• Mark Twain
This summer, Bill Booth experienced something he hopes to use to inspire others to help those in need. In two weeks, folks in Trigg County will get the chance to follow his lead.
In August, Booth, operations manager for Cadiz-based radio station WKDZ, took a trip to Colombia, South America through Compassion International, a Christian child advocacy ministry that, according to its web site, “releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.”
Booth, who also serves as entertainment coordinator for the 34th Annual Trigg County Country Ham Festival (scheduled for Oct. 8-10), was joined on the trip by country music artists Blaine Larsen and The Roys. Those groups will join Buddy Jewell for Compassion Night, the title of the Saturday evening portion of this year’s Festival.
In the course of lining up talent for this year’s Festival, Booth said, he was asked about working in tandem with country music artists and Compassion, which usually works with inspirational country acts. After meeting with Compassion representatives, Booth said he’d decided he would broadcast from Colombia during his trip.
“We decided we would be guinea pigs for how something like this could work with country music,” Booth said. “We can’t really do a radiothon where we quote scripture at people, but country music listeners are very passionate, especially about children. I thought it would be a natural fit, and it worked.”
Larsen, who serves as an artist representative for Compassion, said the trip was a good opportunity to see how the group operates and to meet the children the program helps.
“I’d never been to a third-world country and seen poverty like we saw,” Larsen said. “It was eye-opening.”
Elaine Roy said the trip made more clear to her how fortunate most Americans are to live the lives they do.
“At first, I really questioned how much help I could give by sponsoring a child, and after meeting my little girl and her family, it really hit home that we can,” Elaine said. “It was definitely a life-changing experience and a postive experience.”
Booth said there’s not a good way to understand the low standard of living in places like Colombia without actually visiting.
“It’s one thing to know what they do, but it’s a whole other world to see it,” Booth said. “We are so blessed and protected in America. So many people are passionate about helping American kids, but some of these people [in Colombia] are living in ‘houses’ – and I use that term loosely – where they just squatted out some land. I know people that have better bird-dog pens than what these kids are living in.”
Compassion is a non-demoninational effort that works directly through the local churches and keeps detailed records on the children in addition to helping with their needs and building a wide set of skills.
“One center we went to, they were teaching teenagers an entrepreneurship class,” Booth said. “They’re learning how to sell candy in their neighborhood, what a profit is, how to cover costs. They were making hand-made bracelets to sell. One place was teaching kids how to repair computers.”
Larsen said the program helps families do things taken for granted in America, including things as simple as eating.
“Just eating a meal a couple times a day is a big deal,” Larsen said. “For the parents to know that their kids have somewhere clean and safe to go and that they’re going to get fed every day takes a lot off of their plate. It’s amazing to see how thankful the people are.”
Booth said one of the grade-school groups participated in a dress-up activity where they were asked to show what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“These kids aren’t talking about right now, they’re talking about the future and what they’re going to do,” Booth said.
Booth’s sponsor child is 6-year-old Paula, who Booth said was very affectionate from the first time they met.
“I was very concerned that I would scare her to death because there’s not a lot of crazy, red-headed white men in Bogota,” Booth said. “She ran up and hugged me, and I’m not a real public display of affection kind of guy, but she wouldn’t let me go for five minutes. She knew, at 6 years old, what our help means for her future.”
Compassion allows sponsors, who pay $38 a month, to choose children from any country and any age, and the two will be connected until the child graduates high school. Booth said the kids get enjoyment out of the connection with someone else moreso than the monetary donations.
“Getting those letters, they realize there is someone halfway across the world that is interested in them enough to find out how they’re doing,” Booth said. “To have that hope gives them the drive to do what they have to do.”
Booth said WKDZ will match donations made during Compassion Night so people can help a needy child in other countries in addition to another child in Trigg County through Helping Hands’ backpack program.
“It sounds trite, but when I do something like this, I always feel like I get more out of it than the person I’m helping,” Booth said. “On the way back from Colombia, someone in our group said something about us going back to the real world, another guy from the group said that was the real world and that we were going back to our fantasy life, and he’s right. If you have an address and a vehicle, you’re better off than 97 percent of the people in the world.”
Compassion Night is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 and will be broadcast live on 106.5 FM and streamed on the internet at www.wkdz
radio.com. Compassion will also have a booth at the Ham Festival.