History of Compassion

1952: Compassion was born during the Korean War, when American evangelist Rev. Everett Swanson’s heart was broken by the destitution of Korean children orphaned by the war. As Swanson walked through the streets of Seoul, he watched as piles of rags were loaded onto a garbage truck, then realised that they were the bodies of homeless children who had died overnight from exposure amid the rubble of war. On the flight home, Swanson heard God’s prompting in the drone of the plane’s engine: “What are you going to do, what are you going to do, what are you going to do?” He responded by with a one-to-one child sponsorship program, and the ministry of Compassion was born.

Compassion’s name came from Matthew 15:32, a verse on Swanson’s heart during the time:

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way." (NIV)

1975: Two decades later, Compassion had expanded its work into 17 other developing countries. Supporters in Canada and the UK joined the ranks as TEAR Fund UK became affiliated with Compassion and Compassion Canada was established.  

1977: Next, Compassion reached our shores. Compassion Australia was founded by Laurie and Olive McCowan in an office at their Newcastle home with the sponsorship of a single child.

1980: The ministry grew quickly and Compassion Australia moved into its own premises.  Over 1000 children were sponsored by Australians within its first three years.

1986: Compassion Australia reached 5000 sponsored children as TEAR Fund New Zealand joined the Compassion family to sponsor children.

1991: Just five years later, 10,000 children were sponsored through Compassion Australia and SEL France jumped on board.

1994: Compassion Australia was one of the first non-government agencies in Australia to respond to the Rwandan genocide, raising one million dollars  to support the survivors. By this point, Compassion was working in 21 developing countries.

2001: A decade on, Compassion Australia had doubled again to reach more than 20,000 sponsored children. Our founding CEO Laurie McCowan retired, handing over the reins to former Chief Operating Officer Paul O’Rourke. Around the world, Compassion Netherlands, Compassion UK and Compassion Italy had been established.

2003: 51 years after its destitute children inspired the ministry of Compassion, South Korea became a funding partner country, and South Koreans began sponsoring children in other parts of the world. Compassion Australia celebrated 25 years of ministry by reaching over 30,000 sponsored children.

2006: Three years later, Compassion Australia had grown to 50,000 sponsored children and moved operations to a new, purpose-built premises in Newcastle.

2009: As Compassion Australia reached 80,000 sponsored children, Compassion International celebrated the sponsorship of its one millionth child. The sponsor was South Korean Olympic gold medallist weight lifter Jang-Mi-Ran, and the child was eight-year-old Fellow Blewussi Kpodo from Togo, West Africa.

2010: Compassion Australia reached 90,000 sponsored children in over 26 countries. We said goodbye to long-standing CEO Paul O’Rourke and welcomed Tim Hanna as the new leader in June.

2011: Looking forward, we have set our sights on reaching 100,000 children sponsored by 2012.

Thank you

Thank you for your feedback. One of our team will respond to you within 2 working days. Thank you for your patience and for partnering with Compassion to release children from poverty in Jesus name.

Compassion Australia on YouTube
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