“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
This verse is often used to encourage and challenge youth leaders and young Christians. Timothy was indeed a young man entrusted with the responsibility to pastor churches that the Apostle Paul planted.
Let’s meet three incredible young Compassion supporters living out their faith by doing just what Paul commanded Timothy all those years ago – setting an example for others through their speech, conduct and love for their neighbours.
Tara O’Neill, Dublin
Tara is a 19-year-old student studying at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. For her, sponsoring a child through Compassion is something she’s always wanted to do.
“Compassion has played an influential role in my life from a very young age,” Tara recalls.
“Since I can remember, my parents have been sponsoring children from countries all around the world. I have memories of vivid excitement and enthusiasm as the postman would deliver letters from ‘my far away friends’ – as I would refer to them.”
Tara loved reading about their lives, and through their correspondence, her heart for advocacy and her gratitude for all God had given her grew.
“I knew that I would sign right up to sponsor a child of my own as soon as I had a consistent income,” she says.
Fast forward a few years, Tara started teaching piano part-time and decided to commit part of her income to support Compassion’s ministry. At 18, she was able to sponsor a girl in Indonesia herself.
Tara says, “It has been one of the best ways I can steward my income.”
“Compassion’s letter correspondence has made the entire experience so much more enriching as I can genuinely grow in my understanding of her unique identity in Christ, which allows me to pray specifically and support with intentionality,” she continues.
“I love the drawings she illustrates at the end of every letter, usually consisting of scenes of her hometown or her dreams of becoming a teacher!
“God has shown me that although there are such differences across the world in cultures and lifestyles, He has placed a unique calling and purpose on every life. He has given children who grow up in poverty the same ability to dream, hope, and bring His kingdom to their households and communities.”
For anyone who has ever considered sponsoring a child but has been met with obstacles, Tara encourages them to step out in faith and allow God to provide in the ways only He can.
“Sponsoring a child through Compassion allows you to make a difference in not only a precious child’s life, but through one life, you impact that community. You don’t know the ripple effect your one action and small sacrifice can make – we do what we can and leave the rest up to God!”
Josh Wilson, Birmingham
For a 21-year-old mechanical engineering student at Birmingham University, Josh says volunteering for Compassion felt “right”.
“I knew I wanted to do something and knew Compassion’s work,” he says.
Josh found out about Compassion’s child sponsorship programme through people he knew.
“I knew friends who sponsored children through Compassion. And we started sponsoring a child as a family five years ago,” says Josh.
While he still sponsors through his family, Josh’s contribution to Compassion’s ministry took a more physical approach last year. He signed up to raise funds for Compassion by running a marathon.
“I was thinking of running a marathon during the COVID lockdowns. And when things opened up, and the opportunity came, I looked at all the charities I could run for and decided to run for Compassion.”
Compassion Challenges is a way for supporters to fundraise for Compassion’s ministry to some of the most vulnerable children living in extreme poverty. By registering with the organisation, people who want to run, cycle, mountain bike, walk, and generally put their physical fitness on the line can do so while raising funds for Compassion.
“I started the process in Feb 2021 by calling up and registering my interest. I ran the actual marathon on 8 October 2021,” says Josh.
“My target was to raise £3,000 for Compassion. But in the end, I managed to raise £4,500.”
For Josh, using social media was a great way to help with his fundraising. And it was a fantastic way to talk about Jesus with his friends.
“Before I went to university, I was much quieter about my faith. I didn’t tell many people and kept it to myself. Fundraising for a Christian charity like Compassion allowed me to tell people why I was serving in this way,” he says.
“People who I went to school with, who may not have known how important my faith was to me, were able to see my real reason for running – and that was Jesus. It created some good online conversations, and while it was a small evangelistic opportunity, it was an opportunity to tell people about the Gospel nonetheless.”
When asked why he chose to volunteer in this way, Josh’s answer is about following Jesus and the impact his small contribution can make in a child’s life.
“I feel very blessed to be brought up in a happy and financially secure home. I felt convicted to emulate how Jesus acted and wanted to contribute to something that had a great impact,” Josh admits.
“My small contribution can do so much more. I can do so much more with what I’ve been given by volunteering in this way.”
Vino Thavarasa, Slough
Vino currently works as a Health and Safety Officer in London. He moved to the UK from Sri Lanka when he was four years old and grew up in Slough. He enjoys playing football and travelling.
For Vino, volunteering for Compassion is a small way he can live out his faith and contribute.
“What I’m doing is not in vain,” he says. “It’s all for God. I do what I do as a service to God.”
Vino has always had a heart for children and is involved with children’s ministry at his church. Every week he turns up to teach young children at Sunday school and help with youth-related activities.
“I grew up in a Christian family and came to church with my mum and brother. But my faith in Jesus became my own in my late 20s,” Vino explains.
“I realised the importance of ministry and serving God.”
In 2016, during Compassion Sunday at his church, Vino came to hear about the sponsorship programme. He was 26 years old.
“I remember going home and looking at the Compassion website. That’s when I saw the picture of this young girl from Guatemala and decided to sponsor her,” says Vino.
“I had always wanted to help. I used to give to other children’s charities and always had a heart for children. But something was different about the Compassion programme.
“Not only are they looking after a child’s immediate physical and educational needs, but the programme also gives children the opportunity to know Jesus Christ and know God. I think that’s important as a Christian. I’m not supporting Compassion for their salvation, but their salvation is just as important as making sure they’re fed and educated.”
Vino started volunteering for Compassion after going on a trip to Guatemala in 2019. There he was able to meet up with his sponsored child. He helped at the Compassion Experience before the COVID-19 lockdowns came into effect and trained to be a volunteer speaker informing others of his sponsorship experience.
“While speaking engagements can be hard, it is worth it if it can get more people to sponsor and change another child’s life,” Vino explains.
“It was powerful to see the difference you’re making in someone’s life. Through sponsorship, it has been encouraging to give a sense of hope to children living in extreme poverty and have a relationship with them and their families.
“The legacy you’re leaving in that child’s life is important. It gets passed on to the next generation. The investment you’ve poured into their life doesn’t stop with them.”
For anyone young who is thinking about sponsoring or volunteering for Compassion, Vino says, “Do it.”
“I’d love to see more young people serving children living in extreme poverty in this way,” he concludes.
Are you interested in volunteering?
If any of these stories have inspired you to volunteer for Compassion, we’d love to share the ways you can get involved. Whether it’s praying for us, speaking at churches, taking on a challenge or volunteering at an event, there are so many ways to use your gifts and talents with Compassion UK.
For more volunteer stories, read: