Raised To Rebuild

Three groups of children dance energetically to the upbeat sound of ‘Be Exalted’, one of the songs on Watoto’s new album. As they dance, their voices shoot high above the beats of the sound track. Their actions accompany the words that flow from their hearts, as they lift their hands in unison to exalt His Holy name.

“Great smiles, now let’s try to sing a little louder,” a voice is heard from the pews encouraging them to go on. It’s the voice of Maria Namubiru, their music instructor and Assistant Team Leader for Choir 70, travelling to USA in January.

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For four hours every day, she dances along with the children, their eyes always fixed on her for their next key or dance move. “Now move to your left. Do not distort the lines. Remember not to break away from your group,” she insists.

The children trust her and follow her lead, like they would follow their mothers or older siblings. “It takes time to be able to achieve this kind of trust and openness from them,” says Maria. “I play with them during our play time. I’m not just their instructor or teacher; I’m their friend as well,” she adds.

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During playtime, she sits with the children and tries to interpret the message in the songs for them. She asks each one of them to share his or her story and some of the children share the tough moments they went through.

Some children are reluctant to open up because they come deeply wounded. It takes time to bond and create a safe environment where they are able to heal and share their stories. Maria, who grew up in the Watoto extended program, shares her own story with them. This opens the door for them to heal and see that they can also achieve great things. Maria has been empowered to help rebuild their lives. When she has all their attention, she moves her eyes from one child to another and recounts her story.

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Maria’s story:

“It was completely the love of the Father that gave me the opportunity to be part of the Watoto extended program. I wasn’t raised in the homes, but I received support from Watoto. I lost my parents at a tender age and my uncle took me in with the rest of my siblings. He had six children, plus three of my siblings; that was quite a number for him to look after. I experienced a sense of hope when Watoto agreed to support us. From that day on, I don’t recall a memory of lacking school fees.

“Of course, I have memories of not having everything. I didn’t know Jesus and many times I wondered, ‘Why me?’ There were times when I wished I were a part of the families in the Watoto homes. I thought the children there were more privileged than I was. When I think about it now, I know that God had a reason for leaving me with my family.

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“It’s for this reason, a time like this one, that I may be able to share my story with you. God listens and He cares,” Maria helps the children understand.

“Auntie Maria loves me so much. She makes sure everyone is happy. She will know when you are not feeling well and ask you what the problem might be,” said Miriam Mujawimana, one of the children on Maria’s team.

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As the day comes to an end, the team thanks God for all the achievements of the day. “Hold hands, close your eyes and speak loudly to God. This time is for you and your God. Tell Him about your failures and your strengths. He will lift you up,” Maria tells the children.

“Thank you auntie Maria for teaching us…” The chorus exclaims. In straight lines, the children march to the bus and they’re ferried home. This marks the end of their rehearsal day.

Seriously, We Need Sponsors

Our campaign hero, Brian Muwanguzi (meaning winner or victor), is an average African boy who lives in Watoto’s Bbira Village. He is 8 years old and dreams of making people beautiful (buut-i-full). He wants to be a hairdresser.

Or a police officer.
Or a teacher… Baby Watoto caregiver? Or a… farmer?
Let’s just say that Brian has many dreams.

As Brian lives from day to day in his beautiful village, he happily explores all the possibilities his bright future holds. For now, Brian’s natural gifting has made way for his current, full-time role of Chief Village Comedian. He has an extraordinary talent to effortlessly make people laugh. He is an absolutely key asset to the well being of all of us here at Watoto.

Being in the company of this humorous young boy, one would never suspect that his young life has already been plagued with immense pain.

Brian and his brother Caleb (9) were born to a violent father, who repeatedly abused them. With daily bruises and no way of learning how not to set off their dad’s temper, neither of the boys had any hope of a different life.

Until one day, when concerned neighbours eventually contacted the local welfare authorities. The matter was looked into and authorities asked Watoto to help. Brian and Caleb’s lives have completely turned around. Not only are they well cared for, nurtured and no longer afraid; they have found hope.

Brian has a unique talent for making people laugh, despite the fact that he had no reason to smile for the first five years of his life. Today, he has a big, bright smile and has exchanged the bruises of his past for the desire to make people beautiful.

As children grow up, they are full of dreams and desires. The possibilities before them are endless. But for thousands of children in Africa, these dreams will never be realised. Some have lost their parents through war, disease and poverty. Others are left abandoned and vulnerable through other devastating circumstances.

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In 2009, Brian and his brother were rescued and brought into a home with a loving mother and siblings in Watoto’s Bbira Village. Watoto has given Brian and thousands of other children a chance at a normal life; the chance to dream.

This would not be possible without the support of thousands of individuals who sponsor children through Watoto. Change the life of a child in Africa. Sponsor a child, change a story and impact a nation. Go to www.watoto.com/sponsorship.

A Celebration Of Our Father’s Love

Africa has a unique expression of worship. It’s communal, a unity of voices expressing the different challenges that people face. Even without musical instruments, Africans will create music using whatever they have within reach, and they will make a joyful noise to the Lord. “The kind of atmosphere of worship they create is contagious, and it creates an effect in others,” says James Skinner, Creative Director: Watoto Children’s Choir.

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Oh, What Love has brought out the unique God-given talents of young Africans to express the hope and massive hearts of worship. Almost twenty local songwriters have contributed to crafting songs that share the stories of the orphan child and God’s love through worship. Each song in the production challenges our personal relationship with God as our Father by reminding us of His perfect love for us, through Christ. “This is not just the Watoto story, its God’s story,” says Roy Kaddu, one of the contributing songwriters. “I believe that we are all orphans in one way or another.”

Oh, What Love is based on 1 John 3:1 (ESV) which says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we shall be called children of God, and so we are.” Each Watoto child has experienced separation. With no one to look after them, many were forced to a life on the streets where they scavenged for food in garbage pits, and slept under the cold blanket of the night. Some lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, and others were abandoned as babies in hospitals or police stations. This caused the loss of their identity, sense of belonging and love. But because of our Father’s love, Watoto rescued them and now their lives have been restored.

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“There’s a kind of joy that they have experienced. They are happy regardless of what they have been through. A child will amaze you and tell you, ‘I’m not an orphan because I know who my Father is,” expresses Faridah Janai, another contributing writer and adult chaperone. As the children sing and dance to the songs, they also connect with the heart of God. Watoto helps them understand that through Christ, we find healing, purpose, identity and the right to be heirs.

“When I sing ‘Healing is in Your Hands’, I feel like praying. I feel as if God is holding out his hand to me,” expresses Angelina Nyiramutuzo, an 11 year-old child who will be travelling to the UK in January.

Since 1994, the Watoto choirs have been telling the story of orphans rescued by Watoto. Through dance and music, they share a message of hope. However Oh, What Love is more than just the children performing on stage, it’s the Father reaching out to every individual through the children to change people’s lives.

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Oh, What Love will be travelling to the UK, the U.S. And Canada in January, 2015. Book now www.watoto.com/the-choir/book-the-choir to host the choir in your country.