how to write to your sponsored child

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to sponsor a child. Are you having trouble knowing what to say in your first letter? Maybe you’ve been sponsoring a child for a long time, but feel like you’ve run out of things to talk about. Either way I hope to inspire you with a few ideas I’ve found to be helpful when writing to your sponsored child.

1. Ask questions only your sponsored child can answer.
Ask questions like “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?” Or “What is something you like to do in your free time?” Or “What kind of games do you like to play with your friends?” Or “Do you have a favorite song? What is it called?” This kind of question could help to get a conversation going in your letters. Asking questions that only they can answer will show that you care about their personal opinion even in smaller things like their favorite game/food/color etc.

2. Research their country and ask about what their life is like.
Tell them something you’ve been learning about their country. You could also ask what wild animals they see in their country. For instance, if you sponsor a child from Ethiopia or Kenya, ask if they’ve ever seen a zebra. Going the extra mile and doing some research will show your sponsored child that you’re interested in and care about what their life is like.

3. Answer a question from one of your sponsored child’s letters.
Before sitting down to write a letter, read over the last letter or two that you’ve received. If there are any questions that you haven’t answered yet, write out a reply. Another idea is to follow the letter’s theme. For example, if they told you about their weather in their last letter, you could share what the weather is like where you live.

4. Send several pictures and explain what is in each one.
Tell the names of your family members in the pictures, your pets names, where you are in the photo, etc. Even a picture of your family in your backyard will be treasured by your sponsored child. You could also send a picture of you doing a hobby such as painting a canvas, playing an instrument or skiing with friends or family.

5. Comment on something they said in their last letter.
Whatever they told you about in their last letter, express an interest in it! Ask a follow-up question or tell a story of something similar you have/experience now or when you were their age. Expressing interest in what they told you about will not only show your sponsored child you care about their daily life, but it may also help them be appreciative of what they have as well.

6. Tell a story.
This doesn’t have to be long or elaborate. Tell about a favorite holiday memory, a favorite game you played as a kid, What a normal day in your life is like, a funny story from your childhood, or that funny thing your dog did last week. It doesn’t have to be long or complex. One of Compassion International’s blog posts said, “You don’t have to tell stories like Grandpa from The Princess Bride.” Even a letter about your favorite song or a wild animal you saw in your backyard will be treasured by your sponsored child.

7. Tell them where you keep your letters.
Sponsors and sponsored children alike, highly value correspondence. Sponsored children often will keep your letters in a special place in their home. Often keeping them dry even if they let other household items get wet. Children often read letters from their sponsors over and over again for encouragement in hard times or just to brighten their day. Let your child know how much you value their letters by telling them that you keep their letters someplace special. Whether that’s on the refrigerator door or in a folder on your shelf.

8. Tell about something unique about your state, town, or country.
As much as you’d love to learn about where your sponsored child lives, your sponsored child is exited to learn about where you live. Talk about something bigger such as a monument that’s in your state, or something smaller like a lighthouse near your home. Either will be of great interest to your child.

9. Describe what you do at your job or what your family members do for work or school.
Children love to hear about what their sponsors do at their jobs. Or if you are in school, children love to hear about what you’re studying. Telling about your work or school will likely encourage your sponsored child to work hard at home and in their studies.

10. Encourage.
Many child sponsorship programs will let you set up an online account to see up-to-date photos and information about your sponsored child. You will be able to see what grade they’re in and how they’re doing in school. When you see they moved up a grade, hit a milestone or even for no particular occasion, send them a letter saying you’re proud of them and you wish them well. This type of letter often gives children a boost of confidence and motivates them to do their very best in school.

These are a few ideas about what to write about if you get stuck and don’t know what to say. Here are a few other things to consider when writing to your child.

Avoid writing about expensive possessions or vacations. Children in sponsorship programs often live on a total family income of about $2 (USD) per day. Mentioning expensive vacations or possessions in your letters could make children resent their circumstances and/or where they live. Also, take caution when sending photos. Children love receiving photos from their sponsors. However, avoid sending photos of your car or other expensive items in the background, such as a phone or computer. When sending photos, keep in mind that modesty standards often vary by country. Take care not to send photos with any revealing clothing.

Don’t worry too much about the length of your letter. Although children love receiving longer letters, even a simple card to remind them someone on the other side of the world thinks of them is greatly appreciated. Hearing their name called at the letter distribution is very exiting for sponsored children. Whether you send a long letter with photos and stories, or send a quick “thinking of you” note, your letters will brighten your sponsored child’s day.

Don’t mention sponsorship funds. Children are very thankful that you chose to sponsor them. However, mentioning anything about the sponsorship funds could make the child feel like a burden to you. Many younger children in these programs don’t even understand how sponsorship works financially. All they know is that now they can go to a new program that makes sure they have enough food, clean water and clothes. And they also get letters from someone on the other side of the world. Many children don’t learn how sponsorship works financially, until they’re a little bit older.

Take caution when sending religious material to countries that do not practice freedom of religion. ChildFund International is not a religious program. However, – while keeping any country regulations in mind – you may tell your sponsored child about your beliefs. Take care not to force your belief or opinion, but you may openly share your beliefs with your child. World Vision is a Christian organization. However, they work in several countries which are hostile to Christianity. Similar to ChildFund, you may openly share what you believe, but they ask that you do not put any pressure on the child to accept your beliefs. Compassion International is also a Christian organization. Because they serve children of all religions, they ask that you respect the beliefs of the child and their family. Again you may openly share what you believe. Compassion International is unapologetically Christian, and they do teach all children in their program Christian doctrine. Although they do not force any beliefs on children or their families. Regardless of what program you sponsor through, you can always pray for your child and support missionaries sharing the Gospel in their country.

Please do not send packages! ChildFund International and World Vision both allow you to send small flat gifts in a bubble envelope. However, they cannot send bigger packages due to shipping fees and likelihood of loss or theft. Through ChildFund, I’ve successfully sent balloons, thin notebooks, small coloring books and a flat etch-a-sketch. Three year old Meourn Makara decorated a paper boat with the stickers I sent him, and he sent it back to me with his letter. Compassion International does not allow anything that cannot be scanned as a document. They do ship stickers, bookmarks and sometimes postcards internationally. However, all letters will be scanned, digitally sent to your child’s country office, and there, printed and sent to your child. Through Compassion International, I’ve successfully sent paper dolls, bookmarks (without yarn or ribbon attached), postcards, and stickers.

Avoid slang or anything that would be hard to translate. Sadly for me this means no puns. I knew a mailman who wanted to be a stand-up comedian, but his delivery was terrible. Joking. I’m sorry. But where else am I supposed to tell my puns? I can’t put them in my letters!
I hope these tips were helpful to you. If you have any more ideas about writing to sponsored children, let me know using the contact form on the home page or email me at eleanaemmert@gmail.com.
I’d love to hear from you!

-Eleana