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Watoto Children's Choir Comes To Tampa

Several months out of the year, Ugandan children travel with staff from the Watoto Ministries to cities around the world to share their stories of resilience.

Members of the Watoto Children’s Choir are performing Ugandan songs and Christian contemporary music around the Tampa Bay area over the next few weeks. On Wednesday, their audience was students and teachers at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa.

The organization has an office in Tampa. The children's choir has performed in the Bay area in previous years.

One child told students during the performance how her parents had died but she later found a new life with a community at the ministry.

Choir Director Edwin Smith Kigozi said he too found a family at Watoto, a ministry based in Uganda's capital city of Kampala.

“Through Watoto, I was able to get a quality education,” Kigozi said, “I was able to have my dreams handed back to me. My dream was to be a music producer and today that’s what I do back home.”

Founders Gary and Marilyn Skinner began Watoto Ministries in 1984. Ten years later, they formed a child care ministry to house, educate and provide health services for children in Uganda who had been abandoned when their parents had died of AIDS or because of war and poverty.

Over the years, Kigozi said the ministry has helped thousands of children. He hopes the organization will be able to support thousands more.

“We are starting self-sustainability programs where we are trying to start businesses, like farming, so that we can raise money in Uganda so we can add on what we get from our sponsors around the world,” he said. “Our dream is to be able to look after 10,000 children. We can not do that without money.”

Kigozi said audiences are often inspired by stories of how children at Watoto have overcome their hardships.

"When somebody hears such a story and they see the joy on those kids' faces, they're like, 'You know what, I don't think I've seen the worst of it. I better be grateful for what I have and give my life to God from now on,'” he said.

Children travel in different choirs around the world. This particular choir is coming to the end of its six-month tour around the United States. Upcoming performances include stops in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Plant City.

Ashley Lisenby is a general assignment reporter at WUSF Public Media. She covered racial and economic disparity at St. Louis Public Radio before moving to Tampa in 2019.
I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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