by Kelly Sublett // Photos Courtesy of Compassion International
In November each year, most Americans begin shifting focus to the upcoming holidays — to the spirit of giving and giving back.
One organization, for more than 60 years, has made a sweeping effort internationally to shine a light on compassion and what the needs are for children, specifically, all over the world.
This month, Compassion International, a faith-based advocate to end global childhood poverty, is hosting a Compassion Experience in Little Rock November 15-17. The experience is hosted this year at Saint Mark Baptist Church, 5722 W. 12th Street.
According to the Compassion Experience website, “this free event features an interactive journey through the true stories of children living in developing countries like the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda and the Dominican Republic.
“In over 2,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space, visitors will step inside homes, markets and schools — without getting on a plane. Each child’s story starts in poverty but ends in hope,” the site says.
According to Compassion International, statistics are improving but still staggering that 385 million children are living in conditions the World Bank defines as less than $1.90 per day.
The website answers frequently asked questions and indicates the exhibit is suitable for all ages, including young children. More information for bringing children can be found at www.compassionexperience.com.
Each part of the experience is a true story that includes a theme of faith and the significant impact faith has on escaping poverty. There is no pressure to give and no donation is required on behalf of Compassion International or the host church.
Registration is suggested on the site as well, as three to five people enter together every 5 minutes. A freshly sanitized iPod and headset are provided for each visitor to help guide them through the experience.
According to information on the website, visitors will see the children’s homes, walk through schools and markets, and hear life-changing stories of hope — all from the perspective of a child whose life began in poverty.
“We built ‘The Compassion Experience’ in order to really bring the developing world to America,” says Mark Hanlon, Compassion International’s senior vice president of global marketing and engagement. “When people think of poverty, they often think of the lack of things, the lack of stuff, the lack of money. Those are all symptoms of poverty. The real issue of poverty is the lack of hope. Through our holistic child development program, Compassion stirs hope in children. And you’ll see that hope come to life at this event.”
Compassion International is a sponsorship-based charity that is one-to-one. Sponsors are individually connected with a child.
According to Charity Navigator, Give.org, Charity Watch and the Better Business Bureau, the organization is given higher than average reviews and meets criteria among those third parties overseeing the financial and overall integrity of Compassion International, which is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
According to its website, Christian leaders, speakers and musicians participate with Compassion International, including Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, UNITED, Matthew West, For KING & COUNTRY, Candace Cameron Bure and others.
The organization has been featured widely in popular media, including Forbes, National Geographic and Christianity Today.
Opportunities to Lend a Helping Hand this Thanksgiving
Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance
1400 W Markham St., #304, Little Rock, AR 72201
The Salvation Army of Arkansas and Oklahoma
Check their website for your local branch’s information:
Arkansas Food Bank
4301 W 65th Street, Little Rock, AR 72209
River Valley Regional Food Bank
1617 South Zero Street, Fort Smith, AR 72901
Northwest Arkansas Food Bank
1378 June Self Drive, Bethel Heights, AR 72764
Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas
3414 One Place, Jonesboro, AR 72404
Food Bank of North Central Arkansas
14215 Hwy 5 South, Norfork, AR 72658
Harvest Regional Food Bank
3120 East 19th, Texarkana, AR 71854
3701 Springer Blvd, Little Rock, AR 72206
Sheep Dog Impact Assistance
1200 W. Walnut St., Suite 2301, Rogers, AR 72756
List of Food Pantries in Arkansas:
*This is not an exhaustive list. There are many other organizations around the state dedicated to helping the underprivileged all year long that will be in desperate need of additional assistance this holiday season, as well as local churches and school districts that will be accepting donations and volunteers. Find your way to give.