Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Students from Legacy Elementary embrace members of the Daraja Children's Choir following a school-wide assembly.

Bossier Schools, community welcome Daraja Children’s Choir from Africa

When the Daraja Children’s Choir from Africa arrived in Bossier City, students quickly learned that despite living thousands of miles apart and having different cultures, we are all one people.

Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune
Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune

The Daraja Children’s Choir immersed themselves into the local culture, staying with host families, performing for local church congregations and attending school during their six day visit to northwest Louisiana.

This trip, however, was more than just scheduled performances.

Several Bossier Schools raised more than $13,000 collectively for the Daraja Choir, all a part of the district-wide “Helping Hearts: The Power of We” initiative. Classes ‘adopted’ a child in the choir and raised money each week to equip them with a backpack, shoes, school supplies, clothing and other basic needs. They have also gotten to know their adopted child via videos and social media prior to their stop in Bossier. This helped the students get to know the choir before meeting in person.

“We know them by name. They aren’t just a choir of kids to us. They are individuals just like we are,” Kim Howell from Stockwell Place Elementary explained. “The students don’t think of them as a choir. They know who they are and have already developed a relationship with their adopted child.”

The choir arrived in October in Atlanta, GA and are making week-long stops in 22 states during their six month tour. Along the way, the choir is staying with host families. Howell, who is the librarian at Stockwell Place, was not only part of the team that got Daraja to Bossier, but served as a host family.

“That experience afforded me the opportunity to get to know them better,” Howell said. “They have taught us. All of the things about our countries and our cultures that we think make us different are actually similar in the fact that we are proud of where we come from.”

The Daraja Choir performed for Stockwell Place Elementary, Legacy Elementary, Apollo Elementary and for students in the Bossier Parish AIM program. These schools also incorporated the choir’s visit into their curriculum, learning about Africa and its culture through geography, music, reading, art, writing and technology.

Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune
Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune

Following the school-wide assembly at Stockwell Place Elementary, the Daraja Choir was presented the book “The Dot,” which was autographed especially for each of them by the author and illustrator.

“The book is about making your mark on the world and says that no matter who you are or where you’re from, it’s important to remember that each of us have a gift and it’s important to use that gift to help others,” Howell said. “I’m grateful that our students were able to share this gift with the Daraja Choir. This is something we teach our kids about life and it’s a lesson to use throughout your life. We tell our kids to never stop dreaming and we want Daraja to know that, too.”

Rob Allred, U.S. Tour Director for the Daraja Children’s Choir, said they look forward to coming back to Bossier in the future.

“There’s something special about Bossier Parish,” he said. “They love us so well around here. It’s an amazing community. It’s neat for our kids to experience that love, but to also share their love for God and them in return.”

Daraja is a ministry that values a culture of service, honor, love and respect. The children are part of a worship choir that shares the limitless amounts of joy found in Jesus, sharing their faith through song and dance. The choir features a group of talented singers, who are selected from multiple rural villages across Uganda and Kenya.

The group travels under the direction of 410 Bridge, a ministry dedicated to bridging the cultures of East Africa and the United States. For more information about the choir, visit www.darajachoir.org.

“Daraja” is the Swahili African translation for the English word “bridge.”