Have you ever wanted to meet your sponsored child face-to-face, and see their country and experience their culture for yourself? Did you know that through Compassion there are opportunities to do just that? Today I am excited to have Jennifer share her experiences from an Exposure Trip she went on with Compassion Canada. Jennifer is a Compassion sponsor and advocate who lives in New Brunswick with her family.
What country did you visit?
My husband and I traveled to El Salvador, Central America in 2014.
How long were you there?
We were there about 6 days.
What sort of activities did you do while you were there?
We had the chance to visit many different projects. While at each project we got to do a home visit with a sponsored child and their family. We also had the opportunity to visit the El Salvador head Compassion office, which was probably the most eye opening experience. We also had a few hours to shop at a local market where most of us got our authentic El Salvadorian art and souvenirs. Oh, and I can't forget Child Visit Day which is always exciting!
Did you notice any similarities or differences between Canadian culture and culture in El Salvador?
There are many differences that I noticed while on this trip. The first would be that they are overly friendly. What I mean by this is that we were treated like royalty while we were there. Most people we encountered would smile and wave. It was also clear that family was so important to them. We met grandmothers who had given up EVERYTHING to raise their grandchildren. Although we see that here in Canada, it is very rare. Food, the food is very different. While in Canada we can't seem to nail down one dish that is truly Canadian food, well maybe poutine, El Salvador has a wide range of foods that are unique even from other Latin American countries.
What is one of your favourite memories from the trip?
I could give you a list of many different memories but I will limit it to two:
The night before visiting ES700, my husband and I decided to sponsor another child. We fell in love with Jeferson David who reminded us of our son. The next day we got to visit ES700 where Jeferson David attended. He would be told that he has a sponsor while we were there. We would get to meet him. It is hard to explain the emotions that go through your mind when you are able to meet your sponsor child, especially when they do not even know that they are sponsored yet. They called him up on the stage just after another introduction of sponsors was done. They told him he had a sponsor, and that those sponsors were actually in the room. That is when my husband and I went up and I introduced myself. You cannot help but love these children but when it is a child you are now sponsoring it is a different type of love.
We got the chance to meet his grandmother who was raising him as well as his two cousins that she had taken in. Instead of traveling with our group, we got to visit with Jeferson David and his grandmother. The entire time she kept on thanking us and crying.
The second highlight is Child Visit Day. It started by us being told that we had to stay in the bus until our names were called. We could see all the children lined up. Emotions at this time are very high, especially when you are near the end of the line.
Finally our names were called and I started running to my group of 4 children who were running to me. This is where I met Giselle (10), Lea (9), Marco (7) and Fatima (6). Jeferson David arrived later.We walked around the mini zoo for some time and then we headed for the pool:
We had time to talk with our children's guardians and project workers and learned a lot about each child. Possibly the most beautiful moments happened when we got to spend time with each family and give the gifts. This is when we got to pray for each family individually. There are no words for this so pictures will have to explain it:
What would you say to someone who is considering going on an Exposure Trip with Compassion Canada?
I would say do it! Going on an Exposure Trip is so eye opening, not only to the ministry of Compassion but for the individual going. You learn about yourself. I know my first trip in 2011 opened up a whole new world for me. I know there are some people who will say it is not in my comfort zone...what I tell those people is the moment you open yourself up to this experience is when God is going to work in your heart and you will forget about your comfort zone.
This is not just a trip. This is an experience of a lifetime. You are traveling with people that after 6 days become your family. Friendships are forged between this team because you are not just experiencing Compassion alone, you are experiencing it with your family. Since 2011 when I traveled to Ecuador I am still in contact with many of my teammates and know that across Canada I have a unique family.
Sometimes you need to leap before looking...this would be one of those times!
DID YOU KNOW that Compassion Canada is leading another Exposure Trip to El Salvador this year? The trip will be taking place from May 28 to June 4, 2016. There may still be a few spots left! For more information call Compassion Canada at 1-800-563-5437 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.