Metro-East Living

Here’s your chance to see what it’s like to live in a slum

Compassion Project comes to Columbia

Traveling display will be at Faith Lutheran Church through Monday. It offers a look at how the world’s poorest children live.
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Traveling display will be at Faith Lutheran Church through Monday. It offers a look at how the world’s poorest children live.

When guests are done walking through the semi trailer that holds rooms representing the homes of Jey and Kiwi, they may be tempted to help out another child born into poverty.

That would be just fine with Evan Crumley, tour manager for The Compassion Experience, which takes mockups across the country to educate potential sponsors about what their money can mean to a child.

The trailer is one of eight that travels the country for The Compassion Experience, which acts as a conduit between sponsors and children around the world to help those children become healthy and educated. This weekend, Crumley’s tour trailer is parked at Faith Lutheran Church in Columbia, at 600 Columbia Center.

“The last room after you’re done, they have actual packets of real kids who need sponsors in different parts of the world,” said Faith Lutheran Pastor Jon Palmer.

The Compassion Experience sponsors children in South and Central America, Asia and Africa. Crumley said Compassion stays in areas that are politically stable to ensure the safety of the children and those who work at Compassion centers in those countries.

The two stories at the Experience this weekend follow the early lives of Kiwi, of the Philippines, and Jey, of Kenya. Both are now in their 30s and living in the United States, which Crumley said is not typical of those who graduate from the program.

Tours take about 20 minutes each, with guests listening to Kiwi and Jey’s stories on iPods with headphones.

Kiwi’s story starts in a hospital room with a dirty bed.

Jey’s story starts in a small, dark room, where his mother brews alcohol with an occasional kicker of battery acid. He and his 15 family members shared about a cup of cooked rice each day. It then moves into other small rooms, then to a jail.

At the time, Jey was living in “one of the worst slums on the planet,” said Crumley.

One of the Jey’s small rooms is a jail. The audio explains that Jey was imprisoned with other children.

“He was jailed at 9 for stealing,” said Crumley, 30. “This is the part that’s pretty tough for a lot of families” who walk in with their own young children. There are modified audio tours available for children ages 8 and younger.

The last room in Jey’s story is a classroom where Compassion Experience educated him.

Their Compassion Kid

Pastor Palmer and his family have sponsored a 13-year-old girl, Eliana, who lives in Colombia, for seven years through The Compassion Experience. Eliana’s letters inspire the family, and Jon and his wife, Lani, gave her name as a middle name to one of their own five children.

“She’s a typical teenager, but a reminder to my family and my kids that we are very blessed, and others don’t have all the things that we think are normal here in the United States,” he said.

“We call her our Compassion Kid, our Compassion Daughter.”

The church’s two campuses sponsor 146 children through Compassion International, Palmer said. A sponsorship is $35 a month; children and the families send letters to one another through an address in Colorado, where translators make each letter readable.

Most families never meet the children they sponsor, but Crumley is among the exceptions. Soon after he was hired, Compassion sent him and his touring team to Nicaragua to a site the organization had. It was there that he met Heiner, 8, who enjoyed the harmonica that Crumley had brought even if his mother did not.

“I wish in my deepest heart of hearts that people in this country could see and experience something like this,” he said.

At a glance

  • What: A tour representing the lives of two children born into poverty, a boy in Kenya and a girl in the Philippines.
  • Where: Faith Lutheran Church, 600 Columbia Center, Columbia
  • When: Tours start from 11 a.m. to 6:40 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6:40 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 5:40 p.m. Monday
  • Cost: Free
  • To register: Go to Walk-ins are welcome.
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