Matsiko World Orphan Choir Tours Oakland

International Children's Network

Dinah deSpenza
Staff Writer

Dressed in bright yellow, orange, red and purple ethnic attire, swaying rhythmically to the music, Matsiko World Orphan Choir performed at Lakeside Temple in Oakland on Feb. 12.

Matsiko means “hope” in Runyankole, a language from the Ankole tribe in west Uganda.

In the spirit of song and dance, 12 Peruvian and Liberian children performed during the 11 a.m. Sunday service.

The performance began with a gentle rendition of songs, followed by up-tempo songs and dance steps.

The songs were accompanied by a djembe drum.

Between the uniform magnetism and the highly spiritual energized performance of song and dance, the audience was filled with joy as they clapped along with the beat of the drum.

While the Matsiko Choir was singing, “Everybody is looking for love,” and “Oh, won’t you stand up,” the audience at Lakeside Temple was mesmerized.

With their arms outstretched and their faces radiating joy, their unique sound, combined with dramatic traditional dances and drumming, came together to create a unique, unforgettable performance.

“Seeing the Matsiko Orphan Choir was a very memorable experience. They exude beauty, talent and pure innocence. Their high-energy performance was uplifting. They were just as endearing off stage. Their personalities lit up the room,” said Georgia Webb of Lakeside Temple.

In African communities worldwide, the drum is symbolic of the struggle to raise the level of awareness and organization in African communities.

It is further used as a tool to provide a platform for many African and other oppressed peoples to inform of the respective struggles for true liberation and development.

Drumming and singing has inspired others to support through various progressive organizations.
The choir was organized by the volunteer-run, secular non-profit organization  International Children’s Network, which started out in 1997 as a Christian youth group.

With a the mission of educating orphan children from grade school through university, their goal is to empower them, breaking the cycle of poverty.

“We have found that the only way to break the cycle of poverty is through education. There are 600 million orphaned and at-risk kids in the world. If these children all held hands they would circle the world 18 times. Our goal is to help a child go from kindergarten through university/trade school through sponsorship,” says Mark Perry, tour director for International Children’s Network.

“I want to be a doctor. Many people die of sickness in my country. I want to help,” says Ruth Nyumah, 12, from Liberia.

“Although I love singing and dancing, I want to go to college and become a doctor too,” says Prince Douwai, 15, also from Liberia.

The choir is supported by 12 volunteers who tour with them, people throughout the country from different backgrounds open their homes as well as their hearts to turn their dreams into realities.

According to Perry, “Bette Houtchens from the Bay Area was Matsiko’s point person in the Los Altos area. She helped the organization to get host housing and venues to sing. Bette attends Lakeside Temple in Oakland and asked us to perform there.

“It’s a significant act of faith on everyone’s part, and a testament to the dedication and love of so many people in the 20-plus states they are visiting.  I call it the ‘loaves and fishes’ tour because it’s a modern-day miracle where everyone somehow gets fed along the way,” said Houtchens.