By Courtney Clark
From April 14 – 18, the Church of Eleven22 hosted “Change the Story: The Compassion Experience” on its Baymeadows campus. Compassion International is responsible for the Compassion Experience, a traveling and immersive event that educates visitors about children’s living conditions in third world countries. The five-day event invited guests to take a self-guided tour through the lives of two children.
The Church of Eleven22 at Baymeadows specifically hosted two real children’s stories: Jey from Kenya and Yannely from the Dominican Republic. Using iPods and headsets, visitors are sent through the more than 2,000 square feet of exhibit space that includes replicas of the homes and environments in which the children grew up. The tours are designed for visitors to realize the children’s situations through sound, sight and touch — so even if one hasn’t visited the country, a tour-goer is able to better understand the children’s circumstances.
The initial replicated conditions are dreary: the rooms are narrow and short with water leaking from the ceiling. Jey and Yannely greet the visitor via video and begin their stories.
Yannely explains how she builds dolls from mud for entertainment, while Jey details the illegal moonshine and drugs his mother sells to make money. While the children explain their situations, it is easy to see the truth behind Mark Hanlon’s words; Hanlon, Compassion’s senior vice-president of Global Marketing and Engagement, explains that poverty is not just a lack of money, but is a lack of hope.
As the tour moves forward, visitors can see how Compassion International helps these children regain their hope. Jey and Yannely explain how their sponsors changed their lives, helping them become involved in Compassion International centers in their countries so they can receive Christian support and education. By the end of the tour, Jey and Yannely are adults and are paying it forward by helping inspire others.
When guests exit the tour areas, they can learn more about becoming a sponsor to help end global poverty.
Compassion International was started by Rev. Everett Swanson more than 60 years ago. Swanson, who was from Chicago, flew to South Korea to minister to American troops during the Korean War; however, while he was there he was drawn to and troubled by the children he saw. Hundreds of war orphans had been abandoned by society and were dying on the streets. To help, Swanson raised money for an orphanage and created a program for children to have sponsors in the Western world.
Starting in 2014, sponsors and children were able to exchange letters to learn more about each other. Today, Compassion International is partnered with more than 26 countries to help babies, children and young adults through holistic child development that encompasses the spiritual, physical, social and economic well-being of the children.
Visit www.CompassionExperience.com for more information on how to get involved or to find another event nearby.
Photos by Courtney Clark
Outside of the Compassion Experience space