A Smart Risk

Shaun Groves wrote this post. It’s been approved by the powers-that-be.

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Be careful going around having ideas and talking about them. You might just get put to work. That’s what happened to me.

About a year ago, I think it was, I started talking to the folks at Compassion about a crazy new idea. I wondered if they could spread the word about their ministry to children through bloggers the way the Compassion message has been spread through artists and speakers for decades. I proposed Compassion take bloggers on a trip to see the ministry for themselves and, of course, ask them to blog about what they see.

When the powers-that-be decided the idea was worth trying out, a small team went to work finding the right bloggers to travel to Uganda. Then we took a very long flight to Africa together back in February, deplaned and played with children, and learned about the needs of Ugandans and how Compassion and sponsors are partnering to meet them. And we blogged. With very slow connection speeds, we blogged.

We posted pictures, stories, videos and lots of links to compassion.com. Thousands read along daily. Hundreds of children were released from poverty and hundreds of Americans were released from wealth as a result. And the Web lit up with applause.

My favorite online compliment came from a fund-raising expert who wrote:

“Looked at with old economy eyes, Compassion is taking a huge risk, letting go of its marketing to 15 different near-strangers who might do anything. Looked at with modern eyes, Compassion is smart: willing to give up control in favor of being talked about by real people.”

In other words, some institutions would call this kind of idea crazy but it worked: People are talking about children, about loving them, about perspective and grace and kindness and Jesus.

Now, when I’m not singing or speaking (or blogging), I’m working part time these days for Compassion – developing more and better relationships with bloggers.

We just launched CompassionBloggers.com where anyone can read the best posts from our blogging trips, and where bloggers can go to grab widgets and banners, apply to go on a blogging trip with us, or sign up to receive a monthly blogging assignment from Compassion.

Our ranks are growing. There are now a few hundred bloggers scattered around the world blogging on behalf of Compassion every month.

What’s next? We’re taking a bunch of bloggers to the Dominican Republic Nov. 2-7, so read along that week and pray that we assemble the right gifted team for the trip, that we’re safe and healthy while overseas, that readers are inspired and mobilized to act, and that the blogosphere is filled with talk of children and Jesus once again.

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Lives Transformed

One of the most impactful things I observed during our trip to Uganda was the profound difference between the children in a Compassion child sponsorship program compared to other children. Compassion-assisted children are connected with a loving, church-based program that provides:

  • educational opportunities
  • health care and supplemental nutrition
  • opportunities for safe recreation
  • opportunities to learn about important life skills
  • hope and a sense of confidence
  • most important of all, the child has the opportunity to hear about Jesus and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God

I met this child in the slums of Kampala. He’s not part of our child sponsorship program.

child poverty

I met these children at Compassion’s program. There’s a significant difference between the two photos. The children in our child development centers still lead difficult lives but they have a sense of hope and purpose.

Everywhere we went, people would tell us things like:

  • Compassion is doing great work in our country.
  • Do you know my sponsor?  If so, tell her I said thank you.
  • I love my sponsor.
  • I would not be the person I am today without Compassion.

All of the bloggers on the trip have arrived safely home, but you can still follow along since they’re still processing the experience and writing about it.

Check out the Uganda Blog Trip page and click through to the blogs to read what they’re saying.

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Using Technology to Fight Poverty

So when you think Compassion International, the first thing you think is “technology” right?

What?!? You don’t?

Me neither. When I think of Compassion, I think of the three wonderful children my wife and I sponsor. I think about the first time I met Ana Maria, our little girl from the Dominican Republic. I think about the thousands of professions of faith Compassion reports each quarter and the amazing leaders emerging from our Leadership Development Program. I think about impact. About lives changed. About the chance we all have to eliminate poverty in my lifetime.

So yeah, I’ll admit it, I don’t think “technology” when I think Compassion. Not at first, even though I work in Information Technology (IT).

And that makes sense. Compassion is about releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. The goal of Information Technology is to support that goal, not replace it. Compassion has always expressed a great commitment to using technology in ways that support our mission, and the IT organization has enabled Compassion to fulfill its mission in countless ways.

And while that will continue to be true for many years to come, technology today is about so much more than servers and software and applications built by IT shops. In my opinion, technology in the 21st century is about community. About giving people a global voice. About connecting people across the city and across the globe. About enabling people to experience life lived beyond their borders.

Community. Now that’s right up Compassion’s alley.

And what amazes and inspires me the most about modern technology is how it enables you to do amazing things for Compassion and other causes around the world.

I look at Facebook, where Roderick Pitts, a student from Tupelo, Miss., created a cause page for Compassion. As of today, that cause has nearly 27,000 members and has raised almost $2,700 for Compassion. The cost to Compassion was zero, because Roderick found a way to use technology to fight poverty.

I look at the Uganda Blogging trip, now drawing to a close. Fifteen popular bloggers given an opportunity to see our work firsthand. These 15 individuals were changed by the experience to be sure, but their posts, pictures and videos have resulted in a change for thousands of their readers as well. Many of their readers have sponsored a child. Many now see poverty in a new light. Many will join Compassion to stand up and fight, because these 15 individuals found a way to use technology to fight poverty.

Compassion is by no means alone. Programs like One Laptop per Child (OLPC), Kiva.org and sites like Freerice are not just raising our awareness of global poverty, they are doing something more. They are doing something about global poverty by providing you and me with opportunities to join the fight.

And that’s how I look at my job in Compassion IT: using technology to fight poverty.

It’s a theme I am passionate about and one I hope to visit often as a contributor to this blog. But I need your help. I want us to dialogue together about technology and poverty. I want to hear your ideas and experiences.

Basically, I am asking for feedback, either in the comments of this post, or on your own blogs. How do you see technology being used to fight poverty? What ideas do you have for how Compassion can use technology to fight poverty? How do you use technology in your mission?

It’s a great time to be at Compassion. I’m looking forward to our dialogue.


Brandon Satrom is the Enterprise Applications Architect for Compassion. He works in IT evaluating both new and emerging technologies and helping Compassion IT make the best use of existing technologies.

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