Joan Marbais of Gahanna has learned about the world from the children she has hosted in her home the last 10 years.
She learns about hardships of Ugandan children as well as interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Ohio can at times be more hot and humid than Africa.
Five Ugandan children will stay in the Marbais home after the Watoto Children’s Choir Group 98 presents a free public performance at 7 p.m. Thursday at Christian Vineyard Church, 1055 McNaughten Road, on the Far East Side.
The choir is from the Watoto Church in Kampala, Uganda. The church village includes about 3,000 orphan children and 4,000 women who have been abused or marginalized. The women are supported by the community and some help raise children along other adults who grew up or live in the village.
The choir has been traveling across the eastern and central United States since January, sharing the messages of hope, transformation and the good God has done for them.
Group 98 is made up of 17 children and 11 adults. Each adult is paired with one or two children as caregivers while traveling. The choir is able to raise money through sponsorships while they travel, said David Atukunda, choir leader of Group 98. People can sponsor a child for a year or life, pay medical bills and for education, and host choir members in their home.
Through traveling and host families, the children are exposed to many different families and experiences.
“This also helps them have bigger dreams,” Atukunda said. “They get to see big cities, different structures and the light is not as small as it seems to be when they are in Watoto.”
Marbais enjoys seeing their energetic performances and hearing their stories.
“It’s amazing to see God working in their lives after all the hardships they have been through,” Marbais said.
Atukunda said the one thing the children always love is swimming, whether a host family takes them or they go to a local YMCA. Children also make great memories by going to the park, seeing big cities and playing with host family’s children.
Richard Reiter, co-pastor of Vineyard Christian Church, said a lot of positive experiences come out of the choir’s performance and for the families that host them. More than 200 people are expected for the performance. Donations will be accepted, and merchandise made by Watoto community members will be sold.
“People step out of themselves and their comfort zones and help another child in another country,” Reiter said.
Atukunda said the choir hopes to inspire people by sharing their stories and letting people know they can get through tough times.
Every year, the Watoto Church sends a children’s choir to go around the world to perform at different churches. Currently, other choir groups are touring in Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. Group 98 has about five weeks left in their tour.
“The choir is a great tool for the children to grow and be the best they can be,” Atukunda said. “That’s why we make sure every child has an opportunity to travel on the choir.”