I believe I was a teenager when I was first introduced to Compassion International – my church youth group sponsored three children over the course of several years.
Compassion is a Christian organization that brings together children in the poorest countries with sponsors from around the world who are willing to help through financial assistance. The sponsors and children are also able to communicate via letters and some even eventually meet.
The program has had success in getting these children a secondary education, with a path for college and a future employment. The sponsorship also provides for medical care and other needs.
Over the weekend, a local church hosted a Compassion Experience. This event allowed us to have a glimpse into the lives of three children (now grown) who had benefited from the Compassion program. They each had very different lives, but all were touched by poverty.
Daniel and I regularly talk about how we can teach our kids the importance of compassion and empathy for people who have different life experiences from us, and we felt like the Compassion Experience would be a good opportunity to plant that seed.
With young children, this experience wasn't a perfect fit, but Jack did choose to walk through all three stories.
We all listened to the story of Carlos in Guatemala together, then Isaac decided that he was finished so we decided that one of us should just let him play outside.
Jack and I listened to the story of Kiwi in the Philippines and then we traded and Daniel went with Jack to hear a story about a child growing up in Uganda.
Each story led us through a series of rooms. As we listened to each child's hardship, we had the opportunity to see how they lived, what they ate, and how they were expected to contribute to their family.
Jack is almost five and some parts of these (true) stories were pretty intense – for the Philippines story they had him listen to a kid friendly version.
When we finished, we asked him what he thought. He said he was sad that the mom of the child in Uganda had died. So even though he was young, he still connected with the story.
Mostly he enjoyed playing with the food in each country, and I have to confess that I am pretty sure the headphones were probably his favorite part.
Still, it was a good experience and if you have a chance to attend one of these free events, I would definitely recommend it.
There are so many children in our world who need help, and if nothing else, it is a good reminder of how much we have to be thankful for, every day.