Would You Immerse Yourself in Extreme Poverty to Get a Job?

Immersion experience You know when you go on a mission trip that is a completely life-changing experience, and you come back all fired up? You just stared injustice in the face and realized you can actually do something about it. Your life takes on new purpose. It’s like the small seed of justice that had been lying dormant within you suddenly bloomed, and you feel an almost uncontrollable urge to share your experience with others in a way that will make them understand what has to be done.

You know that feeling?

That’s the type of passion-driven person the Compassion Philippines office hires. And they’ve come up with a pretty unique way to find those people.

The Compassion Philippines hiring process is unique. As part of the final round of interviewing, each candidate is required to participate in an “immersion experience,” a process designed to look into the heart of the candidate.

The immersion experience requires the candidate to spend four days and three nights living with the family of a Compassion-assisted child. The location selected is usually among the worst of the slum areas.

The candidate stays with the family, eats what they eat, sleeps in their home, and remains in their community for the entire time.

After the stay, the family and the church partner write a review of the experience and provide input on how the candidate related to them in their poverty. If a candidate does not pass this review by the family and church partner, he or she will not be offered a job at Compassion Philippines.

Country Director Noel Pabiona explains that the purpose of this final step is to identify candidates who truly have a heart for serving Compassion-assisted children and church partners.

“A candidate may look perfect on paper or in office interviews, but you can’t fake it in the field.”

Program Communications Manager Wendy Sebastian spent her immersion experience with a family of seven children in a small slum home. She worked with the mother breaking large pieces of charcoal into smaller pieces to sell.

Wendy shares how that experience impacted her: “Chopping and re-packing coal with Anna helped me see firsthand the difficulty and health risks she encounters every day to net 40 to 80 pesos a day ($1-2). I felt compelled to do something beyond enjoying and maintaining my privileged life. This experienced confirmed that God purposely led me to Compassion to help build His kingdom agenda and I had to obey His calling.”

Along with the hiring process, Compassion Philippines office staff who do not spend time in the field are required to participate in an immersion experience every two years to keep them in touch with the children and partners they are serving.

Wow! Now that’s on-the-job training if I ever saw it.

Working at my desk thousands of miles away from those in the field, sometimes I catch myself losing track of the reality of the ministry we’re doing. It’s easy to get swept up in the mundane routine of my daily tasks.

A radical interview experience like those in the Philippines would surely sear into the mind of any potential employee the serious and life-altering impact of his or her job.

As I was writing this, I was also working with the Compassion Philippines staff in the wake of Typhoon Ketsana. Along with thousands of our children who have lost homes, some of our staff have lost everything as well.

If you are interested in more information on this disaster, visit its crisis page. And please remember that we will contact you directly if your child has been affected by the disaster.

14 Comments |Add a comment

  1. MaryLee February 18, 2011

    I’ve been on three missions trips to Haiti. I have not lived with the families by the mission, but at times we did not have electricity, hot water, no privacy in the restrooms, no ability to flush toilet paper…it was not what the immersion experience consists of, but it was enough to give me an idea and enough to help me appreciate the life I have in the US. The amazing privilege we have here. Until you experience life in a poverty stricken country you really have no idea. I think it would be vital to any organization operating in these countries, to make sure their employees knew exactly what the people they are helping are facing. I applaud Compassion for recognizing this. I would gladly sign up for this! To me, this would be like a true dream job – crazy as that may sound to many.

  2. dave wells February 17, 2011

    I think I’d do it for no job.

  3. Marvin December 5, 2009

    I just found this post. On October 6th I was in the Philippines on a mission’s trip…so I find this post interesting. When I am on mission’s trips I tend to be a risk taker and wonder around and smell and feel the local life. I am tall and white so I stand out and it’s hard to just watch what is gong on. Street kids come up to me and ask for a Paso or try to sell me flowers or chewing gum for a Paso. Going and visiting the poor is an interesting idea; I have a Filipino’ pastor friend that spend a week in a garbage dump in metro Manila to learn and understand the poor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSkhhbuhTUw

  4. Becky October 9, 2009


    Yes, all Compassion field employees are nationals of that country. And you’re right, some may have a better grasp at the reality of poverty than we in the developed world do.

    However, in many countries where we work (the Philippines is a great example) there is such a wide variety in economic status that even though someone may be born and raised in that country, they may still never have experienced or even seen poverty before.

  5. Steve Williams October 9, 2009

    Aren’t all foriegn Compassion workers hired locally, from their own country? (If not, where can I apply for a job?) I would think they already know what poverty is like. But what a great way to discover a persons real intent.

  6. compassion dave October 7, 2009

    Hmm. I think I need to do this…

  7. Marci in MO October 6, 2009

    I just got back from the National Advocates Conference this past weekend. I heard a number of peope say, myself included, that they became Advocates after a Sponsor Trip to visit their child or children. For me, it was there that I saw and understood, in a way that I never had before, what poverty looks like and smells like. I am continually faced with the differences of what I saw in Africa and what we have here in America. It propelled me with the desire to do more to help find these children sponsors and to help my kids and their families as much as I can, as God has blessed me. I learned a lot during my visit; I’m sure that I would learn much more if I was to experience an immersion experience.

  8. Kathy Parker October 6, 2009

    I just loved this insight into the heart of the Philippines staff. An immersion experience would truly clarify any person’s vision and calling. In a small way, I look at the sponsor tour experience as helping me to gain this insight. I know it’s not comparable, but my experience of all that I saw, smelled, &felt in Africa and in India has helped me gain even more compassion and passion for the work of Compassion International. I’ve learned that it takes at least 24 hours for me to “get past” the horror of seeing such extreme poverty and all that goes with that, and to begin to really see the people. My heart breaks and then God begins to show me that there is something I can do to make a difference. Through Compassion International’s work there is hope and joy. Letting my heart be broken is healthy for me and changes my attitudes and priorities.
    I’m looking forward to my upcoming sponsor tours to do that very thing once again.

  9. Michael October 6, 2009

    Great capture of a sincere effort by PH leadership to really “test” the mettle of their candidates and ongoing staff.
    Even though I understand “Caren’s” Warner quote, it is opening your heart to be moved and truly impacted that will be life changing, and takes you beyond mere observer.

  10. Josh Valley October 6, 2009

    Thanks for sharing this Becky. What a great way to test peoples character and provide opportunities for those who are called to do field work. I guess If you don’t try you’ll never know.

  11. Amy Wallace October 6, 2009

    Wow, that would definitely be a wake up call, but there’s no way someone could sit back and do nothing after immersing themselves in poverty.

  12. Brianne Mullins October 6, 2009

    Becky! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I especially loved your introduction, it took me back to the times where the Lord has allowed me to experience injustice firsthand. My passion seemed to become an entity all its own.

    And I like how the Philippines hires too! It’s like, “Here, be the hands and feet of Jesus cause that’s what it’s all about here.”

  13. Caren October 6, 2009

    “Anytime you have a visible means of exit, your peril is imagined – you are but an observer among an unseen world” — CK Warner

  14. Mike Stephens October 6, 2009

    I think that is a great idea! Walk a few steps in their shoes

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