- Compassion International Blog - http://blog.compassion.com -

Inside the Letter-Writing Process: Ghana

Letters from sponsors come in to the Ghana office through the Global Ministry Center (GMC) in Colorado Springs. They come in mainly by DHL, but a few letters also come in through e-mail [3].

When these letters are received they are sorted out and entered into the computer system to track that they were received. They are then distributed into pigeon hole mailboxes created for every church partner at the country office.

The next step is for the child development workers from the child development centers to come to the country office to collect the letters, get them to the children, make sure that the letters are replied to and then bring the replies to the country office in good time to be sent to the sponsors.

Compassion Ghana started its Child Sponsorship Program [4] barely three years ago. The majority of the children who were registered into the program were not in school. They only got the opportunity to go to school once they were enrolled into Compassion.

As such, even though some of our children are 12 years old, you find them yet in kindergarten or in the first grade. The best children in these grades can say the alphabet and read two- or three-letter words.

So in Ghana, just a few of our children are able to read and write their own letters. It is therefore the responsibility of the child development workers at the centers, and when possible, some volunteers who help at the centers, to read letters to the children and reply to these letters.

Nana Kojo Sekyi-Arthur is the social worker at the Mount Zion Methodist Church Child Development Center. He has been with the center since it started almost three years ago. Nana Kogo, just like all the other child development workers, visits the country office once every week, if there is no emergency.

nana-kogo-letter-writing-ghanaEach time he visits, he checks the center’s pigeon hole for any mail or other materials placed there by the office. If there happens to be any correspondence from sponsors to children, Nana Kojo collects them and brings them back to his office. As soon as he gets there, he makes photo copies of all the letters. The original is given to the child to take home, and the copied one is kept on file for reference purposes.

In the community where Nana Kojo works, the people are mostly fisher folks with very little or no formal education at all. They are unable to assist their children with responding to sponsor letters.

For unscheduled letters, which are not too many, when Nana Kojo collects the letters from the country office he makes sure to read all of them before meeting the children again.

The next time the children come to the center the letters are distributed. The older children who can read and write are encouraged to read their own letters and try to write replies to them. There are a number of volunteers who help.

Georgina and Enoch are volunteers who give a lot of assistance with the letters. They correct the older children’s letters. They also read through to see if the sponsor has asked any questions and whether they have been answered. If everything is done well, Nana Kojo copies all the letters into an exercise book.

Every child has an exercise book specially set aside for letters. Each letter the child writes to his sponsor is copied into these exercise books. When writing the next letter, the previous ones are read letter-writing-ghanaagain so as not to keep repeating the same things over and over again. The children then copy their letters onto the appropriate sheets designed for letter writing by the country office.

The next letters to be written belong to the children who cannot read or write. For this group, Nana Kojo likes to work on the letters personally. He reads the letter to the child. If there is some information the sponsor asks that Nana Kojo cannot provide and the child cannot help with, Nana Kojo goes to the child’s house or invites the parents to the office to help in providing the information needed to complete the letter.

Sometimes some of the letters do not include any special questions from the sponsor. To reply to such letters, Nana Kogo has to keep a close observation on the child so as to discover interesting things to write about. He also usually sits with the children as he writes the letters on their behalf. He involves letter-writing-ghana-drawingthe children by telling them what the sponsor has said and urges them to also say what they want to tell the sponsor. Children are encouraged to draw pictures, which are attached to the letters. They draw things such as the country flag, trees, houses, cars and much more. In some cases Nana Kojo cuts out pictures for them to trace and color.

Scheduled letters form a greater part of the letters the children write to their sponsors. These include holiday letters, Christmas greetings, Christmas thank you letters, and Easter holiday letters.

With these letters Nana Kojo solicits the help of some of the volunteers and some of the older children. They share the number of children among them and involve the children by working with one child at a time. The children are encouraged to say something of their own accord to the sponsor.

Scheduled letters are the most challenging letters for the child development worker to deal with. Most times these letters are delayed in getting to the field office. Nana Kojo explains:

“Imagine what it is like when you have a deadline to submit about 190 letters to the country office and for some reason you cannot find some children; you are then faced with the problem of going to their homes to look for them.”

When all is done, the children’s letters are brought to the country office. Nana Kojo says that since he was given the responsibility of the children’s letters, he has become an earnest participant of every activity which goes on around him.

“Things that did not matter to me before have become worthy of note to me. I pay ardent attention to cultural practices now because I realized that the sponsors talk a lot about the exclusive things in their country and want to know some unique things about Ghana from their sponsored children.

They also like to know the current news in the country. The only way I will be able to communicate effectively is to keep abreast with what the media is saying. So I listen to the news a lot now, something I did not used to do at all.

I can gladly say that reading and writing the children’s letters has given me a lot of enlightenment. I have learned so much from other countries, and my eyes have been opened to things in my own country. My close association with the children has made me to know and understand them better and I love them afresh every new day. I bless God for an opportunity like this.”

Back at the country office these letters are checked for quality assurance: correct sponsors’ names and numbers; correct children’s names and numbers. Letters are also checked to find out if the children contributed to the writing of the letters, by looking out for drawings, especially from children who do not write their own letters.

It is also at the country office where these letters are sorted and grouped into countries of destination. The next step is to scan and save the letters for the children’s records.

After all is done, they are gathered together by sponsor country and sent by DHL to the GMC where they are tracked and distributed to the sponsor’s countries [5].