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African Children's Choir (Courtesy of the artist)

African Children's Choir Changes Lives

Jan 4, 2009 (Weekend Edition Sunday)

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Two dozen boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 11 practice in the rehearsal room of a concert hall in Salt Lake City. They are halfway through a yearlong tour, in which they'll perform more than 200 shows across the U.S. When they're done, they'll head back to some of the poorest countries in Africa — and a new life. The African Children's Choir aims to rescue poverty-stricken kids by harnessing the power of song.

Chimera Victor is a chaperone with the children's choir. He says that when he was growing up, anyone — even someone who wasn't a relative — would discipline a child doing something wrong. In that way, whole villages really did raise the children.

The African Children's Choir goes to the neediest places — those hardest hit by disease, war or poverty. The children are brought to a training academy for about four months, Victor says, and then they join the choir. The children tour for 12 to 15 months, and when they go home, they go to a Music for Life center to get an education. Victor himself was chosen from an orphanage to join the choir: Music for Life paid for his schooling up to the university level, and when he graduated, he came back to the choir to volunteer.

Also in this story, Victor and a little girl named Patience talk about their work in the choir.

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