Saturday, August 7, 2010


Last night, I slept on a cushy pillow of hope. My heart was overflowing with an overpowering emotion.  I watched the Watoto Concert of Hope at the Esplanade Concert Hall.  The performers were 22 children from Uganda.  All of them had lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS, poverty or war.  They burst into the stage with such a positive presence in their vibrant green, purple, and yellow printed African frocks.  The little girls all had their hair in braids, with a hair band accent.  But, what pierced my heart were their great big smiles. 

Tbe Watoto Choir after the concert

They started with an upbeat praise song, Paki Rwoth:
            In my despair,
            You turned to me
            You put a song in my heart
            Now I sing.

            Lord as I live
            May people See
            Your love and Grace
            Flowing through me.”

Their perky dance steps and their pure angelic voices made a joyous energy real in the concert hall. It was infectious.  It was an amazing deep faith in God.  

 The youngest in the group, an eight year old boy

Interspersed between the songs were the stories of these orphans.  Roland, a ten-year-old boy who lost both parents shared his story.  After both his parents died, his grandmother took care of him and his four siblings. Their neighbors paid them to dig and fetch firewood to survive.  One day a social worker told them about Watoto.  He said, “I am so happy. I have lots to eat. I now have a bed.” 

I sat there chewing on this thought, “A bed… all he wanted was a bed.” He feels to blessed to have a bed.  The tears rolled down my cheeks.  The next song, “Not Forgotten,” summed it up. 

The lyrics go:
            “I am not forgotten
            I am not forgotten
            I am not forgotten
            God knows my name.
            He knows my name.

            Light over darkness
            Strength over weakness
            Joy over sadness
            He knows my name
            Father to the Fatherless
            Friend to the friendless
            Hope for the Hopeless
            He knows my name

            I will praise you
            I will praise you,
            For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

            I am Not forgotten,
            Never Forsaken.”

The stigma associated with HIV Aids has left many orphans alienated and abandoned in their villages.  Their pain is just immense, as articulated by a Cambodian little boy, left to fend for himself.  

You've touched in me in such a deep way.

The tears did not stop flowing.  But I was not alone.  Next to me, a lady was digging into her bag for tissues.  She too was crying.  The lady in front of me was crying too.  It was impossible not to be overwhelmed. According to the slides by World Vision, one person dies of AIDS every 14 seconds.  There are 11.6 Million orphaned by AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

As much as the show spoke of the plight of these children, the choir also celebrated their culture.  They played African drums.  In their villages, drums were used for meetings and celebrations. Most, importantly, there was always dancing.  They showed beautiful photos of Uganda and their top exports, pineapples and bananas.  

Thanks for infecting me with your joy and hope

The children sang a Mandarin song with Stefanie Sun.  The lady sitting next to me said their Mandarin accent was flawless. I later learned these kids studied this Chinese song for two months.  The children even got the audience to dance and sing with them.  In my three years in Singapore, this is the most animated audience I had ever seen.  At the end of the show, the concertgoers had an opportunity to buy crafts made by 2,000 Uganda mothers with HIV.  The Watoto choir cd’s were available, too. 

The children met the audience, kindly posing for photos. They smiled at me.  I congratulated them for singing and dancing so well. But deep down, I was applauding their resilience.  I hugged them in gratitude. They had generously blessed me with their performance. These angels sang of God’s goodness, of their resilient spirits, and the message of hope.  

This meaningful concert left me thinking about my own life. I was born lucky.  These kids have been through so much, yet they remain hopeful and happy. The challenge I ask myself now is how I can live responsibly.  How can I help these children? 

Hugs of hope

First, I would like to promote Concerts With a Cause (, an initiative of Café Diplo featuring musicians passionate about humanitarian and environmental causes. One way to help is to create awareness and support more meaningful concerts like this one. Special thanks to World Vision, a Christian relief, development and advocacy agency dedicated to working with children, families and communities by tackling the causes of poverty.  World Vision ( has Hope Child Sponsorships for HIV-affected children. and August7,2010.2pm. 

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