Handmade “Compassion City”
Most families spend their summer relaxing by the pool, vacationing with friends or finding new adventures. The Damman family, members of Friendswood UMC, did something unique instead. They researched life in other cultures and built a small village of homes typical of Haiti, Angola, Bolivia, Viet Nam, Fiji and several others. The grass hut typical of Angola also featured a bow and arrow in the scenario.
Each rustic building has its own story, with pictures and real life details. Inspired by the humanitarian aid organization of Compassion International, the Dammans named their village “Compassion City.” FUMC member Ivo Damman says, “Compassion City was built by our family in the backyard over a period of almost three months. Before moving the village to be displayed on the Friendswood UMC campus, we spent the night in one of the buildings so my kids could experience what other, less fortunate children go through.”
Compassion City was relocated to Friendswood UMC in time for 1BigCamp, where it made a tremendous impression on many visitors of all ages. It took a full day to move it and then another day to put the sand in the street and add the accessories.
According to Ivo, the units were built on 4x8 sheets of plywood in order to make them transportable. Additionally, all homes have different floors in them to match the conditions in the corresponding countries. “Inside the buildings we also added components of missions our church has supported over the last years,” adds Compassion City creator Cindy Damman, “such as Operation Christmas Child and Soles4Souls.”
This “barefoot experience” enriched visitors’ understanding of the cultural realities as they walked through the city, and reinforced the need for international mission organizations to solicit shoes. One of the buildings challenged visitors to guess what scenario it represented. “Most were surprised to learn the plywood house was typical to families that worked the fields of California,” adds Cindy. “In this type of residence, a family would struggle with having very few clothes, very little food to eat, and would rarely stay warm at night.”
As camp coordinator, Cindy knew that the students attending Friendswood’s 1BigCamp would enjoy the hands-on opportunity to tour the village. Adds Ivo, “Compassion City left a tremendous impression on the 1BigCamp kids as well as many people in our congregation. It has been heartwarming how children and adults alike have reached out and sponsored a child through Compassion International.” The Dammans know their hard work was not in vain when they hear touching stories that have resulted from the Compassion City experience. “One little girl brought a can of food to camp the day after walking through Compassion City,” shares Cindy, “because she assumed the compassion children must be hungry. It was also rewarding to see kids that dragged their parents through the city insisting they HAD to sponsor a child. This project has been a great blessing to us all!”
When Friendswood UMC shared the news of Compassion City with local media outlets, the Houston Chronicle shared the story and video online, and Channel 13 covered this touching story as well.