letter writing ideas Ideas for writing your sponsored child are a very popular topic on this blog, OurCompassion, on Facebook … pretty much everywhere. In the contact center, we hear lots of questions about what you should and should not write.

letter writing ideas

While this list is not comprehensive, I hope it’s a helpful guide for you.

Topics to write about:

  • Your Family
    Share everything you are comfortable sharing that is age appropriate for your sponsored child.

    Talk about your children, parents, cousins, etc. Tell stories about family members and friends, and tell your sponsored child why you’re thankful for them.

  • Your Pets
    I know that my dogs are like family to my husband and me. Share pictures of your pets, things they like to do (go to the park or play fetch) and your favorite memories of having them as part of your household.

    Tell your sponsored child funny stories (remember that time Fido ate the Thanksgiving turkey right off the table when the family wasn’t looking?!).

  • Your Community, State, and Country
    Share educational and fun information about where you live. Be descriptive and send photos if you have some.
  • Your Favorite Things
    Have a favorite memory of growing up or a favorite Bible verse? Share it with your sponsored child and let him or her know why it means so much to you.
  • Encouragement
    It may seem like you aren’t doing much, but you are! Your words of encouragement provide hope and fill your sponsored child with love.

    Don’t you remember that person who spoke into your life when you most needed it? That’s YOU to your sponsored child! Don’t take the honor lightly.

  • Holidays and Traditions
    Tell your sponsored child how you celebrate Christmas or why Easter is such a big deal to your family. Share Fourth of July memories and write about the history of the holiday.

    Just as you are interested to know about your child and family, they are delighted to hear details from you!

  • School and Work
    As you want to know what your sponsored child is learning at school, your child wants to know what you are learning at school or what your job is like. You might even find out you share a common interest.
  • Ask Questions
    No, your questions might not always be answered (do you answer EVERY question you get in an email?) but they will show your sponsored child that you truly want to know him or her.
  • Share Your Pictures
    Your sponsored child LOVES pictures. Be wise in the ones you choose, but send them often. My sponsored children can’t seem to get enough!

Topics to Avoid:

First, let me state that this is not meant in any way to make you feel guilty. You are already doing an incredible thing by sponsoring a child. This information is just to help you be wise in how you communicate with your precious sponsored child.

If you’re feeling the pangs of guilt, stop and read this first: Not Guilty: Using Your Blessings for Good.

  • Money
    Don’t talk to your sponsored child about money. You and your sponsored child come from very different places. This topic won’t bring children joy, but it could promote jealousy and, possibly, anger.
  • Food
    Have you ever thought about what your sponsored child eats? He or she definitely will not eat the same things you do. You can find out by logging in to your account on our website.

    Want to try your child’s diet for a while? Check this out: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor.

  • Your Home or Other Belongings
    Go ahead and talk all you want about memories that were made in your home; just avoid the actual thing.

    Don’t talk about the size of your home or that you have a car (or multiple). Be cautious not to be callous when talking about things you own.

  • Inappropriate Pictures
    Avoid sharing pictures that may not be appropriate, and remember that your sponsored child lives in a completely different country and culture. While that family picture at the water park may be the “best one you’ve taken in years,” the bathing suits may be quite a shock to your sponsored child. Also, try not to send pictures of your home or belongings.

    I’ve been asked if a picture of a theme park would be okay to send; I think that’s fine. Bottom line, use your best judgment and if you’re not sure, it’s best to call and ask us or don’t send it at all.

Finally, I’ve compiled some resources for you. Feel free to share your own ideas and resources for letter writing topics in the comments!

Resources:

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  1. Dec 6, 2011
    at 8:12 am

    Shaina, I am honored that you shared my blog! Thank you!

    Encouraging sponsors to write is a passion that God has placed in my heart. Whenever I hear from a sponsor who has decided to make letter writing a priority, it makes my heart soar and I am overjoyed for the child who will benefit from the increase in letters!

    I’ve also received a TON of ideas from the wonderful group of sponsors that are a part of the OurCompassion site. I highly suggest that sponsors join and check in on the “Journals” section of the site at least once a week.

    This is one of my most popular posts on letter writing ideas: http://www.bloggingfromtheboonies.com/2011/05/101-letter-writing-topics.html I hope that it is helpful!

    • Dec 7, 2011
      at 1:47 pm

      Michelle, I just have to thank you. Because when I tweeted some time ago about help with writing to my child, you sent me that very link and I’ve drawn from it several times. You are a real blessing, thank you!

  2. Dec 6, 2011
    at 9:00 am

    Recently, my friend Kees Boer shared something he was doing: Asking his sponsored children to write out their testimony–what their life was like before they received Jesus, how and when they came to do that, and how their life has changed, since then. He is also asking them to memorize the book of Philippians.

    So I have started that, as well. I’m not sure I’ll ask my 6-year-old Marisol to memorize a whole book of scripture, but with each letter, I can ask her to memorize two or three verses, and just happen to use consecutive verses within a chapter, all within a book.

    I have also begun my own memorization program, which I’ve wanted for several years to do. I memorized a lot of scripture verses as a child and through high school, but then I stopped, and I wish I hadn’t. So…I am presently working on Hebrews 11; I not only love that chapter, but it is the basis for the “Therefore” at the beginning of Chapter 12, which I will also work on when I finish Chapter 11. I’m not doing as well with it as I had hoped, but I’m not giving up. I want more of God’s word in me, and I want my girls to internalize it, as well.

    • Dec 6, 2011
      at 12:45 pm

      Thank you Vicki. Yes, I’m planning on when the child has written out their testimony and they send it to me, asking them to share it with 5 people, before they write their letter back. I really would like for them to be active in sharing the Gospel. Now, one of my girls actually went up to a bunch of gang members and shared the Gospel with them. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think when I read that, but I was mostly encouraged. Parts of me really wants to protect the children, but then at the same time, when I was in High School, I used to smuggle Bibles onto Soviet ships. That made a big impression on me.

      The children that wanted to be rabbis in the time of Jesus, in order to do that, they had to have the whole Pentateuch, or first 5 Books of the Bible memorized by the age of 8. Then by the age of 14, they would have to have the entire Old Testament memorized. Then they would spend a number of years following that, discussing the Scriptures, by asking a lot of questions. (Jewish reasoning was when a question was asked, to answer that with another question. Jesus did that too)

      Anyways, I think the younger children can do a lot of things much easier than adults can do. I’m always amazed at when I’m in Bolivia, that there are these 5 year old children that speak both Aymaran and Spanish, which are totally unrelated languages. There is something in very little children that allows them to learn certain skill sets very fast.

      • Dec 7, 2011
        at 9:49 am

        Yes, Kees, I think you’re right that young children can do more than we often then they can. But I notice that even my older girls share only one memory verse with me, if they share any. They never share two or three consecutive verses. So I guess the projects are not stretching the children, in that regard. They may know something I don’t.

        But, maybe even with the older ones, if they have never been asked to memorize more than one verse at a time, I’ll just ask them to learn two or three verses–whatever a “paragraph” would be in the book–at a time, and just make them consecutive with those that came before, and with those that will come next.

  3. Debbie
    Dec 6, 2011
    at 10:04 am

    A few things my kids have really liked to hear about is snow, sports (even I can come up with pictures of our sports teams here), zoo, which can be broken into several letters, USA monuments (I got pictures of some at a learning store with descriptions). I misagree though about discussing food. I think just about every one of mine has wanted to discuss food. We don’t have to say how much we have, but they do want to know what our favorites are. Yes, they want to know what we do on holidays, and be sure to ask them about the holidays in their countries. One of mine even wanted to discuss gas prices, as his parents can’t afford gas to get back home often from their work site.
    Also, when it comes to letter writing, it is important to have a schedule of when to write, otherwise, like everything else, we forget. Michelle is right, if anyone is needing help, they need to visit http://www.ourcompassion.org and there will be enough to keep them busy for a lifetime.

    • Danielle
      Dec 6, 2011
      at 6:13 pm

      Food was the only one I kind of disagree with too. I do thing it’s important to not talk about it in every letter or in excessive length, but they do often ask about favorite foods or want to know about a certain holiday.

  4. Dec 6, 2011
    at 12:08 pm

    These are some great ideas and resources! I have been hosting a Sponsor Letter Writing Night at our home for the past few months. Last week we made paper snowflakes from coffee filters. They look great and I can’t wait to mail them to our kids.

    And I didn’t know Compassion was on Pinterest! I have a PInterest board of Compassion stuff. I look forward to seeing what is shared on the Compassion Pinterest boards!

  5. Dec 6, 2011
    at 12:52 pm

    Shaina, you always write some incredible posts….

    I remember when I was helping out with the letters in the country office in Bolivia. I had to check the letters for things that should or should not be included. One of the main things that they sometimes would remove were things relating to Halloween. Also, I remember finding one letter and the sponsor had closely hidden a little sticker with a return address. (That’s probably not what you want to do. LOL). I’m laughing, because I saw a letter not to long ago and the mother had written her cell phonenumber on the back of the letter in very light pencil. I’ve never seen that, but direct contact information is not a good thing to share. What most people don’t realize is how big of a cultural differences there can be. I remember speaking in a church in Bolivia and afterwards, a pastor got up and he said: “It’s good to have a big fat man talk to us.” It cracked me up, because you’d never hear that in the USA!!! (And by the way, I’m not FAT!!!!, maybe slightly overweight) jajajajajajaja

    • Shaina
      Dec 9, 2011
      at 7:02 am

      Thanks Kees! I appreciate your encouragement. :)

  6. Sarah
    Dec 6, 2011
    at 6:52 pm

    I also disagree about the food. My sponsored kids are always so eager to tell me what a wonderful cook their moms are and how delicious their national foods are. I’ve had them send me recipes and they’re thrilled when I make up the recipes they’ve sent.

  7. Dec 6, 2011
    at 10:16 pm

    I also disagree about the food. My sponsored kids are always so eager to tell me what a wonderful cook their moms are and how delicious their national foods are. I’ve had them send me recipes and they’re thrilled when I make up the recipes they’ve sent.

    Hi, Sarah, I think it makes a bit of difference which country the child lives in. Also, there can be a bit of a range among the level of poverty that there is in the projects. Some children are very, very poor, but others are better off. They are all poor. If they become financially better off, then they will sort of graduate from the program early. (I don’t know if you can really call that graduation, but they will depart, but it’s not like getting ‘kicked out.’ Maybe Shaina has a good term for that…

    I never forget a conversation I had with Lois from Uganda. She was a former Compassion child and then an LDP student. Now, she is a student at Moody and like me, she is a bit of a night owl…. So, one night at around 3:00 o’clock we were talking and she was telling me that she was so amazed that she heard an American thank the Lord that he had never had a day where they didn’t have food. She looked up and couldn’t believe it. She was as astonished as you and I would be if we heard someone thank the Lord that they had never had the common cold or been tired or had to yawn…. One of the older teenagers of CDI BO523 helped me buy some things at a local market so I took him to dinner afterward and we talked quite a bit. I asked him for his testimony and he was telling me how as a child, the family was so dirt poor. Many times they didn’t have food to eat. He was very emotional about it. He cried a bit. It had really made a big impact on his life.

  8. Dec 7, 2011
    at 9:09 am

    I like the list, it gives me lots of ideas. However, like some people have been saying, I think some discussion of food is a good idea.

    I have sent letters to my kids describing how my family always makes a traditional cookie at christmas time. I took photos of the process and then printed them on a page with descriptions. I asked my kids if they had any traditional/celebration foods that they ate with their family.

    My kids and I have also exchanged our “Favorites” and we both talked about food. I would not suggest going into depth about every kind of food on your Thanksgiving table for example, but sharing the fact that your family shared a meal together, or describing one of your favorite dishes would be a good way to connect with your child.

  9. Linda T.
    Dec 7, 2011
    at 9:23 pm

    When I was in Ecuador on a sponsor tour, Nayelli was describing how her mother bakes a cake. When asked, what happens then…. does her mother sell the cake? Nayelli said, “NO! We EAT it!” :-)

    She and her Dad & project director were able to stay and eat with our group at the hotel. It was a VERY elaborate meal…. many fancy courses, lots of place settings, glasses, and silverware. As I looked around, I was embarrassed at the excess. I have thought that maybe I will write about what a NORMAL meal is like at my home….. chicken & rice, a vegetable, or a sandwich and an apple. Perhaps even take a picture of a simple place setting. Just so she knows I do NOT eat like that all the time!

    Any suggestions?

    • Dec 8, 2011
      at 6:40 am

      Linda, I think that’s a good idea! I wish I had thought of it, after my last trip. We were staying at a very nice resort hotel, where we also met with our children on child-visit day.

      All meals were served buffet style, but the settings were very nice, thought not elaborate (as I remember) and there was a lot of food. The children and their adult escorts–project staff, parents, etc.–ate with us. I don’t know what our girls thought about it all.

      I did notice one thing that seemed oddly familiar: As we went through the buffet line, I noticed that the girls, after brief conversation between them, were ignoring the vegetables. I, flipping into a parental role, insisted that they take some onto their plates. Back at the table, I again noticed they were eating everything except their vegetables; I laughed as I said that, yes, they did need to eat them. I was thinking about how I, as a child and like so many children, used to balk at eating my vegetables.

      That, too, probably varies a lot, from one project/community to another. I remember Tony Beltran’s story of sitting around the family table, listening to his father offer a prayer of thanks for what they were about to eat–when, in fact, they had not one bit of food on the table. A neighor brought over some plaintains, which served as the family’s meal. I suspect Tony might have welcomed a few vegetables.

  10. Ellen
    Dec 9, 2011
    at 8:51 am

    In letters I sent around Thanksgiving this year, I talked about how “we eat a special meal” and then described how to make applesauce. Then, inspired, I actually made applesauce myself. Yum.

  11. Mary
    Dec 13, 2011
    at 9:14 pm

    It is not good to talk about food, but can you mention food Allergies, such as Gluten-intolerance? I am a new sponsor and am trying to describe myself to the child. Any advice?

    • Debbie
      Dec 14, 2011
      at 6:27 am

      Mary, as you can see above, as long as you aren’t saying that you have tons of food, etc., all our kids love to talk about food. I would just say as far as the allergies that you can’t eat certain foods. If you have an older English speaking kid, then then they would probably understand Glueten-intolerance, but otherwise, if it’s a different language, it is probably going to really get translated wrong.

    • Dec 14, 2011
      at 11:14 am

      Mary, I am only one voice, but I would not mention anything as specific as gluten-intolerance. Your child would probably have no way to relate to this, probably will never have heard of gluten, and might be frightened or very worried that you have a horrible disease. If you think it’s necessary to mention anything about it, you might say that you are allergic to certain kinds of food, but I don’t recommend even that.

      Remember that your sponsored child does well to get one meal a day, and probably does not always get that. I don’t see any reason to raise the issue of food allergies; if it becomes pertinent to the child’s life, she or he will receive appropriate medical care.

  12. Liz
    Dec 14, 2011
    at 7:43 pm

    Thank you for this post. It was great to hear people’s ideas of what to send to their kids–I love the paper snowflakes idea, and also the idea of asking kids to share what Jesus means to them.

    Regarding mentioning food: I agree with the poster who said it varies how poor the children are from project to project. While they all live in what can only be described as extreme poverty, some kids have far less than others.

    We sponsor two children. Our little girl in Peru (12) seems to have more than our little boy in India. Our girl has often talked about eating birthday cake (and asked what our favorite treats are for birthdays, holidays, etc).

    Our boy is only 5, so his letter writing is not as detailed, but when we sent a family gift, we were told the family used it to buy a cot for him to sleep on. It was the first time he ever had anything to sleep on. I, of course, burst into tears to learn this. Also, his teacher mentioned that the cot would help keep him warm, as it is very cold in the winters where he is. When we have set family gifts to our girl, the purchases are usually clothing items or something a little less basic than a cot. Also, in the family photos, I can tell that our girl’s family has nicer clothing (by no means fancy, but adequate).

    I will probably not talk about eating things like meat or fancy foods to our boy unless he brings it up, as I can tell that he may have a very limited diet. The point is you don’t want to emphasize material differences. In the case of our little girl, there are actually some similarities in what we eat and do. With our little boy, I am still learning what, if any, our similarities might be.

    One thing I always do is try to tell the kids how proud we are of them and how we pray for them. One day in a letter, our little boy’s teacher told us that he came in second place in a “frog race” at his center. I was so proud of him that I posted it on my Facebook page. Of course I didn’t tell him that (he would have NO idea what I was talking about), but in the next letter I was careful to mention that we are very proud of him and that we heard how he did so well in the frog race. Kids are kids all around the world, and every kid likes to do well at something and know that somewhere, someone is rooting for them.

  13. Liz
    Dec 14, 2011
    at 7:49 pm

    Oh! I got so carried away on my last post I forgot that I had a question.

    Our sweet 12-year-old girl has often asked if my husband and I have a baby “yet.” I sponsored her prior to our marriage, and so when I married my husband, I sent her a letter telling her how excited he was to be her sponsor, etc. I will never forget the next letter I received…she had drawn a picture of me in a wedding gown. It melted my heart!

    Anyway, I am sure in her culture is is rare for people not to have a baby for 5 years of marriage (unless there is a fertility issue), and I have often wondered if she is thinking we cannot have children. And I certainly am not going to give her an explanation of birth control, ha ha!

    So, now that we are expecting our first baby, I am wondering, should I tell her now, before the baby is born, or after? Also, we know we are expecting a boy…would it completely confuse her to learn that we already know the gender? I doubt she is familiar with the type of prenatal care we receive in the US.
    Thanks!

    • Dec 15, 2011
      at 7:03 am

      Liz, I don’t see any reason to avoid telling you sponsored girl that you are having a baby. My new 13 year old boy from Brazil wrote in his first real (non-form letter introduction) that his mom was 7 months pregnant with a baby girl they are naming Brena. I don’t know if the place has a child survival program and that is how the mom knows she is having a girl or if there was a mistranslation and if the baby is a girl they will name her Brena. I shall find out in the next letter I get as the baby should have been born last month. This child also was quite open as he shared that his mom left his dad because he had a drug addition and she now was married to another man. He added that his father was now ‘in God’s ways’, as doing well thanks to God, and had a new woman also. It was quite eye opening to think of a young child being exposed to a drug addicted father that his mom had to leave his dad. I know it happens often with many children in poverty (and many kids in developed countries that aren’t in poverty)), but it was sobering nonetheless.

  14. Julie
    Sep 12, 2012
    at 3:33 pm

    My 12 year old child lives in India and told me she “belongs to a Hindu family. But I love Jesus very much.”

    Should I ignore the “Hindu” part and just focus on the “Jesus” part? I was really surprised to read that. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing more than a religious belief?

    • Pren
      Sep 13, 2012
      at 1:37 am

      Hi Julie

      I come from a hindu family and I was saved when I was about 13yrs old.
      You are right about the the cultural thing as most hindu’s believe “all Gods are one God”.
      So your sponsor child may believe Jesus exists but she may not believe in Him as her God.
      It’s very similar to my dad – he believes in Jesus as Lord but he still believes in hinduism.
      Can I say just keep encouraging her – don’t deride her being a hindu, teach her about Jesus because there is a greater reason the Lord placed her in the Compassion project and in your care – the very same way he placed all those christians in my path all those years ago:)

  15. Sep 13, 2012
    at 9:00 am

    Pren, I like your reply to Julie. Nothing like hearing it from someone who has truly been there.

    I have a refreshed reply to this post. Two events have converged: First, I have written–and now posted–this week’s Compassion Blogger assignment on my blog. My “Letter to God’ focuses on the importance of our letters to our sponsored children. I know–not a new topic.

    But the other event is that we are now hosting a former sponsored child, for the next week. We just met him at the airport, yesterday. Over dinner, he began talking about the response in a child on learning, “You have a sponsor!” He said the attachment is immediate, and the child begins waiting for that first letter.

    I won’t tell the rest of his story (Jacquie might want to ask him to write a post for this blog! hint, hint!). But because I was in the process of writing my own post, I asked him to read my final draft, before posting it. Apparently, I got it right.

    SO…my response now is this: It almost doesn’t matter what you write to your child; just write. Yes, we do need to stay within the confines and the protocols established by Compassion, and yes, we can learn to be better writers of letters to our kids, so that we encourage them in their development in all areas, share scripture verses with them, etc. But the main thing is to write to them.

    Just write to them.

  16. Julie
    Sep 13, 2012
    at 9:38 am

    Thank you Pren. Your insight is exactly what I need. I would never deride her for anything. I want to keep communication open between us and I know anything negative could close her heart to me.
    I want to be “Jesus with a pen” for her! I am just thrilled she can write in English. It makes things easier. I look forward to building a relationship with her over the years.
    Thanks again Pren.

  17. Carolyn
    Nov 28, 2012
    at 8:51 pm

    I have a question that I haven’t seen addressed on any of the blogs – I recently sponsored a second child and I want to know how much to tell each child about the other and is it okay to share their pictures?

  18. Nov 29, 2012
    at 9:45 am

    Julie, I don’t know where to find it, but this subject has come up, maybe in comments on another blog post. Naturally, opinions were divided.

    I told my first two girls about each other; when I added my third, I told them that, and one of them (being in the same country) met her on two subsequent child-visit days. I have been much more vague, since then, mentioning only, for example, loving “all of our sponsored children,” if I mention others at all. If I were just starting out, having gained the insights I have gained, I would probably not say anything to any of them about any others, unless I knew they would be meeting. Not even if they are in the same project; what if I were closer to one than to the other? If one of them were to mention knowing that she shared her sponsor with another child, then the subject would be open.

    My first thought about sending each other’s photo was negative, although I’ve never seen this one addressed. I would not do that without checking with Compassion, first. Remember to guard your children’s privacy; would they want you sharing? Is there any chance they will ever meet?

    I’m sure other sponsors and perhaps staff will chime in on this, and I will defer to them. Staff, in particular, will be more likely to have a good answer as to Compassion’s views on these things.

  19. Jess
    May 6, 2013
    at 11:52 am

    I sponsor through his hands for haiti (such an amazing non profit/all volunteer organization!). I have sent many packages to my child but i am in the works of writing my first letter for her and this helped me out a lot! Thanks!

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