Caleb was abandoned by his mother in Uganda as a small child, but instead of facing an uncertain future without family support he is travelling the English countryside with 16 other children just like him.
Now 10 years old, Caleb is one of thousands of orphaned or vulnerable children who have been supported by Watoto Child Care Ministries, and part of a troupe of performers that will travel to all corners of Britain and beyond in the coming six months.
“My mother first abandoned me in the road and then the local authorities brought me to Watoto. And then I met two years they took me to Watoto village. And then one year passed and then the second year when I’m in Watoto I started schooling,” Caleb said.
Asia, also 10, was taken in by Watoto’s Neighborhood programme when her single mother became unable to afford housing and schooling her.
“I’ve been in Watoto for two years, this might be my third year. So when they took me Watoto my mother was very happy that she could at least have something to eat. Because when I was there I had to eat, I had to drink and she had to go for work and she had no one that can take care of me. So when she took me to Watoto she started tailoring and other businesses that can help her,” Asia said.
In the next six months, Watoto’s touring choir will take Asia and Caleb to all corners of Britain and finally the Netherlands, helping to raise money for the organisation and spreading the word of its work.
“Back home in Uganda there are more children who need help so we come here and get sponsors, so that they can sponsor the children and so that the children can be educated,” Asia added.
Jacqueline Niaga is one of the adult support staff travelling with the children – and was once a member of the choir herself.
Watoto took her into care when she was 8 years old and she toured the United States with the travelling choir a year later.
Now 29, she carries treasured memories of her touring days and knows how valuable the trips are to other children who take part.
“We have children who are between the ages of 6 and 13 and all the choirs last for a period of six months. So on the choirs we travel all around. This is the UK choir, there’s one in Asia, there’s two in the US, one in Canada and we have one that goes to Brazil so we’re going around the world. And still it’s the same thing, to raise awareness and support.”
Jacqueline is especially proud of the Neighbourhood programme, which tackles one of the root problems facing poor families: mothers and children left to fend for themselves.
“Neighbourhood, where we take care of vulnerable women, these are ladies who have been abandoned by their husbands and some of them have lost their husbands, some of them are living with HIV/AIDS and some of them have never been to school so they’re struggling with life to raise up their children.”
The choir is part of the Watoto Ministry, which was founded in 1994 and takes care of about 3,000 children in three villages in Uganda, supported by sponsors based in-country and abroad.
The Watoto Choir has performed to royalty and heads of government around the world, at venues including Buckingham Palace and the White House.
Mozambique: Government set to impose license fees for local journalists.
Mozambican government has announced plans to introduce license fees for local and foreign journalists.
Local correspondents will pay $2,500 per trip for media accreditation while foreign correspondents living in Mozambique will be charged $8,300 per year.
Mozambican journalists reporting for foreign news outlets will be required to pay $3,500 for an annual accreditation.
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This is 50 times more than the country’s statutory minimum wage, estimated at around $70 per month.
The plan fees have attracted serious criticism as the move has been viewed as an apparent attempt to discourage reporting from the country.
Mozambique’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has warned that the imposition of licensing fees on the country’s mass media must not compromise the fundamental right of the public to information.
In a statement, the CNDH, added its voice to the chorus of criticism of the proposed fees.
It conceded that the government has the right to update licensing and accreditation fees, but said such a measure should not undermine the right to information.
The CNDH points out that the current legal framework on access to information “takes as its guidelines the greatest divulging of information and free access to information… In other words, access to information is a matter of public interest and this access should be promoted and facilitated”.
It added: “The legal framework meant that the relevant state bodies must take measures to promote the broadest possible access to information”.
CNDS also warns that the enormous fees imposed by the July decree are not in line with the guidelines contained in the legal instruments on the right to information that are in force in the country.
The justification given for the fees is that they are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the sector – but none of the money raised by the fees will go to the media.
The decree states that 60 percent of the money from the fees will go to the state budget, and the remaining 40 per cent will go to the government’s press office (Gabinfo).
Meanwhile, the government is showing signs of backing down.
On Tuesday, its spokesperson, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ana Comoana, said the decree will be discussed with interested parties before its implementation.
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BREAKING: Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan dies
Former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan died in the early hours of Saturday in Switzerland after a short illness, according to a statement issued by his family.
The Nobel Peace Laureate was the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from January 1997 to December 2006, and became the first black African man to take on the top job as the world’s top diplomat.
He had been a member of The Elders, a group of global leaders working for human rights, since it was founded in 2007. In 2013, he became its chairman.
He was founder and Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, which issued a statement on social media, saying: “It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness…”