From poverty to success, through Compassion

Dec. 13, 2013 @ 05:32 PM

The traveling multimedia exhibit, “Change the Story: The Compassion Experience” takes visitors through what it’s like growing up in poverty in other countries and makes a pitch for sponsoring a child through Compassion International. “Change the Story” is set up inside two trailers at newhope Church on Fayetteville Road in Durham through Monday. Visitors don headphones and use an iPod to hear a young voice narrate the real stories of children in Uganda, India or Bolivia, as they walk through small rooms and see a replica of what each child saw growing up. For Uganda, it’s the experience of a girl named Julian. Waiting to answer questions at the end of the tour is Julian herself, Julian Alum, who recently received her master’s degree in social work from Baylor University and now works for Compassion.

The narration doesn’t water down what life is like and talks about violence, drugs and HIV/AIDS that surround children in extreme poverty, as well as how women are treated as property. As visitors walk through the rooms, they see the result of sponsorship by Compassion International, which helps fund the children’s education and health care and provides social/emotional development and spiritual classes in 26 countries.
Julian Alum said she was 10 when a family friend found out about the program in Uganda at a church near her home. Compassion supported her through college, a bachelor’s degree in developmental studies in Uganda, and then she worked at a Compassion center in Uganda. The organization has a partnership with Baylor University and she gave tours to visiting students, then became a Baylor student herself. After she received her master’s degree, Compassion approached her about working on the mobile experience.
Those who go through “Change the Story” see that sponsorship works, she said. They have a lot of questions for her, including some that make her wonder ‘What do people think about Africa?’ Alum is based in Waco, Texas, now and has gone home to visit family in Uganda during the summer. This is her last tour, and she’ll go back to work in Uganda, hopefully working with Compassion again, she said. Alum said her work will continue advocating for children.
Alum’s mother is so happy now, she said, after all the struggles raising five children, who have now all gone through college.
“Now we support her. She’s just amazed how God has been faithful in our lives,” Alum said.
Amy Lynn Kelley, newhope Church’s executive director of HOPE Missions and Extension Ministries, said the church was excited to bring “Change the Story” for people to see beyond themselves during a crazy season.
“They only need to give 20 minutes of their life,” Kelley said, the duration of the tour. About 10 percent of those who go through the exhibit sponsor a child through Compassion, and more than 2,000 people have signed up to come, she said.
Helen Ghanem and her daughter, Jordan, 12, of Raleigh, found out about “Change the Story” on Facebook and took the tour Friday.
“It’s so moving. You know children are going through poverty throughout the world, but you walk through and feel the need for sponsoring a kid,” Helen Ghanem said. “And spreading the Gospel – there’s no better gift,” she said. The Ghanems plan to sponsor a child, part of their Christmas gifts to each other, which all benefit charities.
“We’re not giving material things. There are no gifts under the tree. We’re blessed with what we already have,” she said.

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: “Change the Story: The Compassion Experience”

WHEN: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: newhope Church
7619 Fayetteville St., Durham
COST: Free.
INFORMATION: Visit compassion.com/change to make a reservation, though they are not required, or for information about Compassion International and how to sponsor a child. For more about newhope, visit newhopenc.org.