Experiencing childhood poverty through Compassion

By Gaby Salazar | Copy Editor, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter

The Compassion Experience transports hundreds of visitors to developing countries, following the stories of young people whose lives begin with extreme poverty but slowly became stories of hope.

On Tuesday, Compassion International — a Christian-based nonprofit, set up its interactive tour on Baylor’s campus for the first time at Truett Seminary.

Compassion International is all about “releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” Visitors were handed headphones and then invited to join either Carlos or Shamim in an audio guided journey of their lives. When visitors walked into the trailer, they were transported to rooms familiar to those one would see in Guatemala or Uganda.

Kaylee, a freshman at Bynum High School, said she visited the tour on a school field trip.

“I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was that bad,” Kaylee said after experiencing Carlos’ story.

Like many other children in his village, Carlos had to begin working at age 6 to support his family. He worked so much, it was difficult for Carlos to stay focused on his classes. In addition to having to work, his mother didn’t want him going to school and his father was an alcoholic.

“I didn’t know the kids had to grow up so fast […] He had to be almost like a father figure and support his family,” Kaylee said.

Carlos was forced to grow up quickly and managed to support his family by dyeing textiles. The tour showcased a replica of what the dyeing room looked like while visitors listened to Carlos tell his story.

Braydan, a senior at Bynum High School, said he was happy to hear that visitors had the opportunity to sponsor children at the end of their tour.

“I thought it was pretty interesting that [the organizers] were able to go in there and recreate what some of those kids lived through,” Braydan said. “Just hearing their story was really interesting and just makes you want to go out there and keep helping people.”

Compassion International tours the country with The Compassion Experience exhibit, the main goal being sponsorships for kids. They partner with local churches to strengthen partnerships with other countries around the world.

Go Reps are representatives of Compassion International who travel around the country spreading awareness about childhood poverty in developing countries.

“$38 a month covers all their basic necessities like school supplies, food, clothes, water and shelter. It also gets them into The Compassion Center and lets them know who Jesus is,” Jillian DeBoer, a Compassion Go Rep, said.

DeBoer said that she understands that not everyone is financially prepared to sponsor a child, but if they can become inspired by the experience, that’s just as helpful.

“Obviously there are a lot of students here that might not be in a position to donate $38 a month, but just to know what it’s like across the world for these kids in poverty, it hopefully plants the seed for sponsorship in the future,” DeBoer said.

Inside the truck, visitors can touch and walk around the replicated rooms. In Carlos’ classroom, you’ll find real letters hand-written from sponsors to their kids.

“The stories are true. At least most of the props are all from that country, and all the trash and newspapers as well,” DeBoer said.

Emily Johnson is the tour manager for the Compassion Experience.

“We arrive a day early to set this up which takes about four to six hours,” Johnson said. “Usually someone at Compassion will get in touch with someone, usually with a church and together we plan logistics on where we set up.”

DeBoer said Compassion International is working to have a relationship with Baylor in general, so he said that means that a lot more Compassion projects are going to be on campus.

“Sometimes the church will already have partnerships with countries that they want to sponsor, and that can lead to what’s called ‘a sponsor trip’ where you can have the opportunity to go visit your sponsor children,” Johnson said.

For more information about the mission of Compassion International, sponsorship, or volunteer opportunities, visit their website.