For the last eight months Janelle Hoekstra has been leading 17 Ugandan children across western North America, stopping at churches along the way to serenade audiences with the music of their homeland.
“To see from where they were back when they started the tour to where they are now, they’ve just grown so much in their confidence and their abilities and their enjoyment and just the way that they relate to people,” Hoekstra said. “They’ve grown so much in how they speak in and outside of the concert, so it’s been really fun to watch them grow.”
Hoekstra is the tour leader for the African Children’s Choir, part of an international Christian organization called Music for Life, which for 35 years has been building schools and educating children across Africa. Each touring choir is made up of a new group of children and on June 7 they sing at Nanaimo’s First Baptist Church.
Aside from the singing and dancing, the performances also feature video segments showing where the children are from and providing a “taste of another culture that is so different from ours but yet so the same.”
After the tour wraps up two days later in Langley the children, nine girls and eight boys from age 8 to 11, will return to their homes in the Kampala area and attend school. Hoekstra said the tour has been a learning experience as well, with the children being exposed to life in North America for the first time.
She said it’s been fun to watch them react to what they find interesting. She said they were “really gripped” by washing machines.
“Our very first day when we had to do laundry they had a washing machine with a glass top so you could see in and that’s what they wanted to do all evening was just watch the clothes spin around,” Hoekstra said. “The little things … just kind of make them giggle.”
WHAT’S ON … The African Children’s Choir performs at First Baptist Church, 1650 Waddington Rd., on Friday, June 7 at 7 p.m. Admission by donation.