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Pearl of Africa

The Pearl of Africa Childrens Choir, from Uganda, provided Ryedale School and the local community with a most memorable, and at times, moving week. The choir visited us as part of their 12-week UK tour, to raise money for seven schools and orphanages, run by the Molly and Paul Childcare Foundation. The choir was visiting us for the third time in four years, but this time we hosted them with Ryedale School families for six nights, as well as welcoming them to school for the day. We were fortunate to have some good coverage from the local media - Tyne Tees News and the York Press, to support the choir's endeavours.

A brilliant day at Ryedale School, with a series of workshops, back to Sinnington Methodist Chapel for tea, and a concert in the school hall in the evening. With sales from their craft stall and the non-uniform day, ticket sales, bar and other donations, we managed to raise in excess of £3,600! At the heart of the day were the following three messages: music has enormous emotive power, especially when it is performed to an amazing standard; the opportunity for our community to engage with the choir and enjoy their company is lovely; their attitude to their lives and the chance to represent their schools and communities in the UK should be held as an example to us all.

The choir travelled to York and sang in York Minster at a service led by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (also from Uganda). It's obviously not the sort of music that is normally performed in the Minster, but they sounded fantastic. Tyne Tees News covered the event, and were particularly interested in Nelson and his broken foot. After lunch at McDonalds (where lots of chicken was consumed!), which was paid for by donations collected by Riccals Carers, York, they then braved the weather and busked at the Castlegate Centre. The support and interest from the general public was fantastic, with lots of generous donations, and promises to attend concerts later in their stay. They sang in the cold for 90 minutes, with barely a break, and as always, kept their energy levels up throughout.

No rest on a Saturday - there's more singing to be done and money to be raised! Ryedale Community Choir, based at Ampleforth College, were the hosts for the morning, and a series of lively workshops led to another concert in the gym behind the music department. Everyone looked after the choir brilliantly, including a great lunch provided in one of the school dining rooms. This was followed by more busking in more poor weather, at Castle Howard, in the Stable Courtyard. Again the interest and support was fantastic from everyone who was there.

Sunday 13th October

Rest day! They don't get many. All our host families really enjoyed looking after the choir members, whether it be shopping, cooking, sight-seeing or hanging about and having a rest!

Back singing again! This time at Malton School, where again they led a series of workshops during the day, and performed at the opening of the school's new drama facility. The evening was attended by Peter Dwyer, the new Head of Childrens' Services for North Yorkshire County Council. He, like everyone else, was bowled over by the choir.

The choir's final full day with us was lots of fun, as over 100 pupils from local primary schools joined the choir in All Saints Church, Helmsley for singing, drumming, cultural exchanges and storytelling. Again the day was followed by a brilliant evening concert. The aisle of the church was full of primary school pupils, sitting on kneelers, mesmerised by the choir's singing and dancing! We managed to record the performance, and anyone who would like a CD of the concert, for £5, should contact the Performing Arts Department at Ryedale School. All proceeds go to the choir.

Goodbye! The choir moved on to Ormskirk, near Liverpool, to repeat the whole pattern of events. An emotional farewell was exchanged in the school hall, before we waved them off. Their six days with us raised a total of over £7,600 for the choir, and their friends in Uganda, supporting their schools and orphanages. Particular thanks should go to the host families of Ryedale School pupils - the commitment involved for them was huge, and they were all so generous in their time and effort. We looking forward to welcoming them back next year, and hope that they all travel safely back to Uganda.

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