Drummer Turned Doctor : African Children's Choir
2013/02/13
By : Erin Levin
Robert Kalyesubula was a young child keeping the cattle outside of his Ugandan village with his brothers and sisters. When they returned home that evening, their family had been killed by rebel groups in the Ugandan Civil War. Robert and his siblings walked for days to Kampala where they searched for help. Most of Robert's brothers and sisters died en route to safety.

Today, Robert is an award-winning doctor in Uganda.

How did this miracle occur? The African Children's Choir. Dr. Robert Kalyesubula is one of over 1,000 children that have been members of the Choir over the past 29 years. The Choir has grown beyond Uganda to Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria. And Dr. Robert is not the only success story they've helped to raise.

There is also Mbenya Kamwetu who grew up in the Kibera, Kenya --- the largest slum in Africa. Mbenya is currently completing her degree in Maritime Law. And Honoline Ngarambe who was raised in an orphanage after the Rwandan Genocide, and thanks to the Choir is now an Accountant for an international non-profit in Rwanda. How can we forget the famous face from the Choir, Mark Masai? When Mark was a baby, he was abandoned by his young mother, Mark found his way to the Choir and like all other Choir members, his education was funded through university. You can see Mark on your TV every day as the East Africa Anchor for CCTV. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg of the impact the Choir and their members have.

Not only do these once vulnerable children in the midst of extreme poverty become successful thanks to the support and education provided by the Choir, they also give back.

Dr. Robert is the doctor for the Choir children in Uganda. He also founded his own non-profit called NACODI which supports orphans, people with AIDS, girls who have dropped out of school, and sets up income generating projects in his village. He also has a wife and two children which will grow up in a safe, loving, comfortable home like Robert could not have even dreamed of as an orphan in the midst of the war.

Many former Choir children take a year off between graduating college and beginning their career to immerse themselves in giving back to the Choir. This year, three former members --- Aleni, Jennipher and Anthony --- are on the road with the newest Choir kids. My film crew and I are following them every step of the way. Our independent documentary feature film, imba means sing, highlights the experience of these three chaperones that are back in America for the first time since being little children themselves. They tell the story along with two of the current Choir children --- Moses and Angel. Moses hopes to be a pilot when he grows up and Angel dreams of becoming the first female President of Uganda. Even though Moses and Angel's families cannot affords to send them to school, I have no doubt their goals will be realized thanks to the opportunities the Choir opens for them.

Not only does the African Children's Choir organization help the Choir members, they have also built schools, teacher training colleges and relief and development programs across the continent. The Choir has supported the education of over 52,000 of Africa's poorest kids.

In addition to how the Choir helps in Africa, I believe one of the greatest gifts they provide is actually to the developed world. The Choirs tour the West and show us the hope, dignity and unlimited potential of Africa's children. They fill each person they meet with joy and a new perspective on life. Much like the Choir, the film is not about how Westerners help Africa; instead, it is about how Africans in the Choir are helping solve our global education crisis.

To learn more about the film and help share this story,

please visit our IndieGoGo campaign

Our goal is to raise $30,000 in 40 days, with your help we can!


"imba means sing" independent documentary feature film through the eyes of the African Children's Choir, is donating 100% of film profits to the Choir and all donations to their film are tax-deductible.

Erin Levin, Erin is an award-winning humanitarian journalist and filmmaker. Her production and outreach experience ranges from ABC and CNN to the Peace Corps and non-profits around the world. At CNN, Erin worked closely on the 2008 election coverage; found a niche in covering Africa, musical activism, the changing face of homelessness and became an abolitionist through her coverage of human trafficking. Most recently, Erin worked as the Community & Social Media Manager as well as the Filmmaker at Better World Books, an online social enterprise bookstore. Erin is now working full-time on imba means sing, her first documentary feature. She is also a freelance writer for the Huffington Post and Paste Magazine and a social media and outreach guru for small businesses and non-profits hoping to share their work and passion with clients, donors and fans.
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