FRANCONIA — The African Children's Choir's "Just As I Am" tour is a new program, but a lot of the music will be familiar.
"Basically, we always wanted to do some old hymns," said Jade Powers, the volunteer tour leader for the group that will be making a stop at Franconia Mennonite Church 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23.
"That is what this program is, but the hymns are put to African music," Powers said. "This is kind of a very fun experience, some songs that most people know in the church, but done a little bit different, with an African twist."
This is a different group of children and a different program than African Children's Choir did at the church last year, Powers said.
"We have 16 children," she said. "They are all from Uganda and they are ages 7 to 11."
The children just arrived in the United States the end of May, with this tour, African Children's Choir's 50th, having started in early June, she said.
"The African Children's Choir program promotes the beauty, dignity and unlimited ability of the African child around the world, being a voice for the millions of suffering children who cannot speak for themselves. The program provides for the children's well being and quality education, utilizing the transformative power of music," choir information on www.africanchildrenschoir.com says. "We install Christian principles through teaching and leading by example and bring relief and development to African nations in crisis."
The program provides a free primary, secondary and university education to the choir members, Powers said.
"We've educated over 52,000 children since the beginning of the program 35 years ago," she said.
"Our entire hope," she said, "is to raise the next generation of Africa so that they can change and impact their community."
Since the parents of the choir members cannot afford to pay for their children to attend school, the choir members would not be attending school if it were not for the program, she said.
"They attend a boarding school where they receive food, clothing, are housed and it's completely paid for by the organization," Powers said.
The seven volunteer chaperones on the tour include one from Uganda, one from Kenya, one from the United Kingdom and the rest are from the United States, Powers, who is from Colorado, said.
Music for Life, the African Children's Choir's parent organization, has programs in Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Kenya and Ghana, information on the website said.
Performances by the African Children's Choir include before heads of state including Queen Elizabeth II for her diamond jubilee, choir information says.
Other area performances in addition to the Franconia Mennonite Church one include 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20 at Grace Crossing Community Church in Phoenixville and 10:20 a.m. Sunday, June 23 hosted by Faith Family Fellowship at El Shaddai Assembly of God Church in Nazareth.
Admission to the concerts is free; a free-will offering is taken. Choir CD's, including "Just As I Am," are available for purchase at the concert or through the website, Powers said.