She said children are referred from schools, social workers and churches.
"Children under our care have absolutely nothing. Some of them have lost one or both of their parents to poverty or disease. They may be living with a grandparent and 11 siblings in 10 by 10 foot room," Hodgins said. "Education is highly coveted but not free. That's what we're trying to do is give them an opportunity to have a future and have the ability to become adults and be the success stories in their communities and give hope."
Courtesy photo Members of African Children's Choir are currently on tour in Alaska and have performed in Haines and Juneau. Upcoming shows will be held in Sitka and Ketchikan.
"Our mandate is to help the children who need help the most. The children also have to have a commitment to education because we see them through to university or trade school, and musical ability," Hodgins said.
Children train at the Music For Life Centre, a campus based in South Africa that selects and trains children for the choir. The center is a secondary school focused on arts and technology for former choir children, as well as a primary school and training program for children selected for the choir, according to the organization's Web site. It also serves to offer medical and nutritional assistance, counseling and other outreach services. There the children get caught up to their grade level in school and learn songs and the English language before touring in North America or United Kingdom.
Each tour is 12-15 months and the children return to Uganda to Music For Life school until primary grade 7, when they return to high school or boarding school and grades determine what university and trade school they attend.
A choir is making its way across Alaska and recently performed in Haines and this week in Juneau. The choir performs again in Juneau at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at Auke Bay Bible Church. They will be in Sitka at Grace Harbor Church at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, and at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, at First Presbyterian Church at 6:30 p.m. Sunday Sept. 16. They will perform in Ketchikan at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Ketchikan High School and at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at First United Methodist Church.
Hodgins said the children are chaperoned by former choir members who have completed their education and can relate to the children currently performing.
"I just encourage everyone to go, watch the children and fall in love. It's impossible not to fall in love," Hodgins said. "You'll leave with sore hands from clapping so much because as much as they are performers, they're still children."