Looking into life in a developing country

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com
"Change the story" of child poverty with a visit to "The Compassion Experience"

Step into life in a different country, without stepping onto a plane.

"The Compassion Experience," an interactive tour immersing visitors into life in developing countries, is bringing an international experience to Williamsburg from December 4-7.

Organized by Compassion International, a Christian nonprofit group working to alleviate child poverty through sponsorship, "The Compassion Experience" aims to provide a look into the realities of poverty around the world.

"We built 'The Compassion Experience' in order to really bring the developing world to America," Mark Hanlon, Compassion International's senior vice president of global marketing and engagement, wrote in a prepared release.

According to World Bank, 700 million people live on less than $1.90 each day.

In the countries where Compassion International works, one in five children die before the age of 5, according to UNICEF – and many from preventable causes. Further, 101 million children do not attend school.

"The Compassion Experience" transforms 1,700 square feet of space into the environments of two Compassion-sponsored children. Williamsburg's event reveals the stories of children in countries like the Dominican Republic and Kenya.

Visitors walk through the space self-guided, iPods and headsets in hand. They might enter the children's homes, their schools, markets, work spaces.

"It's like you're walking through their life," said Leigh Anne Langston, a member of Smith Memorial Baptist Church, where the tour will be hosted.

Throughout the tour, visitors listen to stories, as the children narrate their own experiences. "And now, they're bringing it to you as your experience," Langston said.

"It gives you perspective," she said – on the child's life, and on your own life.

"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," Hanlon said.

"The real issue of poverty is the lack of hope," he continued. "Compassion stirs hope in children. And you'll see that hope come to life at this event."

In learning more deeply about the issue, and Compassion International's sponsorship program, a visit to the tour is a chance to "change the story" of children living in poverty, according to the prepared release.

The tour is free, though visitors are encouraged to make a reservation. Groups of 20 or more should email changetour@compassion.com to reserve space.

Compassion International focuses on holistic child development, through sponsorship. According to the nonprofit's website, child sponsorship is the most strategic way to end child poverty, especially incorporated into holistic child development.

Compassion International partners with more than 6,900 Christian churches in 26 countries, sponsoring over 1.7 million children.

For more information on Compassion, visit compassion.com.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-275-4934.

Want to go?

When: 11 a.m.-6:40 p.m., Dec. 4; 10 a.m.-5:40 p.m., Dec. 5; 11 a.m.-6:40 p.m., Dec. 6; 11 a.m.-6:40 p.m., Dec. 7

Where: Smith Memorial Baptist Church, 6515 Richmond Road, Williamsburg

Cost: Free, family friendly

More info: CompassionExperience.com

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