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How Ugandan teen found his way into Kirk Franklin’s ‘Lean on me’ re-release

John Kakama was born on April 18, 2003 without arms, a condition doctors described as congenital abnormality.

When his mother, Shallon realized that he was limbless, she convinced the paternal grandmother to have him killed, an idea that the grandmother rejected.

Her hesitation reportedly infuriated Kakama’s mother and forced her to eventually abandon the child at two years old. Since then, she has never resurfaced and her whereabouts are unknown. Later, Kakama’s father, Fred also relocated leaving the child under the care of the grandmother, Jovanice.

Kakama was lucky to be registered on the Child Development programme with support from Compassion International that enrolled him in school and has been facilitating his education and medical bills.

“We thank God for having endowed Kakama with strong personal qualities and among them is intelligence that has enabled him thrive and compete favorably with other able-bodied children at school. He is also talented in music; he likes it so much plus computer activities. We hope he will achieve his career dream in future,” said Beth, a project worker.

 

Throughout his primary school life, Kakama was performing well despite his physical challenges. He uses his right foot to do most of his work like feeding, writing, type work using a computer, among others. In mock exams, he scored aggregate 11 emerging the best pupil in their school and in Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), he scored Aggregate 16.

“Before the schools’ closure caused by the Covid pandemic, Kakama was in Form One, in one of the best schools in the western region to enable him achieve his dream of becoming a lawyer. We are optimistic that the future is bright for Kakama for we know that God has a lot in store for him. He created him for a purpose and as stewards, it is our responsibility that God’s purpose for his life becomes a reality,” Beth added.

Meeting Kirk Franklin 

In early 2020, Grammy-winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin traveled to the Dominican Republic to see Compassion’s child development work firsthand. Following the trip, Kirk felt the urge to use his musical talents to inspire and encourage youth around the world.

In fall of that year, Kirk began working with youth in Compassion’s child sponsorship program to create a global Compassion Youth Choir. The goal of the choir was to encourage youth to pursue their musical talents, to inspire them to pursue their dreams.

Franklin called for auditions from youth and more than 120, including Kakama and five other Ugandan teens, responded throughout the 25 countries where Compassion serves to release children from poverty. He was reportedly moved by the talent and the passion of the young artists, that Kirk decided he couldn’t choose some children and leave others behind. In June 2021, Kirk announced that all those who auditioned had been chosen for the choir.

Through virtual rehearsals, Franklin has been working with the youth to re-record two of his former singles: “I Smile” and “Lean on Me.” The recordings were intended to be used for Compassion’s annual global staff summit in September 2021. However, upon hearing the recording of Lean on Me,” Kirk’s record label, Sony/RCA, decided to release the song to the world.

During the virtual sessions, Franklin provided vocal coaching, answered questions about his life and musical career, and even taught the group some dance moves.

The song, featuring the Compassion Youth Choir, is available for purchase and streaming, by Franklin’s record label. Proceeds from the sales of the re-release will go to Compassion International.

“I feel extremely happy to be selected. I feel God has blessed me so much, beyond what words can explain,” Kakama said.

Franklin said:“It was such an honor working with so many young, talented, and gifted kids from across the globe! I’m grateful to the team at Compassion International for giving me the opportunity to serve in this capacity. It’s unbelievable that a song like this still resonates with so many people. I pray this version provides a little hope for the people across the globe.”

 

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