Wednesday

WFMW: Letter Writing Tips



One of the most unexpected and amazing parts of my trip to Africa was learning just how important a sponsor letter is to a child.

Every Compassion child I met had reread the letters from their sponsors until they were nearly memorized. The letters were prized-possessions.

If you're a new sponsor, you will receive a packet with a little bit of information about your child, like the one I received right before I left for Africa:

(Ephantus in Kenya)

While in Kenya, I met a boy named Anthony, a recent graduate of the Leadership Development Program (LDP), who had been a sponsored child for more than 20 years:


Anthony is a young business owner whose smile could light up a room. He was joyful and kind, articulate and thankful to Compassion and his sponsor. But he had one regret: in all the years of rising out of poverty, he never received one letter from his sponsor. He said every Saturday he would long for his name to be called, so he could learn more about the family who had changed his life.

It never happened.

Anthony was still overcome with gratitude for his sponsor. "I prayed for him everyday," he said in a quiet voice. "I still do."

If you sponsor a child, I cannot urge you enough to start a relationship with them. It won't just change their life, it will change yours.

(meeting Ephantus, our newest sponsored child)

Tips on writing letters to your sponsored child:
  • Tell your sponsored child about yourself.
  • Let your kids write letters, as well as you.
  • Write often. Our family is planning a Compassion day each month, where we sit down and write each of our kids.
  • Ask questions: "What is your favorite color, class, activity?" "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "Tell me about your day" "What did you learn at your Compassion project?" etc
  • Send pictures of yourself, kids, pets
  • Include newspaper clippings, pictures from magazines, etc
  • Attach coloring sheets in your letters
  • Send postcards, flash cards, paper dolls or any flat item you can think of that kids enjoy
  • Draw pictures and include them with the letter
  • Include stickers, band-aids, valentine's
  • Send recipes and ask questions about their food
  • Small notepads and hair scrunchies can be stuffed into envelopes
  • Ask them what you can pray for
  • Share your needs with them (these kids know how to pray!)
So, if you sponsor a child thru Compassion, World Vision or another program, write letters!!

Do you have any ideas to add to this list? I'd love to read them! Compassion International has a couple of forums where people can share ideas. (Want to rescue a child from poverty by sponsoring them? click here)

Thank you for joining me for WFMW! {You can read the guidelines here.}Have a Works-For-Me Wednesday tip you'd like to share? I'd love for you to join us! A special thank you to Shannon for hosting WFMW for the past two weeks!

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71 comments:

ilovemy5kids said...

Our children's church sponsored a child...it was wonderful! Each week the offering blessed a child.

Blessings to you,
lana @ ilovemy5kids

Jennifer said...

This is a good reminder to me. It's easy to write the check. It's harder to take the time to write the letter. After seeing your journey, I'd like to do more connecting with our sponsored child. Thank you!

Megan said...

Thanks for that. We've been very committed Compassion sponsors for many years and I confess - writing the letters does not come easily for me. The pros of an automatic bank deduction include never forgetting to pay. The cons include sometimes forgetting we're sponsoring altogether.

We have two boys who write us faithfully and yet I can't seem to manage a letter back. I'm ashamed.

Must do better!!

Thelittlebrownhouse.us said...

It has been amazing and humbling to hear about your trip - thank you.
And thanks for hosting too!

travelingwithbaby said...

Thanks so much for this post! You gave me some great ideas for what to include in a letter to our Compassion Child in El Salvador whom we've sponsored for over 8 years. Looking forward to the day when we can add another.

Annie @ Sister Wisdom said...

We sponsored several different children growing up, and my sister and I always loved writing them letters and hearing back from them. Thanks for the reminder of how important this is - the personal relationship, not just anonymous giving.

Laura@HeavenlyHomemakers said...

Oh wow...THANK you for the encouragement and advice about this. We've written to our Compassion child, but never realized how important it was. We'll be writing another letter tomorrow.

6intow said...

I so needed this little kick to get this going. We have sponsored kids forever and probably only sent a couple letters in all those years. World Vision sends us nice little premade cards for special occasions, but I know we really need to do more.

Thank you, thank you, I really needed this! Sponsored kids all over the world owe you one for giving us this prompt.
~Erin

Angie @ Many Little Blessings said...

Thanks for this kick in the rear! We have been sponsoring a little girl for about a year and a half, and we've never written a letter. I know that we should, but I just never seem to get around to it. What a bad excuse. And, the longer I put it off, the more embarrassed I am to start up writing.

That's it -- I just have to put it on my to do list, and we'll have to send her a letter and some small items (stickers, hair ribbons, etc.).

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Oh my word, thank you for this! I am always at a loss in terms of what to write. We usually send some stickers, but I like these ideas much better!

Henley on the Horn said...

What a wonderful reminder! I would have never thought to include bandaids and stickers. GREAT idea!

Jami@ An Oregon Cottage said...

Oh my goodness, I never thought they cared so much about the letters! We haven't sponsored a child, but we will now after reading your story. It brought tears to my eyes to read about the young man who never got a letter. THANK YOU.

The Things We Do said...

thanks for this list....I'm printing it.

In the past we've sent those wood little flat airplane kits...they are in the cheap toy section of walmart...I think they are about 99 cents. They are a great little item to send the boys.

Our children's sunday school classes also sponsored a child with their offering. It was awesome!

bridget {bake at 350} said...

Kristen...this is a great list! It (and your post) should be part of every sponsor's packet!

Southern Fried Gal said...

Oh my word, girl. I'm glad God gave you the heart to serve in this capacity and especially thankful that you had the obedience to follow the call. What a blessing you are.

Lara said...

I actually started writing our child every month when I pay the mortgage. I know I won't forget to pay the mortgage, and you can just do the online letter form if it's too hard to get a letter to the post office (like it is for me!)

momstheword said...

This is awesome! My oldest just sponsored a child and I want him to read this and see how important his letters are. Thank you for posting it and for hosting!

Amanda said...

Kristen, how amazing that you got to go and meet the young boy that you are sponsoring. I can't wait until I am in a position to be able to sponsor a child <3

Rachel said...

I have broken into tears more than once as I've read your posts about your trip to Africa.

Thank you for the encouragement to write to the children we sponsor. I have sponsored a little girl through Bibles for the World for about three years now. I faithfully send a check in to sponsor my little Tabitha but I am ashamed to say that aside from my intro letter, I have yet to write her.

I am blessed by and look forward to every letter I have received from Tabitha and her family. I can only imagine them waiting to hear from me.

I hope to write her within this next week.

Thank you!

kristinevans said...

You could also add that you can write your sponsored child online at compassion's website.

Bri said...

Thanks for the gentle reminder. After reading your blog entry, I whipped up a lot of flat items to send to Larenda. I have so much to send so I'll trust Compassion with it. All this stuff is just sitting here in boxes. I've got lots of extras that will make little kids happy!
Thanks for your post.

Aiming4Simple said...

After such a life-changing experience in Africa, I was wondering what in the world you would post as a WFMW idea. This was so timely, as letter writing is significant indeed. Thanks for the impetus.

Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

I have enjoyed reading about your journey, and the pictures have been such a blessing.

Anthony's smile just warms my heart. It's humbling to hear that although he was disappointed, he was grateful and prayed for his sponsor. wow! We can learn so much...

CJ said...

What a smile that young man has! He is beautiful. Breaks my heart that he never received a letter but I'm so glad he kept the JOY!
I hope to sponsor a child soon and I will write, thanks to you.

Sherry said...

How amazing that you were able to meet the child you sponsor in person! I can see the joy in your face. I remember my parents sponsoring a child when I was growing up and the letters we received. I'd love to sponsor a child and am going to talk to dh and kids about it today. :D Thank you for sharing your experience!

Melissa R said...

Wow, this is actually an eye opener. I had NO idea that the kids actually GET the letters. Do you think this is true for all or most of the organizations via which you can sponsor a child?
I guess I have always had the negative view of it, which is odd since I am a positive person.
I really thought that the picture you get of "your" child is one of only a handful that get sent to thousands of donors. I never dreamed that there is actually one child behind each donation and that the letters are real and they would get mail sent to them.
My mom sponsors a child through a certain large charity, do you think she really should be sending letters?
I must say that out of everything you've written from your experiences this one thing has really touched me. That boy, now a man, was waiting every Saturday for his name to be called for a letter. That really got to me.
Thank you.

Wendy (The Local Cook) said...

I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but I do hope that Compassion works in such a way to avoid all the pitfalls of child sponsorship. Here is a link to a discouraging take on the effects of such sponsorships, written by a Kenyan who does community development work in Uganda: http://network.crcna.org/forums/global-mission/discussion-starter-child-sponsorship

Kristen said...

Thanks, Wendy, for offering a different opinion, but I have to completely disagree with the article. I asked this specific question of every family I met and I was amazed at how much of a HERO the sponsored child was...in every case I saw, the sponsored child helped their family and shared what was given. The WHOLE family benefited from sponsorship.

Mum in Bloom said...

I have been reading your Compassion story and haven't commented because I'm always too "choked-up" to do so. I'm so moved by everything I've been speachless.

After my divorce about 10 years ago (I'm happily remarried now), I sponsored a child in Mexico when I received my settlement. I thought, something good has to come out of all of this, and paid for a year sponsorship in one lump sum. I never did send any letters and now wish I had.

Thank you for all the inspiration :)

Trina @ Joy and Contentment said...

Oh, I can't tell you how much I needed to hear this! We have sponsored two Watoto children for about 6 years now and we haven't been very good with writing letters. This is the kick in the pants I needed. Thank you!

Sheila said...

I did not think we could send anything other than paper - that's what the Compassion web site says. I would love to send little scrunchies to our two little girls. Are you sure that we can do that?

Kristen said...

Hi Sheila,
I got most of these ideas directly from Compassion...from what I understand, as long as the envelope is not over 1/8 inch thickness, it can be sent...

heresthediehl said...

We sponsor one little boy right now, and I hope to make it two soon. I really appreciate the ideas! I hadn't thought of some of these. Will share with my friends who sponsor thru Compassion, too! Thanks!

Susan Hight said...

Thank you for writing this post. Unfortunately, we can't sponsor a child at this time. But I can hardly wait until we can. It's on the very top of the list to do as soon as my hubby finds a job. However, our childern's Sunday school sponsers a child and I can write letters to this child. I'm excited to get started. Your post has reminded me that money or the lack of money is not important and God can work through any and every situation. Have a wonderful day!

g9ine said...

Anthony is now on Twitter. He signed up while we were in Africa.

http://twitter.com/moggaless

Everyone should follow him and then send him DMs to tweet more. :-)

Roberta said...

Wow thanks for all the great ideas for including in our letters to our sponsored children. I just started sponsoring our child, Derrick, when I learned about your trip to Kenya and I've written him three times in two weeks and was worried that it was too much...NOW...I know it's not. How cool is it to be able to be touched by these children in such a sweet way...it's undescribable. Thanks for sharing, fondly, Roberta

sarah said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I've sponsored a child for several years, but have only written a few letters - mostly because I've been too freaked out by the "what not to write" (ie don't talk about what you have or do that costs money that they don't or talk about vacations to fancy places, etc) that I haven't known what to write and have avoided it for fear of saying the wrong thing. Still don't really know, but your list helps.

Robin said...

I just sent our World Vision sponsored girl a letter and included a photo of my boys and the snowman they built. She'll get to see something she'd never see in Zambia. I also sent a little bracelet, some stickers, and some hair bows. I've sent things like this before and gotten a letter back that she received them. It's so cool to be able to bless a childion need on the other side of the world.

Jenn @ Beautiful Calling said...

Great ideas for what to include. We don't sponsor a child right now (though I would love to!) but throughout the year our church sends packages and letterst to a couple of orphanges we support including the Philipines and Malawi. I'll keep these in mind for sure!

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Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

Thank you for this! Sometimes when writing I wonder if the child even receives the letter...so cool to know all these things firsthand from people that have been there!

jeana said...

Thank you for posting this! We have been more than inspired by all of this you've been posting. We have letters and pictures to send to our two boys, but have yet to send them. We will do this in the morning. Thank you!

Cheri said...

I have been sponsoring for 7 years and for the first 2 I didn't write very often but since then I have learned on how important it is to make the connection and relationship. I have not only met one of my children but I recently met an international student from Haiti who happened to be a Compassion child from 4 to graduation. We talked about letter writing and she told me how important it was and she too never received a letter but prayed and wrote to her sponsor. She is a delight and I am going to have her come and speak at my church so all of the sponsors there will now show her some love and she will get to tell her story. She also indicated that she was 1 of 7 children in the family and having one child in the family sponsored gave benefits to the whole family.
Here are some other sources for letter writing:

Letter writing topic with over 900 comments on Compassion's blog:
http://blog.compassion.com/letter-writing-ideas/

You can go to www.ourcompassion.org and join up. It is a facebook type of site for sponsors to connect with each other. You can find others who sponsor in the same project and there are groups you can join to share ideas.

Go to Compassions site and here is the current official list of what can be sent:
http://www.compassion.com/sponsordonor/connecting-old/gifts/tips/tipsformailingsmallgifts.htm

As another commenter stated you can log on to your Compassion Account and write a letter on-line too.

Thanks for your suggestions and stories to help get more children sponsored.

Cheri

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I have several links here:

http://theprudenthomemaker.com/FrugalGifts.aspx

to printable paper dolls, paper toys, etc. for both boys and girls. There are lots of little paper toys that my children have loved.

Another thing that would be nice would be a picture of Jesus, or a picture of Jesus with children. It might be the only decoration in a tiny home, but what a thing to look at and reflect upon.

Sally said...

De-lurking here - I was planning to ask you a letter writing question anyway. :-)

I know the suggested writing topics include pets, and we do mention our cats, but I'm never sure whether to talk about our hens or not since they are a food producing animal. My kids dictate letters to me and they like to talk about the hens having chicks etc, so far I haven't included any of it.

Do you think, having actually had contact with families receiving sponsorship, that it would come under the "try not to talk about possessions" category, or the "talk about your pets" category?

Prudy said...

We try to write our child once a month. We always send little gifts with each letter. I'll pick up stickers, coloring books, what not from the Dollar Spot at Target. We drop a few things in the envelope and send our love. I was thinking today I want her to be the one who always gets stuff.

Kimberly said...

My family just sponsored a child from Kenya. I am waiting for my packet!!

Elizabeth said...

Kristen, I just got my sponsership packet from Compassion. It said that I will recieve three letters a year from my child. Is that a minumum or is that in total?

Also, you had written that we could give up to 1,000 dollars a year in one of your posts but my sponsership packet says that I have to limit my family gifts to three times a year between 25-300 dollars. The website, however, says to limit it to twice a year and that my child gifts should be limited to twice a year as well. What happens with my money if I go over my twice a year?

Kristen said...

Thanks Cheri and The Prudent Homemaker for the great links!

Sally-I think you should tell your sponsored child about your hens! I think they would find it fascinating. So many of the kids in Compassion live in villages and have animals...I think we should just avoid bragging about expensive homes, namebrand clothes, cars, etc.

Hope that helps!

Kristen said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Those are great questions! I sent your comment to my friend Chris, who works at Compassion. I'll leave his answers here.

I think the 3 letter thing is a minimum. Our girl Judith in Uganda who is 10, sent two letters just this month. I think it really depends on the child.

For many years, there has been a $300 maximum on the family gift, but I know that changed very recently to $1000. I didn't know about the rule of giving only twice a year, so I'll check on that.

Hope that helps until Chris gets back to me.

Blessings.

{ L } said...

Kristen, I've been out of the blogging loop for awhile but I have a favor to ask!


I'm trying to win a party contest and would love your help! Would you go here:

http://thecitycradle.com/party-3-spy-agent

and leave a comment at the end of the article? Your comment will give me a vote. Thanks so much! I appreciate it lots. <3

These are excellent tips! I started sponsoring a child when I was 13 and I have such good memories of writing her letters! You are doing some incredible things. What a true blessing you are.

Michelle said...

What a good reminder! Do you hear back from your sponosered children?

Kristen said...

Yes, Michelle! We do get letters. As a matter of fact, two came while I was in Kenya! Three of our sponsored kids are 7 and under, so their letters are translated. But our 4th just turned 11 and she writes her own letters and more frequently.

Andrea H said...

Your recent posts from your trip inspired me to sponsor a little girl from Kenya. Her name is Marrion and I am so excited to get to know her and her family. I was wondering what to say to her in my first letter so thank you for the wonderful tips!

Muthering Heights said...

He NEVER got a letter? That is so sad!!

It's sweet that he wanted to connect with his sponsor!

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Alexia said...

Thanks so much for the tips!

I didn't comment on any of your Compassion posts, mainly because I was in tears most of the time and really could think of nothing to say. But I wanted to tell you thank you! for going.

I've heard alot (not good) about sponsorship, and have been a little wary to put my money in someone else's hands and hope that it goes where they say it's going. But seeing you go, and seeing you meet the children you've sponsored (and they know you!) and hearing all those stories of kid's lives who were touched has made all the difference for me.

I'm paying off all my outstanding debts this month and that free'd money will be going toward a Compassion child.

Kristen said...

This is a direct quote from Chris, Compassion's Internet Sponsor & Donor Program Manager, to answer a couple of questions about letter and sending financial gifts:

"Three letters is the minimum. That’s all we require the child to write. As children get older and a true sponsor/child relationship is established, receiving more letters is common, but three is all we guarantee.



Our gift policy has recently changed so it appears that the new standards are not updated everywhere. The Web is current. What the difference reveals is that the frequency is a “recommendation.” We don’t have the capability to enforce the standard in a rock-solid way. We still do some aspects of our processes manually.

We can accept child gifts between $10 and $100, with the total maximum per year not to exceed $100. We recommend that child gifts not be given more than twice a year so that children and families don’t come to expect / depend upon the gifts.

We can accept family gifts between $25 and $1,000, with the total maximum per year not to exceed $1,000. We recommend that family gifts not be given more than twice a year for the same reason above.

“What happens with my money if I go over my twice a year?” If the gift has been “made” (i.e., processed) the child or family will receive the gift. However, our phone representatives and income processing specialists are supposed to verify the previous gifts which have been made in order to avoid the situation.

Usually, a person can give to the child and family a total of five times a year (two child gifts, two family gifts and a Christmas gift). This requires the person to “manage” his or her giving frequency and amounts.

For example, if I give a $25 child gift in January and a $25 child gift in June and want to give a $50 gift in November to reach the $100 child gift limit, I’d have to make that as a family gift. With a family gift, the child often gets something personal out of it (like clothes), but not always. Family gifts are used to benefit the family overall.

Christmas gifts are handled differently than child gifts and family gifts in that the sponsor actually makes a contribution to the Christmas Gift Program in the child’s name. It’s from this fund that all children get gifts at Christmas, even the ones registered in the program but not yet sponsored. If a sponsor doesn’t make a Christmas gift, that sponsor’s child will still get a gift. No children are left out at Christmas.

There is no limit on donations to the Christmas Gift Program. It’s the same as making a donation to any one of our Complementary Intervention Programs; it’s a broader, ministry contribution rather than a specific, relational contribution.

Earlier, I said “usually, a person can give five times a year,” but the year the child graduates from the program, a special graduation gift can be given to."

Here is a blog post link that talks about our desire to avoid fostering dependence.

http://blog.compassion.com/foster-development-not-dependence/

Traci said...

Anthony's story broke my heart! I cried and prayed for him.
Thank you so much for sharing about this and helping us to be aware of what these kids go through, good and bad.

Lord Bless you!

~traci

Roberta said...

band-aides...did you say band-aides? woo hoo!
http://con-tain-it.typepad.com/bobis_business_of_bliss_i/2010/03/boo-hooboo-boo-bear-jars.html

Thanks for the inspiration :D

Kerrie said...

Have you joined Our Compassion? http://www.ourcompassion.org/ It's a site for Compassion Sponsors. You can find people who sponsor children in the same project as you, or have common Compassion related interests. One of the groups that they have is called "Letter Writing". In it is a ton of really great ideas.

And I also wanted to say that I completly relate to what you are saying about writing letters to your sponsor children. I had always heard how much they value the letters, but I never "got it" until I saw in person how they treasure the letters. Now I try to write, and write often.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the list of things to include in a letter. I decided to sponsor a little girl in Peru a while ago and although she's only 6, she's probably bored to tears with my letters. I'm single so I can't share kiddie stories or have them send pictures etc. This list will help me and I'm going to start a letter to her right now!

AshleyOney said...

I think this post is awesome! Raising awareness for children living in BOP countries is key! Also I love that you have been sharing your experiences in Kenya. I am about to graduate college and really want to get into marketing to developing countries and creating goods and services that can increase these countries standards of living. While I think that BOP markets are growing rapidly many people are still unaware of the needs and life style and I love that you have been sharing!

Tim said...

Kristen, forgive me if this has already been covered, but do the children really receive the small gifts: bandaids, stickers, pictures, etc?? i thought that since our letters go first through a translator that small things like that would get "lost in the shuffle". just wondering. And if my kids write separate letters I guess they get translated as well?

thanks for all your touching posts about your trip. very moving.
thanks,
Susan

Kristen said...

Hi Susan,
I honestly have wondered the same thing. But I watched sponsored children bring out sticker sheets and hair bands in Kenya to show their sponsors! So, I took it as a yes!

flowerpot said...

I am so convicted. We have sponsored for years and rarely, if ever, have written. If only I could go back and give our little guys the joy of having their name called on a Saturday morning...

Today is a new day. A letter writing day.

Thank you for being the instrument to change our family's hearts.

Jen said...

Kristen - is there a way we could write to Anthony now, even though we're not his sponsers? My heart just hurts thinking of him never getting a letter!

Because of the trip you guys took, my family is sponsoring a boy from Rwanda. We've already written a few letter and I have a standing monthly reminder to keep on doing it. He has never been sponsored before and I totally wish I could be there when his name gets called the first time.

allthingsjuice said...

Kristen, thanks so much for sharing this. I just started sponsoring a child (inspired by your blog) and I look forward to getting my info packet. Now that I know how treasured it is, I'll be sure to write!

Kristen said...

Hi Jen,
Anthony is on Twitter and you could ask him! He's not sponsored thru Compassion anymore, but it might mean a lot to him...

Crista said...

Hi! I was directed over here by MckMama for the letter-writing tips. Thank you!! We are not in a position to financially sponsor a child, but thanks to MckMama, I learned that anyone can sign up to send letters, even if you can't send money every month. I received my packet this week and haven't written to my little friend in Guatemala yet, because I wasn't sure I would have enough to say to fill a whole page. Thanks to your tips I'm going to write my letter right now!
I like the idea of writing once a month. Compassion says these kids expect only 2 or 3 letters a year, so can you imagine the joy of getting twelve?!
Ok, I'm off to write my letter now. Thank you very much for the tips!!!!

Amber said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. I have sponsored a child for ten years through World Vision and I have never written him a letter. You've inspired me to write to him. I feel sad for him that I have neglected this. Thank you again.