After performing to an audience of over 300 Thursday evening at First Baptist Church Orange, the Daraja Children’s Choir of Africa had a three hour science lesson Friday at Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. 

They started their day performing a number for Shangri La employees and guests.

“The Birdman” Talbert Meadows introduced the youngsters from Kenya to Maxine, a Barred Owl. Meadows taught them several facts on bird migration and habits. In the past, Meadows has tagged over 1540 birds representing 70 species at the outdoor classroom which is part of Shangri La. 

Students were able to cut open pellets that are regurgitated by the birds, containing all the things they don’t digest, such as bones and fur.

All 23 children took a special boat tour, with Shangri La Director Mike Hoke and educator Noel Jordan. “We saw birds,” said Jordan. “[The children] were great observers out there, they saw [the birds] before I did.”

“Our boat saw an alligator,” said Mel Moreau, pilot of the second craft. “I stopped the boat and they all ran to the other side to see the alligator.”

“They’re little sponges,” said Jordan of how much information the kids were soaking in.

The youngsters were ecstatic when they were shown the Shangri La tee-shirts each child was to receive.

“They’re so grateful, polite and well-mannered; they’re the most beautiful kids,” said Myra Sanders, one of the church co-ordinators. “I want to take them to school with me!”

Shangri La was one of the best things about the tour for 11-year-old Betty Harriet Wanjiru. 

“We’ve really had fun,” agreed 11-year-old Dennis Irungu.
Some of their other favorite activities while in America have been swimming, giving concerts, meeting new people and seeing new things.

After the trip to Shangri La, they returned to the church to continue their studies for the day and dine on they’re favorite American food. “Pizza!” They all shouted together, with French fries a close second. Hotdogs, Spaghetti and Ice Cream also made the list. 

Friday night would be spent with their host families, continuing on their journey Saturday morning.

The young choir members aged 9-13 have been on tour of the southern states since the end of May. Formed only three years ago as part of The 410 Bridge Organization, the choir is made of up of new children each year to give them a life-changing opportunity to experience the American culture. Most of the children are orphans and have never been outside of Kenya.

It also gives Americans the chance to experience the Kenyan culture in the performances of traditional African song and dance by the children.

Their performances are usually at churches in smaller towns. The youngsters stayed with nine host families during their visit to Orange.

The only other Texas performance will be at Lake Jackson.
In the United States until Aug. 18, they will then return to Kenya for five weeks to rest and recoup, before starting a second leg of their U.S. tour.

For more information about the choir and The 410 Bridge visit or

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.