first letter The relationship between a child and his or her sponsor is a special part of our sponsorship program. As soon as a child in Guatemala is chosen to be sponsored, the notification process begins.

The Global Partner country where the sponsor is from, such as Canada or France or Australia, sends information about the sponsor to our Global Ministry Center in Colorado. There, all the new sponsorships are posted in the Correspondence Tracking Application (CTA), an application that keeps track of all the letters going back and forth around the world.

Once the information is in the CTA, Ericka Samayoa, a Sponsor and Donor Services Associate in Guatemala’s country office, is in charge of the weekly updates of the new sponsors posted for Guatemalan children. She creates a list of which child development centers have new sponsorship assignments.

An associate then e-mails the centers where children have received sponsors. Most of the centers have Internet access, but those who don’t are contacted by telephone. The associate tells the correspondence coordinator at the center the news, and all the information about the sponsor.

Alexandra, left, and Vanesa

The correspondence coordinator is the one in charge of delivering the good news to the child.

Sofia is the correspondence coordinator for Niños del Carpintero Student Center. When she gets a notification of a new sponsorship, she prints out the child and sponsor information. Sofia likes to prepare all paperwork she will need at the moment she tells the child about his or her new sponsor.

Today, she gets to notify two girls that they have sponsors. Before she calls them to her office, she prints the information and gets two different letter formats for the girls to write their first letter to their sponsors.

Once everything is ready, Sofia goes to the child’s classroom and asks the teacher permission to excuse the child for a moment.

Alexandra, who is frequently called Ann, and Vanesa get to go to her office today. Sofia proceeds to tell 5-year-old Vanesa more information about her sponsor, Juliette, from France. Vanesa repeats her sponsor’s name a couple of times so she can learn it. She even pronounces it in Spanish “Julieta” (hoo-lee-ET-uh).

Sofia tells Alexandra, a 16-year old, that her sponsor, Leonhard, lives in Australia. Alexandra has been sponsored twice before.

Before the girls can begin writing their letters, Sofia writes their sponsors’ names to ensure they are spelled correctly along with their codes. There are two different letter formats. One of them is for younger children who cannot yet read or write and the other for older children who read and write by themselves.

You can also view this Sponsorship Notification video on YouTube.

Alexandra gets to write her letter by herself. She shares about her family, best friend, and some of her favorite things like food, drink, Bible story, songs, games. There is also a designated area where she is able to write a personal message for her sponsor.

Vanesa, on the other hand, needs the help of Sofia to write her letter. Sofia sits beside Vanesa to transcribe her answers on the letter. Vanesa shares about her family, things she likes, and prayer requests. There is a section where she is able to draw and color a picture for her sponsor.

Vanesa also gets to stamp her fingerprint on her letter. Sofia takes a picture of Vanesa to include in the letter. If the child is very young, the correspondence coordinator asks the mother or caregiver to join in the process. She provides the information needed to fill the letter out.

“The letter format for younger kids is more interactive: they even draw their eyes and color them according to their eyes color. It is more kid friendly,” says Sofia while she waits for Vanesa to color the picture of her eyes.

When the letters are ready, Sofia includes a cover page with the number and types of letters included in the package. This package is then sent to the Guatemala country office. This process needs to happen within eight days of telling the children about their sponsors.

Once the letters reach the office, the Sponsors Donor Service Associate prints a bar code for each letter and scans it into the Correspondence Tracking Application.

The letters are reviewed to ensure quality and names and numbers are verified. The letter is also checked to verify the participation of the child.

After its review, it is sent for translation. After two weeks the translated letters are sent to the Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs, where they are then mailed to the Global Partner countries.

The first letters are a cornerstone to building the new relationship between sponsor and sponsored child. These letters make the sponsorship commitment more personal, and now Vanesa and Alexandra will be waiting to hear back from their sponsors.

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33 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Jan 17, 2011
    at 5:05 am

    Something is wrong with the settings of the video. It is “private” and cannot be viewed. :(

  2. Lindy
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 5:40 am

    I just tried to watch the video in this Blog, but all I can get is a message that this is a private video and that I must accept the sender’s friend request in order to watch it.

  3. Jan 17, 2011
    at 6:38 am

    I love the “behind the scenes” posts such as these, especially when it comes to letter writing. We got to see some of the process during our Compassion trip to Honduras, it was great.

    Speaking of letter writing — does Compassion ever contact sponsors to ask them not to write as much or as often?

  4. Rebecca
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 6:49 am

    It says the video is private. Can this be fixed so we can see it? Thanks.

  5. Charlotte
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 8:07 am

    I CANNOT VIEW THE YOUTUBE VIDEO. PLEASE FIX IT.

  6. Jan 17, 2011
    at 8:18 am

    Sorry everyone. The video problem has now been fixed and is viewable by everyone.

  7. Anna
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 8:45 am

    Thank you so much for posting this! We’ve got two girls in Guatemala so this was really interesting!

  8. Jan 17, 2011
    at 8:55 am

    We recieved the first letters from our newly sponsored children on Saturday! It’s great to read this post and think about Herlinda and Marcello going through that eventful day!

  9. Jan 17, 2011
    at 8:56 am

    Awwwww! I love this. My Yuri is from Guatemala!

  10. Jan 17, 2011
    at 10:30 am

    This is great – it’s so neat to really see it happening – it makes it more real. Thank you!

  11. Debbie
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 11:00 am

    This is a great video. I wish there was someone on my side of things that would tell me how to pronounce some of these names :)
    One thing to mention is sponsors do not have to wait until they receive this letter from their child (as it might take a few months with mail and translation), but if you have your account number you can send them an letter from your country website immediately, and then send their packet back to them with a picture of your family right away when it comes. They love pics as much as we do.

  12. Ken M.
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 12:07 pm

    After watching this video I am thinking about Alexandra’s feelings since this is her third sponsor. Is she really excited about it? I am not judging by her behavior on the video; it is probably overwhelming to be told you have a sponsor while a camera is filming every move you make. It is just some children have received sponsors 3 or more times. How does that make them feel? I know that some people stop sponsoring due to losing a job which causes a hardship or stop due to illness which is understandable; however,others may see it as a nice thing to do but within a few months they will change their mind and move on to the next project.
    When it comes to writing there are sponsors who don’t see any reason to write a letter; just sending money is enough. Then there are sponsors who really enjoy sponsoring but no one told them the importance of writing to their child. New sponsors need to know that when they write their first letter it builds on the cornerstone. Maybe they need to know that sponsoring a child is a commitment, too.

  13. Ken M.
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 12:20 pm

    Please forgive me if my previous entry sounded harsh and judgemental. There may be a good reason why Alexandra’s sponsors had to stop sponsoring. But reading that Alexandra is receiving her third sponsor really upset me.

    • Jan 18, 2011
      at 11:53 am

      I think the best way to handle the reality that sponsors may cancel is to let the child know from day one, when they join a Compassion center, that they may have more than one sponsor during their time at Compassion. They need to understand that sponsorship routinely changes, once, twice, three times…or whatever the average number of changes is.

      That way when a change occurs, they have been prepared for it — they don’t think it’s unusual or something they caused.

      And when they get a new sponsor I’d really play up the positive that, “You get to meet a new person from somewhere in the world!!” Rather than, “Sorry your sponsor discontinued.”

      People discontinuing their sponsorship is an unfortunate reality and it just needs to be handled in the best way possible.

      I would be interested to know the percentage of sponsors who do continue their sponsorship from a child’s start to finish. Does Compassion keep those statistics??

      • Jan 21, 2011
        at 9:07 pm

        I agree. I had found out that one of my girls had had two sponsors before me–and the project had only been open for a year by the time I sponsored her. Eesh! I was upset for her–two sponsors in a year, and she was only 7/8 at the time! True, I have no idea why the sponsors had to discontinue, but it’s hard not to think the worst sometimes…but I tried to focus on the feelins of the child, and when I wrote her the first time I made it a point to say that I intend to be her sponsor for as long as God allows–which is the truth, and the situation may change on either of our ends, for a variety of different reasons. Her family may move or get a better job, or the project may need to close for some reason; or something might happen to me; basically allowing for the possibility of the sponsorship ending prior to her graduating from the program, but that, given the option, I will stick by her. And so far, God has allowed us almost two years together.

        I can only hope that Alejandra’s sponsors stuck around for a while before having to end it; she looks like she’s a teenager. Just hoping she’s been sponsored for more of that time than she’s been waiting for a sponsor.

      • Jan 22, 2011
        at 12:32 am

        I do like this. The children do get sad when their sponsor cancels. I think that many times, when a sponsor cancels they are probably also the ones, who might not write as much…. (I’m not making a statement on any specific sponsor, but just a general type of a statistical guess) Even children whose sponsors never write still get sad when the sponsor cancels.

        • Ken M.
          Jan 24, 2011
          at 8:18 am

          My oldest sponsored son is 14. I have been sponsoring him for about 22 months. I called CI some months ago to find out if he had been sponsored before. I was told that I’m his second sponsor and his first sponsor never wrote to him.
          Although my sponsored son never talked about his previous sponsor, he thanked me in 2 letters for making an effort to keep in contact with him and his family.

  14. Charlotte
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 8:17 pm

    THANKS FOR FIXING THE VIDEO. I ENJOYED WATCHING IT.

  15. Jan 17, 2011
    at 8:37 pm

    This is great to see! Thanks so much!

  16. craig downs
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 9:19 pm

    Ken I think what you said is great. I believe as you do that a sponsorship is a long time serious commitment.

  17. Marijke den Blaauwen
    Jan 17, 2011
    at 11:51 pm

    Perhaps it’s a good idea to tell the sponsors of these children they can watch this on youtube, not every sponsor is reading this blog and I’m sure they will be interested to see this! (and hopefully it will encourage them to write these children a lot!)

  18. Diane Gibson
    Jan 18, 2011
    at 2:43 pm

    Does anyone know if we can send “electronic” photos (JPG) attached to our online letters or do they have to be mailed?

    • Jan 18, 2011
      at 8:29 pm

      Hi Diane — I think right now you can only send text. And there’s a 5,000 character limit.

    • Brianne
      Jan 19, 2011
      at 7:26 am

      Hi Diane,
      At this time we do not have the option for a sponsor to attach an electronic photo to their online letter. We are working on making this available!!

  19. Kaila
    Jan 18, 2011
    at 9:03 pm

    Do all compassion centers use that kind of format for the first letter to the sponsor? I haven’t gotten any kind of introductory letter from one of my new sponsor kids, but I have recived a reply to a letter that I sent him, so I was just curious if it works differently in the different countries.

  20. Jan 19, 2011
    at 8:33 am

    I would be interested to know the percentage of sponsors who do continue their sponsorship from a child’s start to finish. Does Compassion keep those statistics??

    Lisa,

    We don’t currently track this information. It is something that we could figure out, but it wouldn’t necessarily be easy, so unless one of our business areas has a need for the information it probably won’t be something that gets pursued.

    • Jan 19, 2011
      at 10:56 am

      That’s okay — althought I think it would be interesting info to have.

      My hope is that, as more people read this blog and really understand the dynamics of the program, sponsors will think twice about ending their sponsorship and there will be a drop in those who discontinue, overall.

  21. Jan 23, 2011
    at 11:24 pm

    This is a great video. It really demonstrates the work of the person they call “Sponsorship Responsible” in the student centers. It also shows how the child first gets to write a letter. The sponsor first sets up the financial information, but the child first writes a letter.

    I smiled when I saw the hand sanitizer. I had forgotten how many times in the projects they use that… It was a nice memory.

    The children do get sad when the sponsor cancels. Even the staff at the projects get affected by it. I remember being with a director when she found out that one of the children no longer had a sponsor. It really effected her.

  22. Susan L. Kirke
    Feb 20, 2011
    at 5:07 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It’s nice to see how they tell the children about their new sponsor and how they write the first letter.
    I was really sad when I found out that some children get more than one sponsor. I do realize that things come up in life, but it still breaks my heart. I hope I never have to give up sponsoring the two children that I currently sponsor.
    A lot of comments have been floating around about whether the children get sad when their sponsor can’t help them anymore. I think they do get sad. One of my sponsored children just moved out of the area where Compassion works in the Dominican Republic and I can no longer sponsor her. I was heartbroken, but happy to discover that she was still going to school. I think it works both ways. When the child is split from the sponsor for any number of things, both ends of the relationship have to deal with the feelings that arise.
    I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I hope it does!

  23. Catherine
    Aug 30, 2011
    at 7:48 pm

    I just got my packet with my child’s picture and wrote to her. Is it better to send an actual letter rather than an email? Obviously I will need to mail something to send her a picture or a gift but I will be able to email more regularly. Does anyone know how the two different forms of letter writing effect the kids?

    • Aug 30, 2011
      at 11:30 pm

      Well, I can only speak about Bolivia, but when the email letters get there so much faster. Basically, the email is received and then within a day sent to the country office and then within a week sent to translation (in Bolivia) then they are translated within another week and then within a few days delivered to the student center. So, it’s possible with email that your letter could get there in 2 weeks. Now, the regular mail takes about 2 to 3 months, because it has to go through the manual process of going to the Colorado Springs office and then mailed to the office in the country and then be processed there. That’s if you live in the USA. If you live in another country, then it is longer, because there is another office in between. (I’m kind of making an assumption there about the longer part, having never worked in the office in Colorado Springs.)

  24. Christina
    Oct 16, 2013
    at 6:44 pm

    I just started sponsoring a child online this past Saturday. I am unsure whether I should expect a letter from my child first or is he waiting on a letter from me first. I have not received a welcome packet yet obviously (I have no idea what is supposed to be in it). His birthday is in November and I am kind of sad that whatever birthday letter I send won’t get to him in time. Also, I know the letter size limit is 8 1/2 x 11 so does that mean I can mail my items to Compassion in one of those 9×12 envelopes?

    • Susan Sayler
      Oct 17, 2013
      at 10:24 am

      Hi Christina! Welcome to Compassion!!!! I would recommend sending your first letter before you hear from him. He has likely already written an introduction letter, which will be sent to you shortly. It doesn’t hurt to go ahead and introduce yourself and begin getting to know him. You’re more than welcome to send a birthday letter, even though it will come after his official birthday. Many children in poverty are not used to celebrating their birthdays so even though the letter will be after his birthday it will mean a great deal. He will LOVE to know that you were thinking of him and wishing him a happy birthday. The letters and items need to be paper and no more than 8 1/2 x 11 inches. We don’t take into account the size of the outside envelope.

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