Service Members, African Kids Share Mission for Better World

Maureen, the 38th African Children's Choir member from the Royal School and Orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, poses for a photo with a toy she selected when U.S. Navy Sailors currently deployed to nearby Forward Operating Location Kasenyi in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa visited the orphanage March 6, 2013. The African Children's Choir is a large choir made up of children ages 7 to 12 from several African nations. Since its inception, the choir has included children from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana - and performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Kelly White) CJTF-HOA Photo Maureen, the 38th African Children's Choir member from the Royal School and Orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, poses for a photo with a toy she selected when U.S. Navy Sailors currently deployed to nearby Forward Operating Location Kasenyi in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa visited the orphanage March 6, 2013. The African Children's Choir is a large choir made up of children ages 7 to 12 from several African nations. Since its inception, the choir has included children from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana - and performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Kelly White)
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Gill Canton, deployed to Forward Operating Location Kasenyi in Kampala, Uganda, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, engages in conversation with children at the nearby Royal School and Orphanage March 6, 2013. Canton and other Sailors from Kasenyi brought toys and bottled water for the children and spent the evening playing games and bringing cheer. The orphans, who are also members of the world-renowned African Children's Choir and have performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton, sang for the Sailors during the visit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Kelly White) CJTF-HOA Photo U.S. Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Gill Canton, deployed to Forward Operating Location Kasenyi in Kampala, Uganda, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, engages in conversation with children at the nearby Royal School and Orphanage March 6, 2013. Canton and other Sailors from Kasenyi brought toys and bottled water for the children and spent the evening playing games and bringing cheer. The orphans, who are also members of the world-renowned African Children's Choir and have performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton, sang for the Sailors during the visit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Kelly White)
U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Kenzie James, serving at Forward Operating Location Kasenyi Base in Kampala, Uganda, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, plays soccer with children from the nearby Royal School and Orphanage during a service member visit there March 6, 2013. The orphans are also members of the world-renowned African Children's Choir - and have performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Kelly White) CJTF-HOA Photo U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Kenzie James, serving at Forward Operating Location Kasenyi Base in Kampala, Uganda, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, plays soccer with children from the nearby Royal School and Orphanage during a service member visit there March 6, 2013. The orphans are also members of the world-renowned African Children's Choir - and have performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Kelly White)

About once a month, U.S. service members assigned to Forward Operating Location Kasenyi in Kampala, Uganda, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, pack their vehicles with bottled water, and toys or goodies of some other kind, and make their way to a safe haven or orphanage where they can help ease - even for just an evening - the hardships so many of Uganda's children endure.

During their most recent visit, these troops discovered they have something of a "mission exchange program" with a group of kids who live, literally, down the road from their camp.

When visiting the Royal School and Orphanage in March, the kids expressed their appreciation for the U.S. service members' mission supporting military and civic development in Uganda and followed it up with a demonstration of their own mission: singing.

These kids are members of the world-renowned African Children's Choir which, since its inception, has included 7- to-12-year-old orphans from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana - and performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton.

"We brought stuffed animals and water to the kids here today," Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcus Hicks, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 of Port Hueneme, Calif., said during a recent visit. "We played soccer with them and listened to them sing."

The choir's mission, much like the military, takes them across the globe - in their cases to raise awareness of the need of destitute and orphaned children in Africa and raise funds for the program.

Also similar to the military, education and training are a primary focus of the choir's mission - for the purpose of growing strong future leaders for their homeland.

"Our visits build morale between us and the local kids," Hicks, an Oakridge, Tenn., native said. "It also helps them understand that we're here to help them. This is some of the best stuff we've done out here," he added.

The students agree.

"I had fun," a 6th-grade student named Lydia said. "It's nice to have you guys around because of the way you play with us.

"I just want to thank them for coming," she added. "We love them and may God bless them."

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