Faith will bring you home

On Ray’s blog we are going to explore his life’s journey of inspiration and faith. Ray will take us back over his thrilling, emotional and motivational years – from working behind the iron curtain to forming the African Children’s Choir and beyond.

We are going to feature stories from Ray’s amazing past through blog posts, in no particular order, in the hope that we can inform and inspire people to help others through their own life journeys.

To start, we’d like to take you back to 1978, when Ray discovered Uganda for the very first time, what you are about to read is an remarkable, true encounter…

Faith will bring you home

Ray heard a story one day that changed the course of his life and work forever.

During the reign of Idi Amin in Uganda there were a group of believers, who gathered together one Easter Sunday to hold a meeting at their Church. Under Idi Amin all churches had been banned or closed, but, due to it being Easter Sunday, this group had assembled anyway. The soulful sounds of singing, music and worship rang out from the forbidden Church, until suddenly, to their horror and dismay, their service was ambushed and they were all arrested and sent to prison.

Ray was heavily involved in work to do with the human rights for believers in the Soviet Union at that time, and upon hearing this story, he decided to take action.

He set to work publishing information and reports about the cruelty these people were suffering under the ruling of Idi Amin and soon found himself, and a colleague, on a plane heading towards Uganda.

Ray arrived, naïve to this new culture and unsure where to start. His first stop was a bible society, but to Ray’s surprise, he was unwelcome as the people there feared his foreign presence would draw unwanted attention.

Fleeing the bible society Ray, and his colleague, retreated to a local hotel, which is now called the Sheraton Hotel in Uganda, but back then, the hotel was Government run – a place where people had been reported to have disappeared, it turned out to be a secret headquarters of Idi Amin.

Before this realisation Ray and his companion had sat in the hotel restaurant whilst they deliberated their next move, whether or not to check in. They looked around and noticed single men, all in bell-bottomed jeans and sunglasses, trying their best to be inconspicuous, observing their surroundings intently – to Ray these men were not discreet, they stuck out – they were Idi Amin’s secret police, and with a rush of fear and uncertainty, Ray knew they could no longer stay there.

The pair hailed a taxi, they had heard from someone at the bible society that there was a Christian guesthouse near Namerimbe Cathedral; surely they would find welcome refuge there.

The national curfew was drawing in, as too was the night sky. After some time it was apparent that their friendly Muslim taxi driver was lost. Time was running out, no one was allowed out after dark, and the driver would not want to continue their fare once the night drew in.

The passing streets of Kampala were beginning to empty of people, and an uncomfortable mood set upon Ray, for a white man to be outside after curfew was just suicidal. Ray had come to Uganda against the advice of virtually everyone. Nevertheless, he had made his decision to come here out of concern for the persecuted church, and in this time of need, he once again reached for his faith and prayed silently to God in the passenger seat of this lost dusty taxi cab, in the darkening eve.

Suddenly amongst the turning light, Ray saw a girl walking along the road, he abruptly commanded the driver to stop – he wanted to ask this girl for directions.

Ray wound down the window, leant forward and questioned the girl about their location and the whereabouts of the Christian guesthouse, despite the enormous danger of interacting with strangers at this time.

Her eyes lit with astonishment and amazement.

“We have been praying for you” uttered the soft words of this young stranger. “I know where the guesthouse is, it is run by friends of mine, I can show you”

And with that, the girl climbed into the taxi and directed the disorientated driver towards their destination.

Ray relaxed, and sank back into his seat.

“My name is Faith” the young woman stated, Ray felt a comforting warmth rush through his body.

As the three became acquainted, Faith told them of how she had been at the guesthouse just that day, and that they were all praying for God to bring them two people to let them know they were not forgotten.

After a short time Faith asked the driver to stop, they had arrived at the top of Namirembe Hill. The group exited the cab, paid for their journey and began to walk together.

“I didn’t want him to know exactly where we were going” Faith explained. “These days you can’t be too careful”. Ray smiled to himself, his heart filling with a warming confidence in their new companion.

After a short distance they arrived inside an immaculate, whitewashed guesthouse where Ray and his travelling friend were greeted with a warm welcome by other Christians.

Ray was relieved to have found sanctuary – Faith had brought them home.

If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter, and stay tuned for more posts about Ray’s inspirational life story.

Breaking the cycle of poverty through education

In sub-Saharan Africa 30% of primary school aged children are not enrolled in school, according to the UNESCO’s Regional overview of sub-Saharan Africa report, published in 2006. That means there are 33 million children missing out on a primary education in this part of Africa.

33 million children, let’s put that into perspective…

Breaking the cycle of poverty in Africa through education

Breaking the cycle of poverty in Africa through education

That’s more than the entire populations of Cuba, Belgium and Greece put together.

And these statistics will have risen to unthinkable numbers over the last 6 years.

The education crises that engulfs these children has created a barrier against the growth and acceleration of this capable generation and beautiful continent.

Education holds the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. With wisdom and learning comes opportunity and growth, and without either, how are the youth of Africa supposed to push the state of their communities forward?

Every child has the right to a quality education, but children in Africa are being robbed of this necessity for various reasons, mostly due to the lack of proper schooling facilities and unequal opportunity for education across countries. There is also a lack of standard teacher training.

Through education we can truly unlock the unlimited ability of these vulnerable children.

Ray Barnett, founder of The African Children’s Choir, wants to put a focus on preparing children for primary education by offering the most vulnerable children of Africa the opportunity of a pre-school education. With this social and educational advantage children will be more likely to succeed at primary school, giving them a better chance at their higher education and beyond.

Ray would like to achieve this via Music for Life Literacy Centres.

Learning to read at the Music for Life Literacy Centre Refengkgotso

Learning to read at the Music for Life Literacy Centre Refengkgotso

These centres will offer some of the poorest children in Africa the chance of a quality early stage education in a friendly, warm and encouraging environment. A place where they can escape their lives surrounded by hardship, AIDS and suffering. A place where they can be children, and learn.The first Music for Life Literacy Centre opened on August 13th 2012 in Refengkgotso and is currently teaching 20 children, between the ages of 4-6 years, who come from poor and suffering environments in the area.

On opening the centre the team were overwhelmed by the response, and have 40 extra children currently waiting for a place to attend the centre. We can’t help these 40 children without your help! Without further funds these 40 children, hoping for a better start, will be stuck there, waiting.

We desperately want to help these other children by opening more classes at this centre but we need your donations to make this happen.

Please help today by donating, and visit our get social page to see how you can use your social influence to help us, help them!

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

Priscilla’s Story – Part Two

This is the second part of Priscilla’s story, you can read the first part here.

After meeting Priscilla in the town of Refengkgotso, and seeing first-hand what a positive influence one special person can have on a community, the team, including Annemarie Barnard our South African programme manager, set to work to support Priscilla in building a literacy centre.

Donated Double Garage

Priscella and her husband offered their double garage

Priscilla and her husband graciously offered their double garage as a base for the centre.

As their brick house is built on the borders of the local shantytown, this provided the perfect location for the communities most in-need children to have access to the centre.

The team spoke with ACE, about the project, and they kindly denoted the first three years of certified curriculum to enable us to start the centre. Everything was now coming together.

Education Material

Educational Programme Donated

That is until, a few weeks ago, Priscilla tragically and very suddenly passed away from a stroke!

Priscilla’s unexpected death shocked her family, our team and the community. The loss of this truly remarkable lady was heart-breaking for all that had come into contact with her, and for the many orphans and vulnerable children that she had helped.

Annemarie went to visit Priscilla’s husband to offer her condolences. One of the first things he said? “Don’t stop!” He is determined that the project go ahead in Priscilla’s memory, it is what she would have wanted.

And with that blessing the project has continued, as too has the love and support of Priscilla’s legacy, as members of the community have been dropping by and picking up a paint brush to show their respect to this magnificent woman.

Community painting literacy centre

The Community came together to help paint

She will never be forgotten, her warmth, love and kindness to others will always be remembered and we want to continue with this literacy centre not only for the greatly underprivileged children in the area, but for Priscilla, a true angel.

We look forward to updating you on the progress of The Music For Life Literacy Centre – Refengkgotso.

This is a programme we would like to put into place around Africa, helping groups of 20 children with their early stage of education, giving them the best start possible. This is why we have set up 12 Million Orphans and counting. We want to give the children a voice, and help raise money for vital programmes such as this.

If you would like to donate to this centre, please click here

Priscilla’s Story – Part One

Our team in South Africa heard about a remarkable lady called Priscilla Khumalo who was feeding 128 orphans, per week, with little to no support, in the town of Refengkgotso.

Priscilla was also running two choirs in the town, so the team decided to go and meet her, to see if any of the children may be suitable for the African Children’s Choir Programme.

When the team arrived they were amazed by this lady, a caring, selfless soul who was highly regarded and involved with everything positive in the community, from youth development to an elderly care programme.

Deneysville, South Africa

Deneysville, South Africa

Refengkgotso, where Priscilla lives, is situated close to Deneysville. The existing schools and preschools in the area are overcrowded, resulting in poor quality education, with up to 65 children being taught by one teacher – and that’s for the children who can actually attend.

There is very little support for orphaned and vulnerable children here, especially in the huge shantytown located in the area.

There are children in Refengkgotso fortunate enough to receive grants for their education, but the situation is so dire that their guardians or extended families have to make the awful choice of either using this income for food for the month, or to send them to a preschool, and you can imagine which choice they are forced to make.

Once the team had met Priscilla and had seen the situation of the community first hand, they knew they had to do something to support this amazing lady in her vision of providing better early stage education to these suffering children.

Be sure to read our next post to find out how the team is planning to help this area, despite a moving and heart-breaking situation that shocked the team and the town.

Welcome to our blog

Ray Barnett poses with two members of the ChoirDear friends,

Welcome to our new blog. Here you can read all the latest information about our new campaign, 12 Million Orphans… and counting!

We have come a long way since the first African Children’s Choir went on tour in 1984. The African Children’s Choir Programme, and Music for Life, have since educated over 50,000 children in parts of Africa’s most underprivileged societies, and helped in excess of 100,000 children through various relief projects.

But we can’t stop there…

In 2006, a UN AIDS report estimated that there were over 12 million children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. Since then, the number has risen considerably. We want to help, not only children orphaned by AIDs, but every hurting child in Africa who deserves support, education and guidance.

This is why I have put together 12 Million Orphans… and counting!

We want to address the need for quality education in the early stages of learning, focusing on children aged between 4-6 years old.

Recent assessments of more than 6 million South African learners found that in Grade 3, the national average performance in literacy stands at just 35%. Without an improvement in early stage education these figures will never rise and children will not be equipped with the skills needed to better themselves, and their communities.

We are aiming to have groups of 20 children attend our Music for Life Literacy Centres; there they will be offered quality teaching from a proven curriculum.

Each Centre would provide 20 children with one teacher who would have assistance in the classroom from volunteer caregivers in the community.

We believe that with a good start to education, these in-need children will be given the tools required to grow, develop and achieve great things.

12 Million Orphans... and counting!

12 Million Orphans… and counting!

How can you help? Well… our goal is to create a virtual family around these groups of children. Western friends who come together to support a child, or group, in their most critical and influential stage of education.

This blog, and our website, will be updated regularly with news and information on the campaign, and ways in which you can get involved. And, with our first centre already underway, we will be updating you on their progress.

Be sure to follow our journey, join us on social networking sites, and support us where you can.

Our main aim with everything we do is to help Africa’s most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow, and you can help us achieve that!

Many thanks,

Ray Barnett's Signature

Ray Barnett,
Founder and President of Music for Life and the African Children’s Choir programme.