The Bulembu Choir, a group of students from a small town in Africa, shared their a capella singing talents at several Phoenix performances and attended classes with their fellow students at a Goodyear school during Black History Month.
The Bulembu Choir members said they especially enjoyed the art, math and physical education classes at West Valley Christian School and sharing lunch and recess with the students.
Video by Brooke Martinez/ AZEdNews: Bulembu Choir from Eswatini, Africa
The Bulembu Choir and their director Mr. Shabalala were in Phoenix to perform at the “A Gift from the Heart” Gala, and “we wanted to give another opportunity to showcase their talents to these kids who traveled all the way from Africa,” said Devin Del Palacio, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona director of community outreach, a Tolleson Union High School District board member, and former president of Arizona School Boards Association’s Black Alliance.
The Bulembu Choir performed at the Phoenix Suns game on Feb. 12, 2020, and just before that, they welcomed ASBA‘s executive director Dr. Sheila Harrison-Williams at a reception in her honor at ADM Group, Inc. in Tempe.
“Thanks for giving us this opportunity,” said Joshua Ward, with Bulembu Ministries Swaziland‘s office in Tennessee, to Del Palacio before the students performed.
The nine students who make up the a capella choir also had the opportunity take in a Phoenix Coyotes game, visit the Grand Canyon, and do many other things while they were here.
Tema, one of the students in the Bulembu Choir, said she especially enjoyed the hockey game.
The students are from Bulembu, in the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), which is a small country near Mozambique in Africa.
“It’s the last true monarchy in southern Africa and is a kingdom of 1.2 million people,” Ward said. “It’s a single tribe nation, which is really unique, a lot of the other countries in Africa have tribal conflict, but we don’t.”
“Our country has the highest HIV rate in the world, so as a result, about 10 percent of the nation’s population are orphans,” Ward said.
In 2006, Bulembu Ministries Swaziland, a team of social developers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs purchased Bulembu, an abandoned mining town, to provide care for more than 360 orphaned and vulnerable children.
Now, the orphaned children in Bulembu live in family homes with four to six children in each home with a caregiver known as an auntie who helps provide the support and care that the children need, Ward said.
“Our town is peaceful, and we have good friends,” said one of the teenage boys in the Bulembu Choir.
“I love all the green trees and the mountains,” said one of the teen girls in the Bulembu Choir.
“The fact that we are just one family and we are all connected,” said one of teen boys in the Bulembu Choir.
“We run our own school with grades K through 12, and we try to get our kids tertiary (post-secondary) education,” Ward said.
“Our vision is to raise leaders, restore a town and transform a nation,” Ward said.
The town has developed a number of community enterprises to ensure its sustainability, they include a dairy farm, local bakery, guest lodge, water bottling plant, honey farm and timber plantation.
“The true vision is to be self-sustainable so we set up business units to do that,” Ward said.
After a busy month, the students returned to Bulembu on Friday.