How often should I write to my sponsored child? What should I write about? Do I send photos? Well friends, doubt no more! You asked the questions, and the experts have answered them.

You just made the decision to become a sponsor. You’ve logged onto My Account and written a letter introducing yourself. Now what?

Should you write again before you receive a reply?

Do you say ‘hello’ and check in every month?

You just took a cute picture of your dog. When should you send it?

*What’s the correct letter writing etiquette? *

Well friends, doubt no more! You asked the questions, and the experts have answered them.

Question one

“How often should I write?” – Brian

web CDSP-BD411-Promoting-Letter-Writing-15-1107

To answer this question, let’s first start with how often you should expect to hear from your sponsored child.

Children in our program will always write to their sponsors twice a year. Often the Compassion centres will plan a special letter-writing day to inspire the children to share their lives with their sponsors in written form—something that is unfamiliar to many of them.

Osiris Guzman tutors children ages six to 11 at Pentecostal Child Development Centre (PCDC) in Siguatepeque, Honduras.

“[How often a child writes] all depends on how many letters the child receives from the sponsor. The sponsor is the one who triggers the number of letters that a child may write per year. For example: If a sponsor writes six times a year, then a child will write back six times,” says Osiris.

Now, how often you write is completely up to you. But know that the child or teenager you sponsor will write to you up to a maximum of six times a year. This includes responses to any “Thank You” letters for the birthday, personal or family gifts you have sent.

But just because children may write six times a year, doesn’t mean that you only have to write six times a year. Sometimes you have exciting news that you just can’t wait to share! Maybe you just got married, got a new kitten, or you want to send a Christmas gift or birthday gift with a letter.

“Sponsors can send as many letters as they want. However, those letters have to go through a process of translation. It takes a while for a letter to get to a child because of the language barriers, delivery issues to the communities, registration and scan into the system, etc. However, we’re glad to see how this process is getting optimised and the time frame is reducing,” says Glenda Reyes, another tutor at PCDC.

So what is the right amount?

Your words are treasured no matter how often you share them. As a general guide, we recommend you write once per month. This means that when letters are passed out to all the children at the Compassion centre each month, you get to put a smile on their faces because they know their friend from afar cares for them. If once per month sounds a little unrealistic for you (we get it, life can be busy!), why not aim to write an extra couple of letters per year?

Question two

“What do the kids enjoy hearing about in letters?” – Arial

First of all, don’t worry about whether your letter is too short.

“We have taught the beneficiary children that the content of their sponsors’ letters is very important. Sometimes, it may be a three-line-paragraph letter, but it is still very important. Children love to hear from their sponsors’ daily activities, vacations, family events and mostly about pets,” says Glenda.

Former President of the United States, George H W Bush would write to his sponsored child Timothy about his dog 'Sadie'.

web timonthy

Secondly, think about what you would like to know about him or her and share that about yourself.

“Beneficiary youths love to hear about their sponsors’ families because they feel part of them. Some of the sponsors share about the arrival of a baby within the family, and youths feel nothing more than joy and love over that news. But sometimes, the connection that the sponsors have with their children is very deep, because they share about a relative that passed away and the youths grieve their loss with them,” says Alicia, another Compassion tutor.

Thirdly, show an interest in their culture and share yours.

“We know that most of the sponsors do not speak Spanish, but when they include some words, phrases or Bible verses in the child’s language, that unfolds expressions of happiness and appreciation in their faces. We love to see how some sponsors research our country and include drawings of our flag, traditional foods and customs in their letters,” says Alicia.

Fourthly, tell your sponsored child how much they mean to you.

“Beneficiary children love to hear that their sponsors put their letters and drawings in special places. Some sponsors share with the children that they put the letters on the front of their refrigerator, or that they keep the children’s photos on their desk at work,” says Osiris.

Question three

“When we send photos, what would they like to see?” – Yvonne

Compassion alumnI Débora has a unique perspective when helping children write letters.

“Most of the sponsors not only send long letters, but some of them include photos or postcards of the country where they live, or about a family vacation that they had. But what puts a big smile on the children’s faces is to see their sponsors pets’ pictures. They love to hear about dogs, cats, horses, cows, or animals that are not raised in Honduras like kangaroos,” says Débora.

Kangaroos? That’s an easy one for us. Challenge accepted!

Don’t have pet (or a kangaroo)? Don’t worry! How about sharing a picture of a place in your community that is special to you, or a postcard from your state?

web CC-GH020400040-Letters-1806 15-(1)

“It’s very important to teach children about their sponsors’ countries and cultures. Children know by heart their sponsors’ name and the country that they’re from. When the sponsors include pictures or postcards that represent their countries, then that helps children to create a picture in their minds of the place where the sponsors live,” says Glenda.

Perhaps you could even take some snaps of your local park, or find a beautiful view in your area. It’s easy to upload these in My Account, too!

Lastly, remember that letter writing doesn’t need to be hard or a chore. Even a few sentences that simply say ‘hello’ and that you’re thinking of them will make your sponsored child feel loved and cherished by you. There’s no pressure! Let it be natural, as you would in any other relationship.

Write online today through My Account.

This article originally appeared on the Compassion blog and has been republished here with permission.

Words by Eryn Carman

Photos by David Adhikary, Vera Mensah-Bediako, Sean Sheridan

  • Some student centres deliver letters more than once a month.