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The Journey of One Letter

Have you ever wondered how your sponsored child’s letter gets to you? The long journey it takes from Tanzania or Thailand to Connecticut or California? There’s a lot more to it than you might think!

Samuel Llanes, Guatemala’s Field Communication Specialist, gives us a peek at the journey of one letter from Guatemala to a sponsor in Australia. (Did you know that Compassion International has sponsors all over the world from Australia to France to South Korea?)

letter-pamela [3]Pamela, a little girl sponsored by a married couple in Australia, says, “I love writing letters to them! When I write my letter, I wish I was right there with my sponsors.”

She has received two letters in the two years she has been sponsored, and she keeps them safely at home. She knows who they are and what they do, and she prays for them before bedtime each night.

When Pamela receives a letter, it has gone through a long journey. First the letter is sent from Australia to the Compassion International field office in Guatemala. Each country Compassion works in has its own field office. The letter must then be translated into Spanish for Pamela to understand.

“Translating is such a blessing to me,” says Julia Zepeda, a pastor’s wife and translator who has been working for Compassion International Guatemala for eight years. “I have taken this as a ministry that helps children, and I know is worth it.”

The translators are given one week to complete all the translations once they’re given a group of letters. The average number of letters that must be translated a week in Guatemala is usually around 180 to 200! After translating, the letters are brought to the student centers where they are distributed to the children. Receiving a letter is a special moment for children — they know that someone out there cares about them and is praying about them.

Letter Day
“Letter day” happens every four months. Pamela, along with all the other children at her Guatemala City student center, writes a letter every four months, though her sponsors may not write her that often.

When Pamela writes her letters, she uses a notebook to write a first draft. She does not want to miss anything that her sponsors asked her in their letter. Pamela’s tutor reads her sponsors’ letter to her, and as it is read, Pamela answers all the questions they asked. If they have sent something special, like stickers, she makes sure to thank them. Then once she has decided what her letter will say, she writes out her final draft.
letter-writing-day-pinata [3]

Letter Day is an exciting day. The student center celebrates all the children for their efforts in writing letters on Letter Day. They give prizes to celebrate every child — and sometimes they even have a clown and piñatas!

Once Pamela’s letter is written, she gets to take her letter from her sponsors home, which she gets very excited for.

On Its Way
Once Pamela’s letter and all the other letters are written, they are brought to the Guatemala field office and translated into English. The packages of translated letters are then labeled and sent to be processed at Compassion International’s Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The children’s letters are sent from Guatemala to Colorado once a week.

Each week, child letters arrive in large boxes in Colorado Springs from all over the world to be tracked and sent on their way.

First, the letters are sorted by where the sponsors are from. All the letters going to U.S. sponsors are grouped together, all the letters going to the United Kingdom are grouped together, and so on.
letter-sorting [3]
Each letter is then scanned into a database, using the barcode at the top of each child’s letter, so Compassion can track all of the letters that are sent.

Once all the letters have been recorded in the database, they are bound together according to the letter’s destination country, and shipped out every Tuesday.

So the letters that our sponsored children write to us have been through a long process, passing from one hand to another until they arrive in your mailbox in that envelope saying, “A Message From Your Sponsored Child.”