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Matsiko World Orphan Choir sings to raise awareness of the needs of third-world children

Courtesy photos<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->The Matsiko choir will be in Prescott for two performances on May 29. The choir has two goals, to stimulate awareness of children in third-world countries and to raise money for those kids’ educations.

Courtesy photos<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->The Matsiko choir will be in Prescott for two performances on May 29. The choir has two goals, to stimulate awareness of children in third-world countries and to raise money for those kids’ educations.

Children from Liberia and Peru who make up the Matsiko World Orphan Choir will be in Prescott for two performances on Wednesday, May 29.

Their first appearance will be at 10 a.m. at the Adult Center of Prescott, 1280 Rosser St. Their second will be at 7 p.m. at Unity of Prescott, 145 S. Arizona. Admission to both performances is free.

The choir is the flagship of the secular International Children's Network, co-founded by Jennie and Don Windham of Kent, Wash. They once were missionaries in Africa for their non-denominational church and saw that orphaned and at-risk children needed enrichment and financial help for their education. As a result, they organized the children's network in 2005.

The Matsiko World Orphan Choir grew from the establishment of INC and its goal is to stimulate awareness of the children in third-world countries and, at the same time, get them on a path toward education so that they can remain in their countries and make their world better as adults, Jennie Windham said.

The choir's children, ages 7 to 14, dress in colorful native attire for their performances, and sing "songs of hope," Windham said. "They are lively, they dance and they are upbeat." Their melodies have African sounds and Spanish sounds, but they will sing American songs as well during their 45-minute to one-hour concert.

During their tours out of their countries, the children are home-schooled - "road-schooled" - and return home with feelings of self-worth and importance, Windham said.

The youths who are selected for the choir must demonstrate discipline, be independent learners and able to handle the rigors of singing and performing. "They are all pretty talented," Windham said, but a primary consideration is that they exhibit "good character" in order to be selected for the choir.

The main intent of International Children's Network is to raise hope, awareness and educational sponsorship for the millions of the world's children who live in poverty.

Through their performances, the Matsiko World Orphan Choir provides a picture of the challenges these children face each day. This choir sings for churches, civic groups, universities and other public and private schools around the country. The young singers have appeared in places such as Google, Microsoft, Disneyland and even Rose Bowl games. They will head to the Gospel Music Awards later this year as nominees for a Dove Award.

The cost of sponsoring a International Children's Network child is $35 a month. For more information about a tax-deductible sponsorship of a child or a donation to ICN or the Matsiko World Orphan Choir, call Don Windham at 253-217-7531 or visit www.icnchildren.net.

Over the course of four years, Janet Ohanesian, who lives in Walker, has sponsored four INC children. She happened to be driving by Walmart in the Boulders shopping center in Prescott and heard the choir children singing in a performance there. "They are so enthusiastic. They are lit from within," she said, and that's when she stopped, found out about INC and decided to become a sponsor.

For more information about the choir's program at Unity of Prescott, call the Rev. Charli Tupper at 445-1850. The Yavapai Symphony Guild is sponsoring the choir's performance at the Adult Center. For more information, call

778-3000.

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