Today was another great day. I’ll try to keep it a bit shorter as morning will again come early! We started by heading into downtown Santa Domingo to Compassion Dominican’s head office. I say downtown with very little sense of if that’s true or not – it felt more downtown, but I have no idea. Compassion is putting this trip together really well and they are excellent with these kinds of trips – if anyone reading this ever has a chance to meet their sponsor child or come on an exposure trip, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Kelber (Compassion DR's director) walked us through a great overview presentation with some interesting facts...

Kelber (Compassion DR’s director) walked us through a great overview presentation with some interesting facts…

We got to hang out and hear all about what happens at head office (after sharing and singing in staff chapel – such a privilege to lead these people in worship!). Everyone was so accommodating and took the time out of their busy schedule to greet us, introduce us to their team, tell us about what they do and answer any questions we had. We learned all about how projects are approved, how finances work, how the projects are audited and managed, what the translation and letter writing process looks like, and even how they set up visits from sponsors to their sponsored kids. I can clearly see why Compassion is always near the top of any list of charitable organization – the transparency, financial accountability, commitment to their clear mission and thoughtful systems (something Rachel and I greatly appreciate!) are fantastic. I’m sure I still only understand a fraction of what happens, but I am so impressed by how much integrity Compassion has as an organization.

After heading out from the office to a fantastic feast of traditional Dominican food, we went off to visit a Child Survival Program (CSP). For those who don’t know, Compassion’s main work is the Child Development Sponsorship Program (CDSP) for children ages 4-18, but they also have CSP’s as well as the Leadership Development Program (LDP, currently undergoing some transitions to something they feel will equip more young leaders more effectively!). The CSP programs all work with moms and babies from the time the mother is pregnant until the time the babies are 3.

Seeing the centre firsthand and meeting many of these moms and babies as well as the facilitators who visit them was amazing. The project we were at had three facilitators who we met, each responsible for 25 mom and baby units. They visit each household twice a month and the program consists of 150 lessons that they teach the families. Beyond that, they provide a monthly meeting of all the participants, weekly gatherings at the project and in the stimulation room and regular medical checkups with a paediatrician. We met the paediatrician for this project and were told that these moms wouldn’t have access to this kind of medical care if they weren’t in this project.

Another moving home visit, this time to the home of a Child Survival Program participant

Another moving home visit, this time to the home of a Child Survival Program participant

Rachel and I visited a home of one of the CSP participants with Dana Marie and Emerson Storrs (Dana is another Compassion ambassador) with a facilitator and translator. It was again an amazing experience – a small, hot house with very little. The child in the program, Diego, was born with a respiratory illness that the doctors have been treating. The cramped and space living space made it clear that the medical attention they received through the CSP wouldn’t have been an option for them without begging and borrowing for money. The facilitator showed so clearly the care and love of not only a trained professional, but easily could have been mistaken as a grandmother. What an amazing opportunity to reach into these families lives and again offer hope and the love of Christ. We asked the mother what we could pray for here, and despite her meagre possessions, she asked us to pray that her children would know the love of Jesus and follow him above anything else. Isn’t that the prayer of any parent following God, regardless of our situation? It was a powerful moment.

Rachel hanging out in the corner of the stimulation room with all of the kids, moms, and us visitors. So. Much. Fun.

Rachel hanging out in the corner of the stimulation room with all of the kids, moms, and us visitors. So. Much. Fun.

Coming back and playing in the stimulation room was something I’ll never forget. It was a small room – maybe 12 feet by 12 feet – full of noise makers, toy cars, dolls, dinosaurs and just about any other toy you can imagine. When we arrived there were probably 12 moms with 12 kids in this room. It was packed, so we decided we should all also jump in and play with the kids. I sat just inside the doorway (because there was no other room on the floor) and gave high fives to all of the kids in reached and just enjoyed playing with them for ten minutes. At one point we started an impromptu stomp drum session with the kids – I’ve got a short video clip of it I may try to upload when I’m back home. What an experience – the joy and love in these moms and kids was amazing, and the importance of the work this CSP does was evident. Tomorrow is another great day visiting another CDSP (project with sponsor kids), so we’re looking forward to hanging out and playing with some little toys and treats we brought along. If you want to learn more about any of Compassion’s programs or want to sponsor a (or another) child, click the links – it’s a life changing experience and a relationship you won’t regret.