Children and poverty As a kid, did you ever daydream about venturing into the slums of Kolkata? I know a gutsy 14-year-old who did … who ventured into extreme poverty. But that’s for later.

I, Irene, grew up in a sheltered, middle-class family. Whilst I didn’t make it to India at the age of 14, I ventured to Kyrgyzstan at the age of 24 with a team of medical professionals and helpers. It was a completely humbling and mind-blowing experience.

I met church pastors who have been blessed with so much more materially than I, yet they have chosen to live in abandonment for the expansion of God’s kingdom.

I met Muslims in remote villages who suffered advanced stages of cancer, but had no means to receive medical treatment. All that my team could give them were vitamin supplements.

I met orphans who were stunted from malnutrition and sometimes from past substance abuse, but have found the love of their heavenly Father.

I can’t quite imagine how I would’ve coped on the same journey at the tender age of 14.

If you read the Reflections of a Compassion Traveller series, you may have gained some guts –- I mean, a new level of desire to meet our friends living in poverty.

It definitely takes guts to travel to less developed nations. It’s inevitably a confronting experience.

The thing is, I have always walked away deeply moved by the compassion that God has for His people and with a fresh reminder of how much I need to give. Plus, it’s quite simple to become a “Compassion traveller.”

Remember that 14-year-old I mentioned? She’s a high school student who joined our India and Bangladesh trip in February. Her name is Stephanie Harrison, the daughter of our Executive Director of Child Development, David Harrison.

Steph would make any father or mother proud. David has admitted to finding the slums of India the most challenging ones he’s visited. So imagine what Steph’s first taste of extreme poverty was like!

I recently read a blog post (A Cup of Rice) by SquiggleMum –- an Australian mum and Compassion child sponsor (her real name is Cath by the way). As a mother of two, SquiggleMum plans to introduce her precious children to their sponsored child and to develop a heart to reach out to the poor. And here’s why:

“Maybe if we show our kids what’s wrong with the world, they’ll do a better job than we have of making things right.”

I wholeheartedly respect SquiggleMum’s parenting approach and, I daresay, David’s decision to take Steph on that trip. If you’re a parent, you may have concerns about unveiling the ugly things of the world to your child(ren). But what’s really stopping you?

If you’ve been thinking about visiting your sponsored child with your child(ren), why not start planning now? The power of being there is beyond words!

I’ll share snippets of Steph’s Compassion Traveller experience with you in tomorrow’s post. But in the meanwhile, you can get started on organising your own sponsor child visits:

If you live in Australia, contact our travel team.

If you live in the USA, visit compassion.com to get more information about trips and visits.

Then you’ll be able to tell us firsthand whether children and poverty are meant to mix.

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  1. Amy Wallace
    Jul 8, 2009
    at 5:57 am

    I think it’s important for parents to tell their children about poverty. They’re going to be the next generation, and it is our responsibility (all parents and future parents) to make sure that children are passionate about fighting poverty and injustice in our world, so they’ll grow up to be adults who will change the world.

  2. Dwight
    Jul 8, 2009
    at 8:30 am

    Interesting post…as a person who has traveled…and visited the developed and developing world I can see the value of experiencing other cultures. The Japanese have a strong economy but live in very very small homes. They are rich but spiritually very poor. At the same time I have visited very poor homes in the developing world and found families with little compared to the developed world but spiritually rich. Many people want to fix all the problems of the world but only Christ will do that when he returns. On my visits to the developing world I was surprised by the level of faith in Christ and the transforming power of the gospel. I would not go on a trip to experience poverty, but to experience Christ. The world sings songs and sends money to help the poor but that has little real effect. But Christ does! The poverty really did not bother me it was like camping. It was the spiritual poverty of my heart that sticks out in my mind. We live in a world with some people having more than me and some with less. Some will live longer then me and others shorter but we have an equal opportunity to serve Christ and live our lives for him and not our self. I would not go on a trip to experience poverty but to experience Christ.

  3. Mike Stephens
    Jul 8, 2009
    at 1:38 pm

    Me too Dwight!!!!!!! You hit the nail on the head!!!!!!! “I go to experience Christ!!!!!!!!” You took the words out of my mouth amigo!!!!!!! The only other way I heard it said just as good was when you visit “You are joining them on the battlefield.”

  4. Jul 8, 2009
    at 10:44 pm

    On sponsor tours, I have met physically poor but spiritually rich people; I have also met physically and spiritually impoverished people. That part was especially hard to take.

    Do children and poverty mix? Obviously, they should not. Neither should children and abuse mix…or children and neglect, children and war, etc. Our job is to care for them the best that we can, to speak up for them, and to fight the poverty and the evils that rob them of their innocence, their hopes, their futures, and too often, their lives.

  5. Jul 15, 2009
    at 12:44 am

    @Vicki Small – Amen!

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