Words by Sara Grace Black
Photo provided by Sozo Children
For the past four months, our idea of normal has drastically changed. Working from home, doing puzzles, graduating online, and binge-watching Netflix has become the“new normal” for so many—but imagine being 8,000 miles away from home during this extraordinary time of change. When 14 children from Uganda hopped on a plane to the United States, they had no idea they would soon be stuck here, quarantining.
Sozo Children is a non-profit organization based in Birmingham, Alabama and Uganda, Africa. The name “Sozo” comes from a greek word meaning “to save, keep or rescue from harm.” In 2003, founder Suzanne Owens saw that there was an immense amount of need when she met 17 Ugandan children who needed immediate assistance. She discovered that in Uganda, there are 2.7 million vulnerable children that are living without their basic needs being met.
With help from the Ugandan government, Sozo’s first family-style home was founded. The home gave Ugandan children a place to live and be cared for. The caregivers not only provided parental guidance, they also shared vision to disciple the children into the next generation of Christ leaders. Today, Sozo Children cares for over 120 kids, with Ugandan caregivers educating, nurturing and loving each and every one.
Sozo has grown through the years, now including a thrift store in Birmingham and the Sozo Choir in Uganda. The idea for the choir came to Suzanne in 2016. The first choir came to the United States for four months, and they put on 102 performances in 43 cities across the south.
Needless to say, this year's choir tour looked a lot different. The choir arrived in the United States on March 6, when Covid-19 was just beginning to be on the radar. The choir had planned to have 82 live performances in multiple locations, including Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida—but with Covid-19 spreading, all of the events were cancelled. The Sozo Choir was tasked with coming up with a back up plan.
The 14 children and Sozo staff have been quarantined since March on a farm just outside of Birmingham. It’s been affectionally dubbed “Camp Sozo.” The kids have spent the last few months there riding bikes, playing in the creek, riding horses, and engaging in other outdoor activities—and of course they continued schoolwork and choir practice. It’s good that they did, because they were able to have a virtual performance full of joy and laughter.
Although the children have missed their family and friends back in Uganda, they have gotten to FaceTime with them to share the unforgettable experiences that they have made in Alabama. The children just recently said their goodbyes, and packed their bags to finally head home after their five month long adventure in the United States. Even though the choir was not expecting to be quarantined for most of their time here, they still made special memories that they will cherish forever.