Ugandan Imani Milele Children's Choir returns to West Linn for fundraiser
Back in May, when the Imani Milele Children's Choir of Uganda first visited West Linn, Holly Sorensen had trouble finding places for the kids to stay.
The parents affiliated with Sorensen's West Linn Corner Children's Choir simply didn't know much about the Imani Milele choir yet. And, most importantly, they had yet to hear the children sing.
As the Imani Milele kids prepared for another visit this October, Sorensen suddenly found herself in high demand.
"Now, I have people begging me (to have someone stay with them)," she said.
The choir is part of Imani Milele Inc., a Florida-based Christian nonprofit dedicated to working with underprivileged and orphaned children in the East African nation of Uganda. After visiting and performing in a joint concert with the West Linn Corner Children's Choir in May, the Imani Milele choir will once again stay with local families this month while also singing at an auction Oct. 12 to raise funds for what the Oregon chapter of the Friends of Imani Milele calls its "Sticks to Bricks" project.
"The (Imani Milele) children's vision is to rescue and educate orphan children and develop them as leaders," Sorensen said. "We, the families, fell in love with these kids and felt like we had to do more. We started this project called 'Sticks to Bricks' and we're trying to raise funds to turn a school made of mud and sticks into a brick school."
Sorensen and some other West Linn parents hope to travel to Uganda in November to break ground on the school. And that's just the first of many steps — ultimately, the goal is to raise about $2 million to fund the construction of not only a school but also housing for students in need.
"The auction is really just to get (the project) launched, and from there hopefully we'll do grant writing to get the funds raised," Sorensen said.
What drives Sorensen and others involved with "Sticks to Bricks" is the genuine connection they felt with the children when they first visited in May.
"The beautiful part about this story is that families and children in the community have been so touched by the children that, all of a sudden, Africa is not such a distant place anymore," Sorensen said. "I have never met children as warm and affectionate and lively and pure as these kids."
And the need in Uganda is very real — according to the Imani Milele organization, there are more than 3 million children in the country who are considered either orphaned or vulnerable.
"Uganda is the size of the state of Oregon, and the population of Oregon is the number of orphans there," Sorensen said.
The upcoming dinner and auction, which will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at Langdon Farms Golf Club in Aurora, will feature a number of vacation packages as well as smaller items donated by local businesses. And while a winning bid might not be guaranteed, auction-goers are sure to see a memorable performance by the choir.
"The choir is incredible," Sorensen said.