Before Compassion Philippines hired Tours and Visits Specialists, I used to handle Sponsor Tours. I did my best to take good care of the visiting sponsors. I talked about my country, Filipino children and how Compassion operates here.
I had three favorite lines that I shared with sponsors. The first two were, “You are our heroes,” and “Thanks for making Filipino children happy.”
I meant those words. I am truly amazed that people from miles away share their lives with children living in obscure, squalid squatter colonies in the Philippines.
Then, the third line, “Sponsorship is not about the money you give but about the lives and relationships you build.”
This was not just a clever thing to say. It’s a profound statement that I learned from the children themselves. I’ve seen that our children are more concerned about building their relationship with you than the help they get.
“I did not receive any reply letters from my first two sponsors. I felt sad. It’s as though I was writing to a fictitious person, an imaginary friend. So just think how happy I was when I received my first reply letter from my third and present sponsor.
“I can’t explain how excited I was that time. It’s not only me who gets excited whenever I receive a letter from my sponsor, my mom, too. And I am so happy because in every letter I received, stickers with verses in it were also enclosed.
“Other than reading their letters, I get to know them well, too, by looking at the pictures they send me. The feeling of being connected to a part of your family far from you makes you feel more loved.
“Communication is really a big thing in strengthening the bond that binds a sponsor and a child together.
“The best types of letters from sponsors are the ones that tell something about themselves and their lives. It would be better if the sponsors can tell a bit more about themselves. A brief summary of his/her life means a lot to the sponsored child.
“It can be as simple as writing what kind of place they live in, what kind of work they have, what they do in their free time and even their favorite stuff. It would be nice if children learn about their sponsors from other countries or other backgrounds and see how different, or surprisingly familiar, their lives, issues and dreams are.
“Acknowledging the achievements that the child has shared can also be of help in building a better relationship. In this way, the sponsor could learn more about the interests of the child and would give deeper support. Praises will always make one feel good.
“Although the children are thankful for the blessings they are receiving, it is inevitable for the sponsored children to be curious about how their sponsors can manage to sustain themselves, and at the same time lend their hands to those who are far away from their country. In this way, by sharing, the ‘stranger’ barrier between sponsor and sponsored child will slowly disappear, although the two have not yet met.
“And of course, inspirational and enlightening words coming from sponsors would definitely contribute greatly to the sponsored child. By sharing their relationship with Jesus Christ and sharing their prayer requests, sponsors develop themselves and their children spiritually. Words from a sponsor, despite the physical absence, can be a source of encouragement and inspiration for the sponsored child to be a better instrument for God.
“Indeed, response letters from our sponsors really bring a feeling of gladness to us.” — Rona
I went to CCWI-Frisco Student Center, and asked many sponsored kids this question: “How can your sponsor be a better sponsor?”
There were some children who hoped for more gifts, but I was not surprised that most of the children talked about your letters and knowing you more.
Here are some of their responses.
“I want my sponsor to write me always and occasionally send some greeting cards. I want to know about his family, what his home looks like, and what his country looks like. I also want to know how he met his wife and about their baby.” — Zarrah
“I love it that my sponsor never forgets to write me letters. I know he always thinks about me. I’d like it if he would send a picture of himself and his family. I want to know what they look like.” — Raffy
“What I really love about my sponsor is that she is very friendly and always writes about what is going on in her life. I would like my sponsor to write me more about her future plans, hobbies, and what she does during her free time. I hope she will never forget to write me and pray for me.” — Pauline
“I hope that my sponsor can come visit so I can personally ask him how he is doing. I want to talk to him in person. I will tell him many things about the Philippines.” — Michaelangelo
“I really, really hope my sponsors will come visit me. I will cook my special spaghetti for them, as well as chicken adobo.” — Anjanette
“It captures my interest a lot whenever he tells stories about his wife who is a Filipina. I’m excited to know when they could have a baby.” — Jhemaica
“What I like most about everything she writes is how she tells me to walk on God’s path. I also like it when she praises my talent, my personality and everything I do is a blessing to her. She writes mostly about her work in a camp and how she spends her time with her husband. One thing I’m curious about my sponsor is if she’s pregnant because she’s been married for almost two years now and I still haven’t read in her letters of them having a baby.” — Hallelujah
“I appreciate it whenever she writes her experiences in her country. She even tells me her stories about God that make me feel inspired. I just want to know how she would react if I flunked in one of my subjects at school. What is she going to tell me if ever that would happen? Sounds funny but I am so curious to know.” — Ryann
“‘I am truly blessed by God. That’s what my sponsor tells me whenever I receive her letters. My sponsor and I often talk about our latest activities. She even shares to me the activities of her children. I am very much eager to know why she chose to sponsor a Filipino child instead of children from other countries.” — Precious
“I can feel the love and care whenever I read the letter from my sponsor. I feel glad when she tells me that she is really proud of me. She gives me inspiration when she shares about how God has helped her to overcome her hardships. I want to know more about her family especially about her sibling who she mentioned once in her letter.” — Christine
“I like it when my sponsors tell me that I’ve become an amazing man now. And they are very encouraged because they said that I’ve grown up just like the person they thought I would become. They also serve as my inspiration especially every time I read in their letters the ways God has helped them in all their circumstances in life. They always tell me to pray to God, most especially in time of hardships because God is always ready to help. I want to know why they wanted to sponsor a child.” — Jake
“I feel motivated when my sponsor tells in her letter that she is proud of my achievements. I also feel happy when she says that I am beautiful. She often tells me stories about her grandchildren. She tells me how naughty they are. She loves her grandchildren so much. One thing I want to know is why she chose me to be her sponsored child.” — Jackielyn
“I am inspired by the letters my sponsor sends me. He often tells me stories of God’s greatness to Him. He also tells me about his family and the things he likes to do. I want to know the qualities of a sponsored child he looked for when he chose me to be his sponsored child.” — Precious
“My sponsor always sends me greetings and holiday cards. It feels like I am physically with them during special occasions when I actually am not. She really loves me and shows care for me in each of her letters. I am curious to know how it feels to live in their country. Is it like also here in the Philippines?” — Christopher
“My sponsor likes to write her life experiences even in her young age. I came to the extent that I become interested to learn how to swim because her sport is swimming and she often shares to me how she enjoys doing it. I am curious to know the kind of school she goes to. I even want to know if we have the same subjects at school.” — Kristine
“I enjoy reading my sponsor’s letters because I really feel that I am a part of their family. I want them to come visit me so that I can finally meet them and personally thank them up close and tell them how I am so grateful that they are my sponsors.” — Brenlyn
“I know my sponsors are always praying for me. They always pray for my health. I just recovered from tuberculosis. I just hope that they will write more often. I really love them.” — Maricor
“I really want to know something about my sponsor and how she is doing in life. I am thankful that I just know that she is there supporting me and my studies.” — Noemi
Remember my third-favorite statement: “Sponsorship is not about the money you give but about the lives and relationships you build.”
I asked a formerly sponsored child who can write well the same question, “How can your sponsor be a better sponsor?”
She is Rachel Valenzuela. She just graduated from the Child Sponsorship Program and is now a schoolteacher. This is what she answered.
According to Rick Warren, the best use of life is love. I personally witnessed how sponsors best used their lives by extending their love to the children, including me. However, being sponsors is not enough and it will never represent the totality of the sponsorship because there is still the need to express love through time.
When they accepted the responsibility as sponsors, it is a must to set a time for letter writing. It is through this [letter writing] that the sponsored children will be updated about them. It is through this effort that children will know that they are greatly appreciated in terms of stories, accomplishments and so on. Remember, children are some of the best story-tellers.
So, I challenge [the sponsors] to reply immediately after receiving their letters because such responses mean a lot to [the children]. I was once a kid so I knew the feeling of patiently waiting for replies.
I discourage [the sponsors] to discuss busyness in their letters because it may affect what the children would think. Talk about what the sponsored children wrote in their recent letters because this will motivate the children to share their wonderful experiences and it will assure them that their sponsors do read their letters.
Send recent pictures whether being asked or not because pictures do excite children to know more about their sponsors.
Improve penmanship because this may affect the feeling of the children upon receiving their letters.
Always send spiritual icons to the children because they view sponsors as God-given gifts. They put so much trust, respect, and admiration in their sponsors. Thus, they expect the sponsors to include amazing things on how God changes them every moment of their lives. Giving memory verses from the Bible will help children to understand what sponsors like to share with their spiritual involvements and convictions.
Simply put, sponsors will become better sponsors if they will take on extended responsibilities. Becoming better is a process; it will never be instant. This is not to belittle sponsors but to simply allow them to know any possible gaps they have had in the past, and inform them about the important points to consider in expressing their love to their chosen children.