This choir of children aged five to 12 years was founded in 1984 by Raymond R. Barnett, himself an Irish-Canadian orphan and ordained minister, who first went to Uganda in 1982. It was begun as a means of directly helping a few of the hundreds of thousands of orphaned African children in danger of starvation during the famines and as a result of war and the AIDS epidemic, and of raising funds to help many more orphans through education and social welfare work. While initially the choir's children were all Ugandan, by 1999 members were also being drawn from Rwanda, Kenya and the Sudan, and the organization supports work in other East African countries and beyond.
Today, the African Children's Choir delights audiences around the world. Each year a new group is selected, and former members go back home to Africa to continue their education at the choir academy. As a testimony to the program, earlier choir members are attending university, taking leadership positions and making an impact in their homeland. Not all of the children in the choir are orphans; some have one living parent, but the Friends in the West, the US-based financial support organization for the group, are their legal guardians.
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