Monday, 28 November 2011

A Brighter Future for Uganda - amazing chidren's choir from Kampala, 'The Pearl of Africa', sing and dance - to raise awareness and increase UK support for the Ugandan Charity 'Molly & Paul Child Care Foundation' Exeter Cathedral Saturday 26 November

The picture of new hope
The sensational Pearl of Africa Children's Choir from Kampala
perform in front of the alter at Exeter Cathedral

Per-capita gross domestic product in the UK is making a slow recovery, after falling from $45,000 to $35,000 between 2004 and 2009. Protesters have gathered on Cathedral Green to raise awareness about financial and political inequalities. Straitened times indeed.

Compare these figures. Per-capita GDP in Uganda, having reached $300 in 2004, for the first time in 15 years, has now reached it's highest ever level - a mere $500!

Ever since the disastrous dictatorship of Idi Amin during the 1970s, Uganda has struggled to achieve political and economic stability. Within a year of Amin being ousted, the ineffectual Ugandan National Liberation Front, set up in Tanzania before liberation, had lost support - and the national elections. The Democratic Party won by a landslide.

However, Paulo Muwanga (chairman of the Ugandan People's Congress) usurped the authority of the Electoral Commission and declared the UPC elected, reinstating Amin's predecessor, Milton Obote, as president (and himself as vice-president and minister of defence).

Yoweri Museveni, the former military commissioner to Obote in exile in Tanzania, raised a National Resistance Army amongst the disaffected rural populations and waged guerilla war against Obote's regime. The civil war continued as Museveni took on the subsequent military rule of General Tito Okello and his Uganda National Liberation Army.

Eventually, exhausted by war, the Ugandan people accepted Museveni as president. Museveni drove out Okello's army and established a new government in Kampala in 1986 - dominated by his own party -  the National Resistance Movement.

It took a further twenty years for Museveni to permit multi-party elections. In 2006 Musoveni's main opponent, Kizza Besigye, chairman of the newly formed 'Forum for Democratic Change' party lost to Museveni by 37% to 59% in the presidential elections and the FDC won only 37 of the 289 seats in parliament in the general election. NRM won 205 seats.

Museveni, was formally elected for a five year term ending in February this year. At this year's polls Museveni beat Besigye to be re-elected as president and the National Resistance Movement beat the Forum for Democratic Change to be re-elected as governing party in the general election. In both cases the majority was greater than in 2006.

Despite Besigye's determination that the Ugandan people should rise up in protest against Museveni's extended rule, as protesters had in North Africa, no protests have taken place and Museveni is still accepted as president.

The early 1980s in Uganda, after Milton Obote's return as president, were dark days indeed. The population suffered crushing poverty and the uncertainty caused by a destructive civil war. In addition to Uganda's number on cause of death, malaria, a new and untreatable disease was spreading fast - HIV.

In 1983, as Obote's army started to split into tribal factions, 750,000 people from the Luwero District north of Kampala were forced into internment camps to deprive Museveni's NRA of rural support. Adding to the misery, the NRA had resorted to using land-mines against civilians, and children were being used as guerrilla fighters.

In those dark times there seemed little hope for Ugandan children, many of whom had lost their parents through war or disease. However, it was in 1983 that a husband and wife in Kampala began their struggle to give hope back to the children of Uganda.

Molly and Paul M Wasswa
Two teachers, Molly and Paul Wasswa, used their land at Kamuzinda in Masaka west of Kampala to create a children's village where children could receive medical care and affordable, or even free, education. They established the 'Molly and Paul Child Care Foundation'. Later they extended their work to Kampala, setting up the New Kaballe Busega Primary School.

Students at Kamuzinda
'Molly and Paul Child Care Foundation' is a christian organisation which aims "to improve the health, education and welfare of people suffering through disease, poverty and war". The objectives of the foundation include the provision of education for families, resources for schools, support for children in education, health education and resources, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture and health-care.

Also in 1983 Molly and Paul started the 'Pearl of Africa Children's Choir' to raise awareness, and money, for their various projects. In 2006, just as Yoweri Museveni began his first term as elected president of Uganda, 'Pearl of Africa Child Care Limited' was set up in the UK to promote the choir, and maximise charitable donations to the foundation from the UK. The company is based in Callington in Cornwall and currently has a value of £85,000.

Here in the UK our first contact with the foundation is likely to be through one of the yearly tours by the choir. (In fact there are two choirs. One tours in the north of England and Wales, one in the south.) The sourthern tour starts in London, but is mainly in Cornwall - the home of PACC Ltd. Before the children go back to Uganda, however, they have one more place to visit - Exeter.

At 12.30pm this Saturday (26th November) about twenty Ugandan school children, in brightly coloured costumes,arrived at Exeter Cathedral with their head teachers and representatives of PACC Ltd. Outside the west front of the cathedral they gave a little performance to get everyone's attention before going inside to give a full concert of songs and dance to an audience seated in the quire.

The performance was stunning. From their first song at the west front, they took their audience by storm. Some of their songs were in English, but most were in Oluganda, or perhaps local Ugandan dialects. The meaning of the words was unknown - possibly religious. However, the thrill and excitement they conveyed was overwhelming. The children's voices were incredibly powerful, perfectly trained, and joined in harmony to amazing effect.

Even more amazing than the singing was the dancing. No song could continue for more than a few bars before the children would start to dance with incredible energy. The choreography was astounding, and every child moved in perfect synchrony with the group - in widely differing directions and styles. The teachers, and some of the older children, added drumming to the wonderful music. Four 'tympani' with what appeared to be natural hide skins, were played with enormous force and precision.

The rhythm was infectious. Adult audience members just about resisted the impulse to join in the dance - but not the children. Picking up the moves with childish freedom, they joined in with a will - and were welcomed by the children from Uganda. The dances, and the songs, seemed unlimited in their inventiveness and exuberance but, even more extraordinary, after each song the children showed absolutely no sign of exertion. All were as calm and relaxed at the end as they were when they started. Their fitness and stamina were quite uncanny - especially considering that they had performed at over forty venues in the previous two months!

Saturday's performance certainly demonstrated the benefits of education for children in Uganda. Seeing the children so healthy, happy - and full of enthusiasm and a sense of fun - was the best endorsement Molly and Paul Wasswa could hope for. The head teachers, although not quite as energetic as the children,  were clearly enjoying themselves very much as well. When the singing and dancing ended, the heads also took the opportunity to explain the work of the foundation, and the wonderful facilities provided in their schools.

PACC Ltd trustee Chris Paxman (affectionately referred to as 'Uncle' Chris) added details of how the UK charity can direct donations to schools and clinics - or even sponsor the education of a specific child - for as little as £15 per month. Based in Launceston, the company handling donations to the foundation in the UK, is easily accessible. Full contact details at the end of this post.

But first - take a look at the wonderful children's choir from Uganda - The Pearl of Africa!

Before the concert
the choir attract an audience outside Exeter Cathedral

with amazing singing

and incredible dancing

The audience are welcomed into the Cathedral
by Canon Ian Morter of the Pastoral Care Department
who explains the mission of the
Molly and Paul Child Care Foundation
and Pearl of Africa Child Care Limited

and the singing and dancing begins again

such passion

such glorious harmonies

resonant male-voice counterpoint (oldest bass - 15)

beautiful soprano solo

The energy of the dancing can be perplexing

so much movement

and rhythm! One bass singer doubles as percussionist

with the support of head teacher Peter Nakabaale

As the dancers get closer to the audience . . .

. . . the locals join in!

impressive acrobatics . . .

. . . are harder to copy

The girls show off their moves

The boys do too

Anything you can do . . .

Finally -  and not even out of breath -
the children wait respectfully as the head teachers speak

about the 'Molly and Paul Child Care Foundation'

ending with Peter Nakabaale, head teacher of Kamuzinda School

Then, to explain the UK end - and encourage us all to give generously -
'Uncle' Chris Paxman from Launceston
trustee of 'Pearl of Africa Child Care Limited'

Many thanks to the Pearl of Africa Children's Choir
for coming to the UK and giving such exciting and entertaining concerts

. . . and thank you to the
'Molly and Paul Child Care Foundation'
for bringing new hope to Uganda

Pearl of Africa Child Care Limited
12 Roydon Road
PL15 8JT

telephone:  01444  226  355

Or donate £5 by text:
send "Care38 £5" to 70070

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