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Life Arts    H3'ed 11/5/09

Ugandan Orphans Offer Hope and Joy

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Matsiko, which means hope, is one of the most popular childrens' choirs in Uganda. Established in 2003, the current choir is comprised of 25 orphaned and at-risk children from bush villages, ranging in age from 6-14. Each of the children has been sponsored through the International Children's Network (ICN).

This is Matsiko's second US tour. The performances include traditional Ugandan folk music as well as original songs by the Matsiko Choir Director, Samuel Kiberu Straxy, who has written music for Uganda's National Theatre. Along with James Kaggwa, Straxy is a co-founder of Matsiko. Both men's college educations were funded by the ICN.

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Matsiko performances also include exciting African dance and powerful and complex drum routines. President of ICN, Don Windham, notes that the children are taught drumming by Ronnie Kabogozza, who is considered the best instructor in the country. Kabogozza is the Chief Cultural drumming instructor for the Kampala district, which is the capitol city in Uganda.

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Not surprisingly, after being sponsored, the children typically begin to test at the highest educational levels for their grade.

The group has performed at the Rose Bowl, Disneyland, Staples Center in Los Angeles, Seattle Symphony Center, and Toyota Field in Chicago. They have also performed for celebrities such as and Clint and Dina Eastwood, and for government officials including Congresspersons and governors.

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They are slated to perform in Chicago for Oprah Winfrey and President Obama during Black History month in February, by special invitation of State Senator Eddie Washington.

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Upcoming performances are scheduled for California venues in Orange County, Fresno, the Carmel/Santa Cruz/Capitola region and the Bay area through December 20. The group will perform in Oregon from Dec. 21 through January 10, 2010, and in Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland areas through March.

A complete listing is available on

Don Windham, President of ICN, notes that the International Children's Network (ICN) has the highest rating from the industry "watch dog" organization. GuideStar ( He says, "over 95 percent of every dollar goes to its intended purpose because everyone at ICN is a volunteer."

He notes that "supporting these children really does break the cycle of poverty as it allows the children to hold their future in their hands and allow them to become independent and helpful to themselves and others instead of dependent and needy for others."

Unlike other similar organizations, sponsorship does not end at age 14, or 16, but can continue on through the higher education years. In addition, sponsors often have the opportunity to meet their sponsored child.

All 990 ICN financial reports are available to view online at the ICN website at


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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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