stronger Africa, Prisk said.

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Voices of Women has hosted 35 educational events since 2001, and the organization decided to sponsor the Uganda Children’s Choir in February in order to celebrate Black History Month, according to Voices of Women chair Pamela Perkins.

Perkins said that this concert is special because it benefits the children of Uganda, but it also celebrates African culture.

“Black History Month is about celebrating all black people who exist on the globe,” Perkins said. “There are a lot of types of people of African decent that live in the States. There are Caribbean Africans and Brazilian Africans.”

Perkins said the event is a good opportunity for attendees to learn about the tragedy in Uganda and donate to the Childcare Worldwide Organization.

The Childcare Worldwide Organization, which sponsors the Uganda Children’s Choir, is a non-profit, Christian organization that strives to improve the lives of impoverished youths who live in the Third World.

Perkins added that although the event draws attention to the tragic circumstances of the Ugandan orphans, the performance is a positive display of African culture.

“It is more palatable for us to see them happy, singing and dancing instead of being exposed to the tragedy that they are living in,” Perkins said. “These are a lucky few who get to travel and live in a life of opulence before they return to a life that is less than desirable.”

The 10 children in the choir are accompanied by two Ugandan chaperones on the tour. Most of the venues on the tour are churches, but there are non-religious organizations that host the concerts as well. The Uganda Children’s Choir will perform traditional African music with drums, and a lot of the songs have Christian themes, Perkins said.

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Voices of Women prefer to host events that are both educational and artistic, according to Prisk.

“There is something about the power of performance, voice and children,” Prisk said. “There is also something about children, they are the most savagely affected by war.”

In addition to the crisis in Uganda, Voices of Women has helped support other charitable causes. The organization helped buy school supplies for children in Afghanistan and buy wheelchairs for Israeli and Palestinian children, according to Perkins.

Perkins is enthusiastic about the performance because there will be a reception following the concert where attendees can meet the choir members.

St. James By-the-Sea Episcopal Church is at 743 Prospect St. Call (858) 459-3421.