COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – March 31, 2021 – A year ago, the world was adjusting to a new normal. Employees were working from home. Children were attending virtual school. Travelers scrambled to get home from international or domestic trips. Vacations, concerts, and parties slowly dropped off calendars. Weekly mainstays like church services, sports activities, and get-togethers faded or transitioned to online platforms. Grocery stores couldn’t keep toilet paper or cleaning supplies on the shelves. And an incredible number of virus-related memes graced the internet.
Compassion International was also adjusting to a new normal. The 2.2 million children and families in its care were already facing the enormous hardships of poverty, but COVID-19 brought with it lost jobs, closed communities, and education setbacks. facing unprecedented hardships. And unlike in previous crises, these hardships weren’t limited to a single country or region. Instead, they were felt across all 25 of Compassion’s field countries. Not only that, but churches all over the world were closed, and registered children were unable to attend Compassion’s holistic child development program. Trips and events were canceled, and save-the-dates, Zoom meetings, or virtual events were scheduled in their place.
And in the midst of these challenging circumstances, the ministry responded creatively in three ways:
Compassion focused on relief. Although Compassion wouldn’t define itself as a relief organization, the ministry quickly addressed the urgent needs of children and families.
Hunger was one of the most pressing needs. Many caregivers lost their income due to pandemic closures and lockdowns, and they couldn’t afford to feed their families. Compassion’s 8,000+ church partners delivered food packs (full of essentials such as rice, beans, flour, or oil) to hungry families in their communities. In just one year, more than 10.6 million food packs were distributed.
In addition to food, hygiene was essential. Compassion’s church partners put together hygiene kits, including items such as soap, hand sanitizer, shampoo, and washcloths. More than 7.1 million hygiene kits protected families from COVID-19 and preventable disease.
And in places where food pack and health kit distributions weren’t possible, Compassion’s church partners facilitated more than 330,000 cash transfers, empowering families to purchase their own supplies and cover basic expenses. They also offered medical support for more than 970,000 children and adults, providing access to health screenings and paying healthcare providers for diagnosis and treatment.
Chuck McGinty, vice president of program development at Compassion, shared, “During this COVID-19 season, we have heard so many stories of the church being found ready. Ready to serve, ready to step up and minister to the community in ways that they haven’t done before.”
Compassion adapted its program. Compassion’s program ordinarily calls for children to meet at a local partner church to regularly receive its holistic child development curriculum aimed at releasing children from spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty. However, stay-at-home restrictions forced Compassion to adapt its program and meet children’s needs in unique ways.
Compassion’s national offices used technology like Zoom, WhatsApp, or Facebook Live to deliver curriculum, send program content, and deliver ongoing emotional and spiritual support. In addition, staff and volunteers went above and beyond by connecting with children through phone calls, texts, and regular socially distanced visits to ensure that children felt known, loved, and connected in a season where it would be easy for children to feel the opposite. As Reynesto Garcia, a child development center director in the Philippines, puts it, “We remain at their side.”
Compassion rallied sponsors and supporters. The ministry launched its first-ever global fundraising campaign across its 15 partner offices around the world, raising funds for disaster relief and enabling church partners to meet critical needs. The campaign, entitled “We Rise as One,” raised $12 million in its first couple of months alone.
During the summer of 2020, Compassion partnered with World Vision and Food for the Hungry on a joint concert called “Unite to Fight Poverty.” The three organizations worked together to raise funds to support the most vulnerable children living in extreme poverty suffering from the impacts of COVID-19 and other natural disasters.
Compassion also began a campaign in partnership with pro athletes and their families called “Fill the Stadium” to meet critical needs of children during the pandemic. Compassion estimated that 70,000 children would have been sponsored early in 2020 and didn’t receive sponsors due to COVID-19. Because 70,000 is the capacity of the average pro football stadium, a team of professional athletes decided to fill a stadium of support for these children and meet urgent needs such as food, hygiene, and medical screenings. As of March 2021, more than 48,000 seats have been filled, bringing Compassion well over halfway to its goal. Fill the Stadium has also connected with groups like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Pro Athletes Outreach, and Northpoint Ministries and has been featured on ESPN, CBS, and other major media outlets.
In a challenging, chaotic year, Compassion got creative. And the ministry celebrates one year of generosity, innovation, and God’s faithfulness.