February 5, 2009
“A choir that cares about its people is a successful choir. We are giving back the blessings that we have received,” says Thembisa Khuzwayo, a member of the Soweto Gospel Choir.
This Grammy winning group is doing more than just wowing its audiences with song and dance – it is giving back to its communities.
Founded in 2002, the Soweto Gospel Choir made a vow to support HIV/AIDS orphanages and make sure that less fortunate people had a roof over their heads and food to eat.
The choir has adopted Nkosi’s Haven Vukani as one of its charities and has supported it for over six years now.
Nkosi’s Haven Vukani is a foundation for children orphaned by AIDS, named after a brave young HIV-positive child activist (Nkosi Johnson) who died a few years ago.
The foundation runs a children’s home in Berea, one of the most densely populated suburbs of Johannesburg.
Khuzwayo, a soprano singer and dancer, says that for her, the choir is not just about singing.
“Being part of the choir has given me the opportunity to go on tours with lots of exceptional artists. It means a lot to me to be helping charities and making a difference in the life of orphaned kids,” she says.
“We chose the field of HIV/AIDS because South Africa is highly affected by this pandemic.
“We are a young choir and we are popular in young people’s circles. Through our music we want to entertain, educate and inform people about AIDS,” she says.
Being part of a choir that is a 46664 ambassador is a dream come true, says Khuzwayo.
“It’s an incredible honour. It’s especially great because of the person [Nelson Mandela] who each year brings artists all over the world together.
“It’s an honour because we are still young in the industry but we have been involved in 46664’s charity benefit concerts since the beginning, in 2003,” adds Khuzwayo.
She says the joy on the faces of children from Nkosi’s Haven Vukani when the choir delivers gifts to them makes her want to do more.
“Seeing the appreciation on their little faces makes me even more passionate about the choir.”
Soweto Gospel Choir’s Executive Director, Beverly Bryer says the choir saw a need to support the cause of HIV/AIDS prevention and care.
“Most people in South Africa are either infected or affected by it,” she says.
“We decided to adopt an orphanage. A choir member put us in touch with Gail Johnson. Gail Johnson was a foster mother to HIV-positive orphan Nkosi Johnson who passed away in 2001. The Nkosi Johnson Foundation was established in 2001 in honour of this fallen hero. We spoke to Gail and decided to link ourselves with the Nkosi’s haven Vukani.”
Bryer says the group donates 50% of its proceeds to the foundation. The rest of the proceeds are given to other needy organisations, not always those working in the field of HIV/AIDS.
“When the choir goes on tours, after each performance it will announce its involvement with the charity and ask for donations, so the 50% goes there.”
“We administer the rest of the money and send some of it to organisations that don’t get a lot of funding. We even help families headed by grandparents by paying school fees and giving them food.”
Bryer says the choir is pleased to be helping orphans.
“We sing for the children and give them food and appliances like stoves, fridges and electric gates. We have helped feed over 12 000 children and raised over R7-million.
“It’s a drop in the ocean but we know a little drop will eventually build up to something bigger,” says Bryer.
Working with orphans hasn’t been easy and it has taken its toll on some of the choir members, she says.
“We were really nervous at first. It’s not easy to see a five year old being a mother to a two year old. But seeing the joy on their faces for the two hours that the choir is there makes it all worth it.”