Their country is mired in poverty, hyperinflation and political upheaval. Despite all those troubles, a youth choir from Zimbabwe is bringing a note of celebration to eastern Massachusetts and New England.

Their country is mired in poverty, hyperinflation and political upheaval.

Despite all those troubles, a youth choir from Zimbabwe is bringing a note of celebration to eastern Massachusetts and New England.

The choir from the Watershed College boarding school will perform at area churches during the last two weeks of August, including United Methodist churches in South Walpole, Mansfield, Westborough, Cambridge, Franklin and Acton. The group will also visit churches in New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut.

The tour's organizer, the Rev. Tsitsi Moyo of South Walpole United Methodist, said the choir wanted to visit New England to show "there is still life in Zimbabwe," and that people there aren't giving up hope for a better future, even though "the political situation is ugly and the economy is dead."

Zimbabwe has fallen into the worst crisis of its 28-year history, with 80 percent unemployment, widespread hunger and disease, and inflation at more than 10 million percent. The United States and many other nations have condemned the June presidential runoff election, in which longtime ruler Robert Mugabe claimed victory amid reports that leaders and campaign workers for the opposition Movement For Democratic Change were harassed and murdered. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has ruled the country since it gained independence in 1980. Talks between ZANU
and the opposition for a coalition government have stalled.

Watershed College is a private, high school-level boarding school in Marondera, near the capital city of Harare. The choir includes 23 girls and boys aged 12 to 18. They will sing Christian and folk songs in English and the main Zimbabwean language Shona, and will also play traditional African instruments. While the ensemble has previously performed in Zimbabwe and Zambia, "this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to come to this country," said the Rev. Moyo, a Zimbabwe native who has lived in the U.S. with her family since 1997.

Despite Zimbabwe's hyperinflation and collapsing economy, the choir raised enough money for airfare.

The ensemble's concerts will include:

South Walpole United Methodist on Aug. 16 Mansfield United Methodist on Aug. 17 Westborough First United Methodist on Aug. 24 Harvard-Epworth United Methodist in Cambridge on Aug. 27 Franklin United Methodist on Aug. 29 St. Matthew's United Methodist in Acton on Aug. 31.

Voluntary donations of support will be accepted at each concert.