By Kathi Samuels
For nearly a decade, Sandpoint resident and former Director of Asia ICN Heather Mehra-Pedersen traveled the globe as part of the team that hand selects children to join the choir.
She is actively awaiting the Matsiko World Orphan Choir’s return to Sandpoint later this month — in what supporters are anticipating to be a city-wide saturation of singing, destined to connect cultures and multiply giving through the power of the arts.
“It’s incredible to witness lives transforming as these kids share their hope-filled message on stage,” said Mehra-Pedersen.
Made up of children from the mountains of Peru to the villages of Liberia West Africa, the Matsiko Choir (the flagship vehicle of International Children’s Network or ICN) captures the hearts of all who hear their message. The kids sing with such passion and meaning that their hope in overcoming tragedy and the life-changing effects of a supported education is truly inspiring. The Choir’s contagious energy and zeal shines through a powerful presentation of original songs, cultural dances, and multimedia testimony.
Over a 10-month period, orphaned children and the most vulnerable children are auditioned annually and selected from a pool of hundreds before leaving what they know as home: garbage heaps, the bush, brothels and cardboard shacks. These chosen few become part of a one-year United States musical tour of heroes. Ages range from 5 to 15. Some of these kids have never experienced electricity, a pair of shoes or running water. Therefore, the touring experience is life-changing in many ways.
The Matsiko children sing, dance and share their stories for a very worthy goal: to raise hope, needed assistance, awareness and educational support for as many of our world’s 600 million at-risk children as possible. Because of ICN’s unique sponsorship, orphaned and at-risk children have a chance to break the cycle of poverty with an education at the highest university or vocational levels of their nations. They then return to their villages to help other children, thereby empowering collective futures with independence for the first time ever.
Choir children will be hosted during their stay by the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint and a community of host families. Earlier this year, the Conservatory reached out to Heather and Matsiko in hopes of creating an opportunity for Sandpoint children to sing together and raise awareness for their cause. This unified effort is part of the school’s annual MCS Without Borders benefit, an international exchange philosophy that mirrors the power of music across cultures.
The first opportunity to see the Choir in Sandpoint will be at their kickoff performance co-hosted by Lost Horse Press and MCS on July 27 at the Celebration of Arts and Culture where Matsiko will sing alongside local children (Memorial Field at 3:30 p.m.; gates open at 1p.m.). Their stay will continue in and around Sandpoint from late July into August. Please watch local message boards for additional venues, or to find out how you can come alongside this arts collaboration, please contact Janice Wall, Director of Music Matters/MCS @ 208-265-4444. Give directly at www.matsikochoir.com.
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