What does life look like through the eyes of a child living in poverty?
There are 385 million children living in extreme poverty, which is defined as living off less than $1.90 USD a day. The hurdles facing these children are immense and their concerns are very real. Each day, instead of playing with friends and learning new things, they worry – about where their next meal is coming from, where they’re going to sleep that night, how they will make it through the next day. They worry about their future.
Whether you’re an individual donor or spearheading a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program at a company, you’ve likely heard words like this before. You know the statistics, and you’ve read about what life is like for those living in poverty. But there is a disconnect between reading words and actually experiencing something in an audible and visual way. That disconnect is often felt between donors and the ones their donations are going to help, particularly so on an international level. Unless a donor’s involvement includes a boots-on-the-ground approach, it’s difficult to see the vast needs of children living in poverty and, by extension, harder to see the direct effect a donor’s assistance can have on those in need.
Donors are hugely responsible for the help these children receive, yet they never get to see a child’s face brighten with a smile, or watch as worry melts away to be replaced with relief when they realize their life is about to change. They don’t hear their laughter or their words of excitement for the future. They don’t see the true difference that their donation makes.
Compassion International is looking to change that. For more than 60 years, they have been making a difference in the lives of children experiencing poverty, working to ensure that they grow up healthy, educated and with every opportunity to achieve their full potential.
Recognizing the need for donor immersion, Compassion has developed the Compassion Experience to share some of the realities faced by children living in poverty.
“The Experience gives visitors a chance to see life for some children from a different perspective.” Compassion said. “It’s our hope that this perspective provides a continued awareness to both this type of poverty and the opportunity we all share to make a tangible difference for kids still stuck in the cycle of poverty.”
How it works: Walk alongside a child living in poverty
Through the Compassion Experience, donors step into the shoes of a child and follow their lives from poverty to hope while learning about new countries and cultures. The Experience takes visitors on an immersive and audio-guided 20-minute tour through the life of a child in poverty in an exhibit space featuring replicas of their actual homes and communities.
At the end of the tour, Compassion invites participants to get involved by sponsoring a child. Their sponsorship program provides life-changing opportunities to children, including:
- Consistent and nutrient-rich meals
- Preventative medical care and check-ups
- Tuition, fees, books and other support to stay in school
- Bible teaching
- Professional counseling and mentoring by safe adults
- Tutoring and vocational training
So far, the Experience has seen 600,000 visitors in 150 cities and counting. So, how can you get involved? At first glance, this may look like an opportunity for individuals only – however, the Experience offers a great opportunity to get your workplace involved in philanthropy. Here’s how:
Attend. Check when the experience will be in your city. Get your employees involved by holding a field trip during the week to change up the daily office routine, or plan a weekend outing and invite families. Before the outing, have employees reflect on what they know about children living in poverty. Then, after the event, sit down with everyone and discuss what you learned. Some prompts to kick start discussion might include:
- What were your overall thoughts about the Experience?
- What surprised you most?
- Share one or two things you learned.
- Has the Experience changed how you thought about children living in poverty?
- How did your previous impression of this issue compare to the reality portrayed in the Experience?
Engagement doesn’t need to stop there, though – follow-up with a brainstorming session about how your office can get involved in giving back at local, national and international levels. Consider connecting with Compassion to develop a workplace giving strategy.
Volunteer. Your brainstorming session doesn’t just have to include donations – volunteering is a great way to give back to the community with the added benefit of helping your employees stay close to their mission. You can even volunteer with Compassion to help with the Experience!
Volunteering with the Experience includes providing support for various responsibilities like greeting guests as they enter, setting up iPods, assisting with questions and guidance in the World Impact room, and more. Compassion will provide special training for all event volunteers both prior to and onsite at the event.
Encourage your staff to get involved and either volunteer as a group or individually, then give them an opportunity to talk about their experiences with each other. Consider discussing: what was it like to work the event and see it from the other side? How did most people respond to the Experience? What did you enjoy most about volunteering with Compassion International?
Host. Is the Experience not in a community near you? No problem! There’s a reason why it’s referred to as a “mission trip on wheels.” Your office can work with your local church to bring the Experience to your town and create activities with your employees like those mentioned above. Contact Compassion International and schedule your event today.
An experience for everyone
The Compassion Experience is something that everyone can be involved in, no matter your background or age. You don’t have to be a corporation to get involved – you can take part in the Experience as a nonaffiliated individual or as part of a group by attending, volunteering or hosting. Make an outing of it, and get your family and friends involved and help spread the Experience to more communities.
Still have questions? Check out the Compassion Experience’s FAQ; explore their website for event information, reviews and stories; or reach out to us at [email protected] to find out more about how to get involved.