What three things do you wish someone had told you when you first began sponsoring a child? What three things do you wish you understood about our child sponsorship program?
We asked numerous employees throughout our organization the same questions, but with a twist. We asked them to share the three things they thought you should know, based on the questions they frequently receive.
Here’s what they said:
Carl Holmes, Sponsor and Donor Relations Representative
- We work only within local evangelical churches. We get lots of calls from people who assume we work in a manner like World Vision does and set up feeding programs, schools, etc.
- When you commit to sponsor a child, the child commits to write at least three letters a year to you. The same is expected of you.
- We work only in countries with stable governments, where we can take a long-term approach to child development. I get lots of questions about why we aren’t in China, or in Iraq, or Sudan, etc.
Joe Cammaroto, Sponsor Correspondence Supervisor
- When using your own stationery to write your sponsored child, or when sending a greeting card, please make sure the child number and sponsor number are included in the letter. This saves us hours of research in determining which child to send the letter to.
- Please, send only gifts that are flat paper items, 8 1/2″ x 11,” no more than 1/4″ thick. Anything not meeting this standard will be donated to a local charity.
- Write to your child often, and keep in mind it may take several months to receive a response due to shipping, customs, translation, etc. Short frequent letters are better than yearly updates.
William Valero, Program Communications Manager, Compassion Colombia
- The most important part of the sponsorship commitment is to cultivate a relationship with the child, through letters and pictures.
- You are an example of the goals that the child is now able to dream of.
- Behind each letter you receive there is always a hopeful child waiting for a word of encouragement and wise advise that will guide them.
Catherine Hilger, Global Internal Communication Specialist
- Sponsorship shouldn’t be about you; it should be about the child. It’s important to keep that in mind when you write to sponsored children and they don’t correspond back in the way you hoped they would.
I have sponsored children who write great letters, thank me for every gift I send, call me “mom,” and send photos every chance they get.
I also have sponsored children who write only the minimum requirement and when they do, it is from a staff worker, not my child. They don’t thank me for gifts and never send photos. This can be discouraging because my “sponsor fix” isn’t met, but I remind myself that God asked me to sponsor this child, and it is for that child — for that child to be released from poverty — not for me.
Always know that whatever the level of engagement you have, you ARE making a difference in a life.
- Stay the course. The investment of sponsorship takes time; it is not an overnight matter. Releasing children from poverty is done one day at a time; it takes steady, consistent support and prayer. That’s what releases children from poverty — when sponsors stay the course and don’t give up. Your return on investment will come later, much later, and maybe in heaven.
- Be transparent and bold. Your sponsored child loves you and wants to know you. Share your prayer requests. Guide that child. Coach his or her just as you would your own child.
I once served as a volunteer correspondent to a Leadership Development Program (LDP) student in Kenya. After corresponding for a consistent period of time, I began to realize that this young adult saw my advice for living as more precious than anything else in his life. I was the only one on the sidelines telling him things I told my own sons: “Stay away from the girls! Stay focused on your studies! No, you don’t get to chase after some crazy dream right now, you must finish school. Go talk to the LDP Specialist right now about applying for the Moody Scholarship. What did I tell you? Stay away from girls, they are dangerous and will cause you problems!”
He really appreciated that I would get in his face like I would my own son. It meant I cared about him and he took it to heart. We are still in touch with one another, he still calls me “mom,” and he still comes to me for advice for living. He doesn’t make a move without discussing it with me. He is my son.
Jennifer Holcombe, Sponsor Donor Services Communication Specialist
- Compassion partners with the local church.
- Letter writing is a very important part of sponsorship. Even if the child’s letters are not that engaging, children absolutely cherish letters from their sponsors.
- When people call into the contact center, we check to see if we have the sponsor’s e-mail address on file. Some sponsors decline to give their e-mail to us. However, having a sponsor’s e-mail address on file is important because it helps us to communicate important information to them about their child.
Ruth Cortese, Sponsor Donor Relations Representative
- Writing consistently is important! It will take some time (even up to a year) to establish a good “flow of conversation” between you and your child.
- There is no set time commitment for sponsoring a child, but our hope is that you can sponsor a child until he/she finishes the program.
- Not all sponsored children will be engaged in the program the same way. Each child and culture is different with different backgrounds and ideals. For example: Try not to compare how often your friend’s sponsored child writes vs. how often your child writes you; or “his sponsored child is smiling in his picture but mine is not”; or “his sponsored child answers questions and acknowledges gifts in his letters but mine does not,” etc.
Katy Balsis, International Partner Development Web & Marketing Specialist
- Letter writing is important to the kids. While it may seem like a burden to us, but to them, it means the world to hear from their sponsor. It’s a privilege to speak into their lives!
- Be proud of your kids! Make them a part of your family. Share them with your family and friends and communicate to others what it means to you to be a sponsor. It might not only encourage other people to sponsor, but it will make your relationship with the child more personal.
- Last and not least, JOIN OURCOMPASSION. It’s a great community to help you learn more about letter writing and connecting with your child.
Bob Cleary, Product Strategy Director
- Understand the context for children in poverty. Relief, by design, is temporary. It focuses only on physical needs, which is why Compassion focuses on holistic child development.
- Poverty does more than rob a child of his or her physical life; the child loses his or her God-given sense of dignity and self-worth. Children in poverty miss out on the understanding that God loves them. Releasing children from poverty through ongoing, long-term holistic child development rebuilds a child’s sense of God-given value, and meets their spiritual, physical, educational and relational needs.
- Sponsors are part of a strategic partnership along with local churches and committed families. The sponsor’s role in the partnership is a commitment to prioritize the needs of the child foremost through regular correspondence, prayer, and gifts that build joy and faith in God’s people.
Becky Giovagnoni, Complementary Interventions Specialist
- Your sponsorship will likely be a very different experience than what you initially think it will be. Be okay with letting it be exactly what God wants it to be.
For me, I had long dreamed of the day I’d get to meet my sponsored child in Haiti. I’d heard so many stories of tearful meetings, exuberant hugs and heart-wrenching goodbyes. When I met the 4-year-old boy I sponsored, he was extremely shy. He didn’t want to talk to me. Even after several hours, when we said goodbye, he barely looked at me.
It took me some time to accept the fact that meeting my child for the first time was not the instant connection I had always expected. I had to be okay with allowing him to be the child God had chosen for me, not the one I expected based on the experience of other sponsors.
- Just because you cannot see a difference does not mean you are not making one. You may never know the full impact of your sponsorship on your child’s life.I often find myself having certain expectations of my child — what they should be writing about in their letters, when they should start writing their own letters, how they should be doing in school, how they should be growing, etc. Basically, I want tangible evidence that my sponsorship is making a difference. The fact is, your sponsorship is making difference, whether or not you ever get to see it yourself.
- If you let it, sponsorship will change your life. It’s easy to believe that by sponsoring a child, you are doing something good. That you are doing God a favor. However, sponsorship is ultimately not about you or even about what God has called you to do. It’s about Him. And just like any other life experience, it will transform you only as much you allow God to use it in your life.