A girl in the Dominican Republic grows up under the care of a single mother after being abandoned by her father. A boy in Kenya is arrested and sent to jail for stealing a small loaf of bread for his starving family.

Sometimes, when we hear the stories of the children in Compassion’s program, it can feel very far away.

But what if you could hear their voice, see their homes and walk their streets?

The Compassion Experience gives Canadians the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of children in Compassion’s program—without leaving home. The Experience stopped in nine cities across Canada this spring, hosted by local churches.

The interactive experience invites you to walk through a series of rooms that replicate important places in the life of a child that grew up in Compassion’s program. As you do, the child tells you their story through an audio recording.

“The experience was really eye-opening.”

Aim Abellanosa, a 19-year-old from Toronto, ON calls the experience eye-opening, saying: “My friend and I are currently sponsoring a kid. [This experience] is something tangible and makes the [sponsorship] more real—these are real children out there.”

A group of friends surround one member of their group who is filling in the paperwork to sponsor a child.

Aim (far left) and her friends celebrate as a member of their group sponsors a child.

The stories told through the Compassion Experience are, indeed, the stories of real children. Ten alumni of the Compassion program from seven countries around the world worked with the creators of the Compassion Experience to give people as authentic an experience as you can get without getting on an airplane. When you walk into Yannely’s story, for example, you are truly walking into the streets of the Dominican Republic as seen through her eyes.

For many parents, it’s a way for them to teach their kids about the realities of world.

Joy Morrison, who took her husband and two kids to the Compassion Experience, says she did so “for [her] children to open their eyes”. They decided to sponsor 19-year-old Dave from the Philippines together at the end of the experience.

“[We decided to sponsor him because] the [boy whose story we heard], Jey, said that mostly the younger ones get picked,” says Owen, Joy’s son. “I was rooting for Dave because he probably wasn’t expecting to get sponsored!”

A volunteer helps a mom set up her iPod that will guide her through the experience.

A family gets set to go through the Compassion Experience.

It’s common for kids to come out of the experience not only with a new perspective on the world, but with motivation to do something about it.

Tania Bianchi came to the Compassion Experience as a parent volunteer with her church’s youth group. Her 12-year-old son, Matteo, left clearly inspired.

“Kids need to experience things like this,” Tania says. “Our kids live in this little wonder bubble, but there’s so much more [happening in the world]. And as you saw with my own son—you could see it in his face—he’s getting choked up realizing that this little girl had to go through what she did.”

Matteo had just one message for others after going through the Compassion Experience: “Always try to help people who are in need.”

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Visit compassionexperience.com to see where the Compassion Experience is stopping next!

Written by Alyssa Esparaz

Photos by Aveleen Schinkel

Written by: Alyssa Esparaz

Alyssa brings her passion for youth, justice and Jesus to her role of Writer and Communicator at Compassion Canada, as she works to inspire and equip the Church to live compassionate lifestyles. Her favourite things in the world include her family, basketball, ice cream and riding on airplanes.