Children of Agape share their love
"Agape" is the Greek word for unconditional love, and the South African orphan-singing troupe Children of Agape is hoping to find some of that love in the United States.
Native New Yorker Ted Geier is managing the group’s tour across the country, which included a benefit concert at the Eccles Center Monday evening, plus a performance earlier that day for Park City students.
The 10 Children of Agape, ages 8 to 16, are "wonderful singers without homes or parents," Geier said. Their parents all died from AIDS or murder, Geier said, and their orphanage burnt down earlier this year. Mbali Mqadi, 8, said the group wants to return to South Africa "because we miss our friends." He noted, "I like to sing because we’re raising money."
Cousin Yilinasi Mqadi, 14, enjoys singing and dancing in the performances. In South Africa, she and her friends have "just a normal life. We go to school with other children, eat, play, and talk."
She wants to go back "a lot." Something she admires in the United States is the education level. If people are educated, there are better jobs and fewer criminals. Yilinasi Mqadi said she wants to be president of South Africa to help improve that situation.
"The government is doing something to help our country, I just feel I could try and change our country in some sort of way," she said.
If the country has a better economy, South Africans won’t need to come to the United States to ask for help.
Khumbulani Mthethwa, 15, enjoys the snow in Park City, which he doesn’t see much of in South Africa.
"I like to sing because they make my future," he said. "Sometimes if you sing, you get a nice job."
If Mthethwa can’t become a singer, he wants to be a police officer "because I want to finish all the criminals. There are a lot."
Geier hooked up with the group because his daughter, Hallie, 11, championed awareness of AIDS issues in Africa. She died earlier this year, so Geier is continuing her memory with the Love, Hallie Foundation. The Children of Agape are learning the process of singing as they go.
"It’s not like we have the equipment guy, the wardrobe guy, the tutor, the driver " Geier said.
The group’s chaperone, Pamela Mqadi, said, "They are used to performing. They are used to working very hard. They know what they are going to do once they enter the stage."
Although performing is hard work, it’s a pleasant change of pace for the children, who otherwise do the same things every day at the orphanage in South Africa, said Pamela Mqadi (aunt of the other two Mqadis).
"Here we get to spend a lot of quality time together," she said.
Pamela Mqadi wants Parkites to know "that South Africa is very friendly. It might not be as big as the states, but people there are very friendly and very warm."
The place is warm too, she laughed, noting it’s "not as cold as Park City."
An important part of the singing and dancing is educating people about the trauma of AIDS in South Africa.
"People die every day," Pamela Mqadi said. "We try to educate them and tell them to abstain. It’s better that way, because of AIDS."
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Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall, has died, the municipal government said. Erickson was involved at some level in nearly all the major decisions regarding growth and development in Park City since the early 1990s.