Compassion Experience aims to educate Americans on children in poverty

Bus tour comes to Durham for four days

A look inside Compassion Internationals interactive tour through the life of a child living in a developing country. The Compassion Experience comes to Durham July 14-17. (The Compassion Experience)

DURHAM —— Hundreds of millions of children worldwide live on less than $2 a day, and Compassion International is continuing to raise awareness to help break the generational cycle of abject poverty.

The group, which through donors sponsors about 1.8 million children, brings its traveling Compassion Experience to The City Church of Durham from July 14-17.”Our goal is to invite people out to learn more about what it’s like to live on less than $2 a day,” said Steve Spriggs, who does community marketing for Compassion International. “So if we’ve done our job well, we hope that you’ve learned and leave with a deeper perspective on both poverty that goes on around the globe, but also the hope that’s going on when good people take action.”

The self-guided tour through the Compassion Experience tells the story of two children —— one in the Philippines, one in the Dominican Republic —— and the realities of living in abject poverty, but also how efforts to help the children through sponsorship have benefited them.

Compassion International, a Christian child development organization founded in 1952, uses the tour to educate people across the country on the realities of poverty. While Spriggs said the number has been cut in half in the last 25 years, more than 400 million children still live on less than $2 a day.

“Inside, you follow the story of a child that used to be in a Compassion program and is now graduated and grown up, and you actually see schools where they were educated, go to markets where they would’ve interacted in their community,” Spriggs said.

“You see their homes and things like that,” he added. “And it’s all told through a narrative story when they were children, and kind of some of the bigger chapters of their lives and how God worked them through those times where they thought, ‘I can’t even have a dream about being anywhere else but here.’ All the way to how they’ve been released from poverty.”

Compassion International started the traveling tour five years ago with one bus and about 30 events. Spriggs said it has since grown to include eight buses with nearly 300 stops annually.

“I can tell you that through the efforts of the Experience, there’s thousands of kids that have been sponsored,” he said. “And through this and a variety of other efforts to connect with people and invite them in to what Compassion does, it’s all going very well.”

The tour stops include Compassion International representatives who will assist visitors in understanding what supporting the group entails and how the sponsored children are aided.

“We have a partnership with about 6,600 churches in 26 countries, and these are the folks that are working with kids in a local context,” Spriggs said. “So in the best situation, a Compassion child will see the church in a local context and a sponsor through correspondence context —— through letters and things like that. And over the course of a lifetime, our goal is to not just relieve them from poverty, but release these children from poverty.”

The children are provided food and medical care, put also “spiritual development” and social skills.

“In impoverished countries, there’s so many situations where children at very, very young ages are doing very adult things, like going out to make money, when they’re just in their adolescent stages,” Spriggs said. “So one of our goals is to keep them inside a program where they’re learning and they’re growing and they have friends and they can play and do things like that. … We have really, really great research that shows that kids that come to our program have very good results over a long period of time to kind of eliminate this poverty in their lives and become who God made them to be.”

People interested in Compassion International can visit the Compassion Experience in Durham or go to the group’s website at