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How do Cross Cultural Differences Affect Letter Writing?

cross-cultural-differences Writing letters is something I’m not accustomed to doing. In fact, it is not usual in Nicaragua. At school we study how to write letters but we never practice it.

So when some of my friends leave the country, it’s hard for them to send me letters and it takes me a while to write back when I do receive one.

If that is my experience, I can’t imagine how difficult it is for our development center staff, tutors and children to get in the habit of writing letters to the children’s sponsors three times a year, and to make sure they answer according to the last letter received.

Flor, a Compassion sponsor donor services supervisor, explains,

“Nicaraguans are not used to receiving letters and we don’t send any, either. Especially children who live in areas where they only go to elementary school, or their parents didn’t go to school.

They don’t know the importance of written communication, and in many cases, not even of verbal communication.”

As the number of registered children has increased, so has the concern over the content of child letters.

“As an office, we train child development center staff and have a follow-up card where translators take note of the sponsor’s questions in the letter. This card is attached to the letter so the development center staff can have control of the questions and answer them in the appropriate time.”

Translators and development center staff are periodically evaluated to check the quality of translation and letter content from children. These practices help improve the quality of the letters.

Débora is a secretary at one child development center and has already helped improve letter writing by passing on the training she received about reviewing the letters that had been received from sponsors. Débora shares,

“Our evaluations were low in sponsors’ questions being answered and in prayer requests, but I passed on the training to the teachers and our evaluations are now 19.9 out of 20.”

Juan, a secretary at another child development center, also shared,

“Once a month I remind tutors about the steps of writing letters. Tutors are also reminded to write the letter in the child’s notebook first, then in the letter format. This process is to help reduce mistakes in the letter.”

Another reason why children don’t always answer questions from your letters may be that the development center staff is new. This is not frequent, but it takes time for a new center worker to learn the process and to make a habit of writing with the children.

In cases like this, development center secretaries play an important role in training their new staff.

And sometimes, but not often, your question may not be culturally appropriate, such as a question about politics. Or your question may not be understood by a child or development center worker. Flor explains,

“Please understand that our culture is different from yours. Don’t get discouraged. Keep writing letters, sending your support, praying for your child and sending questions. You can ask your child to please answer your questions.

Let children know that their answers are very important for you and for your relationship with them.”

Thank you for your understanding and patience. We are all in the process of learning to write letters and to improve our communication.