COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — Compassion International is known for holistic child development. Typically, the organization’s program brings about 250 children together at a local church in a developing country. But because COVID is ravaging these communities, Compassion has had to completely pivot their approach and take the program to the children, now with an even greater emphasis on addressing food insecurity.
“We’ve had parents tell us that they had no idea what they were going to do, because they had totally run out of food. And then their local church showed up to meet their need … in God’s perfect timing,” stated Santiago ‘Jimmy’ Mellado, president and CEO of Compassion International. “Those stories have been repeated over and over again, as these families … who are all day laborers … are faced with the horrible dilemma of either going out to earn their daily wage for food and risk bringing the virus back into their home … or sheltering in place and risk watching their family starve.”
Starvation is a real risk, as quarantine orders and border closures have disrupted trade, created labor shortages, and placed enormous pressure on the global food supply chain. The urgency of this food crisis was captured in a 2020 UNICEF report, stating that hunger caused by the virus is leading to the deaths of 10,000 children each month. That is a very sad and sobering truth that is playing out all across the developing world.
“This new reality drove us to immediately re-mobilize our entire frontline church staff and volunteer workforce to bring the love of Jesus to children and their families in a very tangible way through food, health care, hygiene supplies, and training for the parents around child protection,” continued Mellado. “And since the pandemic has also prevented Compassion from holding our traditional in-person marketing events, we’ve launched Fill the Stadium (FtS), a collaborative initiative with athletes and business leaders to fight this battle. Professional athletes like the NFL’s Carson Palmer, Nate Solder, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins and major league baseball players like Chris Davis and Chase Anderson, among many other professional athletes, philanthropic families, foundations, charities and churches have beautifully stepped up and committed to save children at risk of starvation.”
“The initiative was named Fill the Stadium because Compassion realized nearly 70,000 children in its program were missing out on sponsorship due to the pandemic. With the typical NFL stadium holding nearly 70,000 fans, the group visualized each seat as a child facing hunger from the crisis. They have committed to “fill the stadium”, providing for every single child represented.”
“This crisis is bigger than our child sponsorship program,” said Mellado. “These days, we’re not caring for just the 2.2 million children enrolled in our program. We’re now providing for their entire households, which totals around 8.3 million people. We have about 100,000 workers and volunteers across our network of frontline churches — an amazing army of support.
So far, in less than a year, the FtS initiative has “filled” nearly 50,000 seats — continuing their commitment and leadership — on their way to the goal of helping 70,000 children. In this season of COVID-19, “We are all experiencing the reality of empty stadiums,” says the Fill the Stadium team. “It’s why this effort so desperately needs a caring, prayerful and thoughtful community to join together in this needed relief.”
Founded in 1952,Compassion International is a Christian child development organization that works to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Compassion revolutionized the fight against global poverty by working exclusively with the Church to lift children out of spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty. Compassion partners with more than 8,000 churches in 25 countries to deliver its holistic child development program to over 2 million babies, children and young adults. Its child sponsorship program has been validated through independent, empirical research.