A group of home-school children tour a replica home of "Carlos" from Guatemala as they listen to his story on headphones while taking a tour through the Compassion Experience, a 2,000 square foot interactive free exhibit which was placed in the parking lot at Santa Clarita Valley International School in Castaic on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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In a confined, clay room that she shares with her grandmother, Shamim shares her love of attending school and her fears of one day not being able to afford her classroom fees.

“In Uganda, school is not free like it is in other places,” she said. “You get sent home if you don’t pay.”

Shamim lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Uganda where residents are plagued by hunger and worried about catching Malaria; however, her words are being heard by Santa Clarita Valley residents within a 2,000-square-foot exhibit in Castaic.

Shamim’s story is part of The Compassion Experience, a multi-day event presented by Compassion International with the goal of getting visitors to sponsor children in developing countries around the world.

A group of home-school children listen headphones while visiting a representation of a school room in Uganda while taking a tour through the Compassion Experience, a 2,000 square foot interactive free exhibit which was placed in the parking lot at Santa Clarita Valley International School in Castaic on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Throughout the weekend and on Monday, The Compassion Experience is allowing guests to experience the children’s stories for free in the parking lot of Santa Clarita Valley International (SCVi) Charter School.

During the experience, visitors are guided through interactive, audio tours as they follow either Shamim’s or Carlos’, a child from Guatemala, transition from poverty to hope, thanks to sponsorship from Compassion.

“When you’re at the experience, you’re actually experiencing that child’s life so you’re getting to see exactly what happened to them, what their life was beforehand and how pivotal it was to have Compassion being in their lives as a changing point and turning point,” said Salem Hudson, tour manager for The Compassion Experience.

A group of Children enter the Compassion Experience, a 2,000 square foot interactive free exhibit which was placed in the parking lot at Santa Clarita Valley International School in Castaic on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

For Shamim, a case of Malaria and the Mumps caused her to go deaf during the time she briefly lived with her mother.

However, her sponsorship allowed her to attend a school for children with disabilities where she learned sign language and continued her education. Now, Shamim runs her own ministry, Sherinah’s New Hope For Children With Disabilities, where she helps 45 special needs children.

“I’m so thankful,” she said in a final iPhone video. “Compassion released me from the grip of poverty.”

After walking through the homes, markets and schools of each child, visitors are shown a display of children from across the globe in need of sponsorship.

The cards include each child’s name, age and country of origin with a brief description of their life and interests. Some cards read “PRIORITY: immediate sponsor needed” and others say “Lives in a country with high risk for human rights violations” or “Lives in an AIDS affected area.”

From left, Lacie Hayford, 14, Nicole Hayford, 12, and Robin Hayford of Valencia experience the teen-age home of “Carlos” from Guatemala as they listen to his story on headphones while taking a tour through the Compassion Experience, a 2,000 square foot interactive free exhibit which was placed in the parking lot at Santa Clarita Valley International School in Castaic on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Hudson said that during an average weekend 2,500 to 3,000 people will walk through the experience and 130 to 140 children will be sponsored.

“The thing about the experience is that you get to see it first hand,” he said. “It definitely has a huge impact.”

ccox@signalscv.com
661-287-5575
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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Christina Cox
Christina Cox is a multimedia journalist covering education, community and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in August 2016.
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