MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) - Twenty-two kids made a trip to Menomonie to sing and spread a message from their homeland, nearly 8,000 miles away.
The Watoto Childrens' Choir is made up entirely of Ugandan children who have lost one or both parents, often to war or AIDS.
The kids have gone through traumatic times, but the Watoto group has given them a new family, education and medical care, and they're sharing their stories with people throughout the world, including tonight in Menomonie.
When I was young, my father died, and they took me to my grandmother's place, from there … the social worker came and he brought me to Watoto,” Irene Aguti, 12, said.
Aguti was abandoned by her mother and her father died before she could meet him. She and 3,000 other Ugandan children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS, war or were abandoned, found a new home and a new family thanks to Watoto.
“Our motto as Watoto is to rescue a child in a desolate situation, raise them up to be future leaders in the fear of god, and we believe that by raising up these future leaders, we are able to rebuild their communities, to rebuild the nation of Uganda and the continent of Africa,” team leader of the choir, Phillip Mugerwa said.
With a mission to rescue, raise and rebuild, Watoto has offered education, medical care, housing and lessons in faith for a brighter future.
Twenty years ago, the group's founders put together a choir to travel the world to spread awareness and raise money for the kids.
“As I speak now, there are over 14 million children in Africa that are orphans. They have nobody to care for them. And they're in need of somebody to come alongside them and support them, and give them a hand up and help them to realize their dreams as individuals. So that's the work that we are doing,” Mugerwa said.
The 64th choir is making its way through the U.S., stopping in Menomonie at Cedarbrook Church Wednesday.
The concerts are free but attendees will have a chance to sponsor a child for $38 a month.
“While we sing and dance, while we share our stories, we help people to come to a realization that if those children can go through what they went through, and still have hope in Jesus and still smile today, then I can smile as well,” Mugerwa said.
“It doesn't matter what our past was, but where God is taking us matters,” Aguti said.
For more information on the tour and how to donate, see the link below.