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Choir of orphans shares hope

When the children of the Matsiko World Orphan Choir visited Cornell Estates last February, they brought a spark of hope, especially to those whose lives and history are becoming lost to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The choir returns to Cornell Estates on Wednesday and for those who remember, expectations are high. According to Melissa King, community program director at Cornell Estates.

“They struck a chord with everybody,” King said. “The residents who had memory and independence issues loved the hugs, the music and the children, and it also struck a chord with those who were interested in the mission.”

The choir, which has as many as 20 members, is part of the nonprofit, secular International Children’s Network. The network was founded in 2004 by Don Windham, who lives in Covington, Wash., after he took a trip to Uganda. Through donations and sponsorships, the nonprofit helps orphaned and at-risk children complete their basic education and go on to get a college degree.

“There are 6 million orphans in the world,” Windham said. “I had the idea to put them together and have the kids represent themselves.”

The kids sing songs from their native lands as well as American songs and original songs. They also dance and perform skits.

The name “matsiko” means hope and it comes from the Acholi tribe of Uganda.

Before and after the performance, the children went into the audience hugging and talking to everyone. Most spoke English, but language wasn’t a barrier for those who didn’t — their smiles and effusive manner bridged the gap.

According to Windham, many of the students who have been helped by the program have gotten degrees in engineering. One of the leaders of this year’s team, a young Liberian man, recently earned his petroleum engineer degree.

“They perpetuate the cycle of hope,” Windham said of the program’s graduates. “They are starting their futures. The leaders help train kids in their own countries. They can actually be part of the solution.”




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