By Julie Muhlstein The Herald
EVERETT — Roxana Kiunga is getting ready for house guests. They’ll stay just a day or two. Unlike many hosts, she wishes they could stay longer.
“The Ugandan Orphans Choir came to our church last year, and three kids and one adult stayed with us,” Kiunga said Thursday. “We didn’t want them to leave. We wanted to keep them forever.”
Again this year, the choir sponsored by Childcare Worldwide, a Christian child sponsorship organization, will visit Everett’s Grace Lutheran Church. The choir is scheduled to perform there at 7 p.m. Feb. 15.
Kiunga is a member of the church. Last year, she and her husband Lawrence Kiunga not only opened their home to several choir members, they took the children on an outing to Funtasia.
With its video games, race cars, mini golf, batting cages and other attractions, the Edmonds business gave choir members a raucous sampling of American childhood. “They were so surprised, they never saw things like that,” Kiunga said.
The Everett couple again plan to host Ugandan children for two nights and three days. Their visitors will be choir members, but not the same children who stayed with them a year ago. “Last year we had two 10-year-olds, a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old,” Kiunga said. An adult chaperone also stayed with the Kiungas last year.
Again, Kiunga said, she and her husband plan to spend the first night of the visit at the fun park. “The kids will have lots of fun,” she said. The second night is the concert, but Kiunga expects there will be time for sightseeing, too.
Children staying at the Kiunga home are welcomed in a special way. Lawrence Kiunga is a native of Kenya. Although his native language of Swahili is different from what the Ugandan children speak, the words are similar enough that they can communicate. The children also speak English, Roxana Kiunga said.
Kiunga and her husband helped the children feel at home by preparing traditional African foods — bread made from chick peas and harina, rice and beans, and fish. The children enjoyed helping in the kitchen, she said.
“He doesn’t get much of an opportunity to eat the foods of his country,” Kiunga said of her husband, who works at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. Before the concert, a dinner at the church will also feature African foods.
The children are all orphans, Kiunga said. Some had parents who died from complications of AIDS, and others have lost family to war. All the children in the choir are sponsored, but during the tours people in churches they visit learn about sponsoring other children, Kiunga said.
Children from developing countries sponsored by donors to Childcare Worldwide have opportunities to be educated and learn trades, according to the organization’s website.
“They have no relatives. They are under the care of this agency,” Kiunga said. Children in the choir travel by van and are home-schooled by adult leaders, she said. There are several Childcare Worldwide touring choirs, she said.
“I would really like everyone to come out and see the kids,” Kiunga said. “They are lots of fun and inspirational. They are helping to raise money for other orphans.”
The choir will perform traditional Christian hymns, African music and dances. About 100 people attended last year’s concert at Grace Lutheran, Kiunga said.
“We are very excited,” said Kiunga, who has a grown son. Last year, she said, the children were shy when they first met the couple.
“Then they became just kids,” Kiunga said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, email@example.com.
The Ugandan Orphans Choir will perform at Everett’s Grace Lutheran Church at 7 p.m. Feb. 15. A dinner featuring African foods will begin at the church at 5:45 p.m. Feb. 15. The church is at 8401 Holly Drive, Everett. Donations to the choir welcome; information about sponsoring a Ugandan child will be available.