Flying on flight 5020 from Port-au-Prince the capital of Haiti a land bearing the loss of over 300,000 people killed by the 2010 earthquakes I couldn’t but think how dangerous it is to care for hurting people.
In 2004 I conducted a very special wedding of one of our AFL footballers Troy Broadbridge who died days later in the Boxing Day Tsunami. Likewise the world experienced the deaths of over 300,000 people during this tragedy. Every life and death, including Troy’s told countless stories of celebration and sadness.
The stories catalogued in Haiti were evident from the moment we stepped off the plane. From the steaming hot immigration line to the one-armed pensioner helping us unnecessarily with our bags, defiantly reaching out his remaining right-hand for some change.
Haiti is a nation framed with stories of despair and yet amazing hope.
For many years I have heard of the work of Compassion, of their work amongst poor people trying to break the poverty cycle through the whole care of children. Our family even sponsored a child, however I didn’t fully realise their work until this week.
With over 60 years of experience Compassion actively serve in over 27 nations providing very intentional care for children from health, clothing, diet, education, personal development, water and safety irrespective of their class, religion, ethnicity or creed. Compassion is true to its name.
However, despite knowing the simplicity of the Compassion cause I was genuinely overwhelmed at the transparency, intricacy and effectiveness of the programs we witnessed in Haiti.
Compassion serve over 90, 000 children in Haiti. We visited 6 Program Development sites in and around Port-au-Prince. Dialogued with dozens of program staff and saw how they rigorously commit 80% of funding direct to the child with 20% given to the enormous task of managing the effectiveness and accountability of the program. Every cent is accounted for. Every program scrutinized and audited regularly. Every child fully cared for as promised. Compassion is serious about breaking poverty by investing in children who then influence change in their community.
Nonetheless compassion is dangerous.
Desperate people act in desperate ways. Numerous support workers died in the Haitian Earthquakes. Health workers and pastors face the regular challenges of corruption and persecution and tribal antagonism. Many a good person has been seared by showing kindness to another – it was clear to me that compassion always comes with a cost.
A cost well-worth the sacrifice.
We meet current and former sponsored Compassion children. Their stories were compelling and divergent – from a former UN senior executive in his early 30’s to a 9 year old boy who wanted to be a doctor living in a single parent home in the shanties of Canaan outside the capital city. However one story captured my heart and understanding of the work of Compassion.
On the second day of our trip we visited Child Development Program 888 on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. After meeting a group of at-risk mothers and children we walked across to the Health Centre when a well-dressed, elegant young lady in her mid-teens caught sight of our group leader Andrew. He was amazed! The young girl ran and hugged him, stepped back and wiped a tear from her eye (we all wondered who she was?). Gémima (not her real name) turned and looked over her shoulder at us with her large eyes and again wiped more tears from her face. They were tears of deep joy and dignity at the sight of having Andrew there (Andrew and his family had sponsored her for 10 years).
For me this encapsulated the effectiveness and success of the program – taking a child from poverty, giving her hope, providing practically with health, life skills and education and preparing her to make a difference back into her community.
The most dangerous aspect of compassion for us in Australia is the cost to our hope that organisations like Compassion are truly making a difference in the lives of children around the world. A cost, I believe is well worth sacrificing to help change a child’s life.
OPPORTUNITY FOR CLUBS
Can I encourage you to consider having a sponsor child with Compassion or taking time to go on one of Compassion’s program tours to India, Philippians, Haiti, etc. For clubs these tours would be great opportunities to participate in at the end of the season. See more at www.compassion.com.au or contact Andrew Merry at Compassion at ua.mo1506002604c.noi1506002604ssapm1506002604oc@yr1506002604rema1506002604 for a group experience.