The Neema Children’s Choir returns home to Uganda, Africa Tuesday (September 6, 2016) after a tremendously busy summer in Simcoe County. The orphans from Uganda have been based out of Camp Wahanowin since before Victoria Day. In that time, they’ve had more than 80 performances, sharing their message of hope and love everywhere from elementary schools to churches to farmers’ markets. Their final performance of the summer took place Saturday at the Downtown Orillia Farmers’ Market.
Andy Audia, of the Neema Child Project, said the orphans’ visit this year exceeded their visit last year. He’s also hopeful the orphans can return to the region in 2017. For all the positives, he was hesitant to genuinely consider the summer a success just yet. “The question is, how do you measure success?” he said. “Do you measure success in seeds planted and roots going down? Or do you measure success in dollars collected?” For all the gains Audia has seen, there are still significant needs on the fundraising side. As much as $35,000 in sponsorship is needed to be raised by the end of the year to meet the budget set by Devxchange, the registered charitable partner the Neema Child Project is associated with. While the choir has left, the fundraising continues. “We have child sponsorship commitments, we have one-time donations from this year, we have some corporate one-time donations that are coming,” Audia said. “We need to make it happen.” Child sponsorships and one-time donations are essential to meeting the goal. The group is focusing on the travel fund, which will help both pay for this year’s trip, as well as 2017. Seeing the orphans in person is essential to the fundraising appeal. Audia, and his wife, Kim, count themselves among the many who have been inspired after seeing the choir perform and hearing their story. That inspiration has led to one-time donations ranging from $2 to $5,000 and sponsorships of $30 to $100 per month.
To have so many people believe in the cause has only helped the Neema Child Project and the orphans who make up the Neema Children’s Choir. “For just about anybody, you could put your hand out and ask them for something: can you give me $1, can you give me $10, $100?” Audia said. “Most people could give you something, but no one is going to give us anything unless they believe in what we’re doing.”
Just as adolescents are heading back to school Tuesday, the orphans will return to classes as well, completing their term when they get back to Uganda. But they will be missing the spoils – such as the plentiful food – they’ve come to enjoy living in Canada for nearly four months. From the support systems and social structures they find in Canada, they go back to impoverished surroundings. They may be comparably looked after in the orphanage, but they are surrounded by other children who are not.
“They’ve done well here, they’ve gotten healthy; but these kids are fairly well looked after by Pastor Daniel (Mutibwa) already,” Audia said. “What they’re going back to is a group of 180 more kids that have deep needs.”
For further information on how to support the Neema Child Project, visit neemachildproject.org or call 1-855-633-6233 ex. 2.