As of Friday, October 6, 2017
DALLAS – Dallas Fire & EMS volunteer Sean Condon, dressed in full firefighter’s gear, dared the group of children surrounding him to poke him in the eye.
The children, all members of the Imani Milele Children’s Choir, hesitated for a few seconds, not sure if he meant it.
“Come on, try to poke me in the eye,” Condon said from behind the safety of his mask.
That was all the encouragement they needed to converge on the kneeling firefighter, giggling at their unsuccessful attempts to poke him in the eye.
The choir, from Uganda, has been on tour for almost eight months, in support of Imani Milele Children, a nonprofit that rescues and educates orphaned children in their home country. The tour of the fire station on Oct. 4 was part of a break between performances in Salem that morning and at Dallas First Christian Church that night.
Dallas Fire & EMS Community Service Officer April Welsh led the tour, showing the children and choir chaperone the department’s fire engines and other fire and rescue vehicles. They saw firefighters go out on a call and an ambulance return from a call.
Welsh turned the tour over to Condon to show them all the safety gear and turnouts firefighters must wear when battling blazes. He told them about the material of the pants and coat and passed around the air tank that allows firefighters to breathe in a fire.
“How much do you think all of that gear weighs?” Welsh asked.
The children answered 25, 50 pounds?
All the equipment weighs about 65 pounds, Welsh said.
“Oh, my goodness. How much do you weigh?” choir chaperone Olivia Nabulime asked Condon, laughing.
“Depending on what day it is, I’m going to say 185, I put an extra 65 pounds on,” Condon responded, grinning at the question.
“Do you have to work out to carry that?” she asked.
“I do as much as I can,” Condon said.
The same could be said of the choir, which books several performances each week, bringing music and the story of Uganda’s children with it.
“What we do is raise awareness of the plight of orphaned and vulnerable children in Uganda,” said Brian Mjuba, another choir chaperone. “The total of orphaned children in Uganda is over three million.”
He said the crisis began decades ago during the rule of dictator Edi Amin in the 1970s and persists today.
Imani Milele, a Swahili phrase meaning “always believe,” helps about 3,000 orphans. Members of the choir are children the organization rescued.
The group has performed in school, churches and other venues across the country. They will return to Uganda on Nov. 22.
The group’s stop in Dallas was a chance for the choir’s children to fire engines and ambulances up close.
“This is the first time our children have seen what you guys have and what you can do,” Nabulime said.
Nabulime said they have felt welcomed on their visit to the U.S.
“The hospitality is awesome,” Nabulime said.
For more information about the choir and its mission: www.imanimilele.com.