A 13 year old Pondicherry girl, Shivani, is among the several members that make up the internationally famous Matsiko World Orphan Choir. Shivani who hails from the Udayan orphanage in Pondicherry has already travelled to many countries as part of the choir.
Her father is in prison for murdering her mother. There were no relatives to care for her and she was placed in the Udayan Home. Shivani, who is known for her “glowing presence on stage and off” has grown a fondness for American pancakes.
A brainchild of the International Children’s Network (ICN), the group started out as the Matsiko Children’s Choir. After the great success of its first choir, the Matsiko World Orphan Choir came into being, comprising of children from Peru, India and Liberia. These children share their lives and culture through song and dance, acting out dramas, and performing original drum routines.
‘Matsiko’ is the Ugandan word for hope and that is what the choir group brings with it, wherever it goes. Proceeds generated by the choir tour and merchandise sales go directly to support ICN’s worldwide program, including the life-changing educational sponsorships that afford orphaned children a chance at a university degree.
“Matsiko isn’t just a choir,” said Don Windham, founder of the International Children’s Network, a non-profit NGO that works using the help of international embassies and local agencies to recruit performers from the underprivileged in developing countries.
“It is amazing to see these kids breaking out of their shells. When they return home, they work to help others in their communities,” Windham said, according to a report by the Idaho Mountain Express.
The Matsiko World Orphan Choir who are always welcomed with open arms, return every year to the US for their tour. Usually they spend quite a lot of time there, and are also awarded with college sponsors in their own respective country.
Mirta Casaperalta, who has been a part of Matsiko almost for half her life has admitted that the International Children’s Network has been successful in providing basic nutritional needs and school supplies for farming families that do not own land and have struggled to care for their children in some of the Peruvian villages including that of Matsiko member Alicia Cami.
“Alicia lost her father when she was seven years old,” said Casaperalta. “Her mother has trouble with her eyes. The family was living on the ground. Now they have a mattress and a table.”
According to Windham, around 6000 children have been sponsored by the organization since it was found in 2008.
In the coming months, the Matsiko Choir performers will be on the road, from Seattle to Chicago and Atlanta and back to the West Coast with not only amazing performances, but also many wonderful experiences.