The Watoto Children’s Choir is based in Uganda and made up of children who have lost either one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS, war or poverty. Under the care of the Watoto Foundation, these children form a choir and travel to spread the message of HIV/AIDS advocacy and to share their testimonies with people around the world.
The Singapore chapter of the Yahoo! Employee Foundation had a chance to host the choir as they visited Singapore for a concert. Working with World Vision and an arts and craft store called “Made with Love”, 20 Watoto children and accompanying adults visit the Yahoo! Singapore office for a scrapbook making session. The children had wanted to make scrapbooks as mementos of their trip and 22 Yahoos volunteered to work one-on-one with them. We had several Yahoo kids join in the fun as well.
After a brief introduction and some ice-breaker games, the two instructors from “Made with Love” provided instructions on how to make the star-shaped photo album. It wasn’t as simple as it looked and it was good that each child had a Yahoo to assist in the cutting and pasting. As they worked together, the Yahoos got to chat with their charges and learn a little more about their lives. But as the craft pieces and photos came together and the scrapbooks took shape, the children were smiling broadly and began to open up more.
One of the things we learnt was how the Watoto Foundation was nurturing and training these children to be the leaders of their communities. Part of their education was to expose them to different cultures, ideas and peoples so as to open up their world and let them see the possibilities. Being part of the choir and travelling to sing in other countries helps them in this process. Never in their lives would they have imagined a chance to step beyond the borders of their villages, let alone their country.
The bonding time continued over lunch and the conversation flowed more easily. We couldn’t help but introduce foosball to the Watoto kids and adults. Frank, one of the Watoto men, played against the Yahoo kids and suffered a barrage of goals. Each time, he would wag a finger and say in mock seriousness, “You know, in Africa, we show respect for our elders. You can’t score like that against me.” The kids only grinned in response.
The afternoon concluded with us giving out some Yahoo! goodie bags and sharing hugs with the children. The choir gathered to thank us and sing a blessing for us:
We’re thankful to Mandy from World Vision and Elvira and Swee Ching from “Made with Love” for helping us bring everyone and everything together. And the newly formed YEF Singapore committee is working towards more opportunities to give back to the community. Stay tuned