4 Ways Letter Writing Benefits You and the Child You Sponsor

Young woman wearing a white shirt and a blue and white checkered apron. She is sitting at a table outside and is reading letters from her sponsor.

OK, so I need to make a confession … I’m not as good as I should be at writing letters to my sponsored child. And I make all sorts of reasonable excuses for it, too:

“My life is already so busy with my work and kids that it’s hard to find the time.” “I feel like I just wrote a letter a couple months ago.” (It was 10 months ago.) “I need to wait until I have more to say.” “My letters don’t really matter anyway.”

I don’t know if you can relate to any of these. If you can, you’re definitely not alone. And you’re not a bad sponsor. Even if you never wrote a single letter to your sponsored child but you remained committed to their support while they worked with their church leaders and staff at their Compassion center to grasp the vision that God has planned for their future, you’d be making a profound difference in your sponsored child’s life.

That said, writing letters does some have amazing benefits, not only to your sponsored child but to you! And, yes, I am writing this blog to remind myself of that as I hope to encourage anyone else who struggles with writing.

So let’s take a look at four benefits of writing letters to your sponsored child:

1. It deepens empathy …

Without writing letters to correspond with your sponsored child, it’s hard to know what is actually going on in his or her life beyond the basics. You’ll receive regular updates on how they are progressing, but you may not feel involved. Through exchanging letters, you can ask questions and share about yourself. That may make your sponsored child more comfortable sharing the details of their life and their struggle with poverty with you. When you learn more about your sponsored child’s story, your opportunity to deepen your empathy for your sponsored child expands.

How that benefits the child:

There are so many ways deepened empathy can benefit your sponsored child.

  • It will make you more of an active participant in his or her life. Empathy naturally lends itself to engagement, so you’ll feel compelled to reach out more to your sponsored child.
  • As you reach out, you’ll be more engaged in coaching, listening, supporting and guiding. All of those things are profound to a child whose life experience and circumstances tell him or her that he or she has zero chance of amounting to anything.
  • Your sponsored child will begin to see things from a broader perspective. Their empathy for you will open them up to new horizons and challenge them to think more critically about the world, their place in it and how they can work to make it different by starting with their own families, communities and countries.

How that benefits you:

Empathizing with someone else’s experience and perspective is a great regular practice.

  • It challenges your own notions of how the world really works, and it forces you out of your comfort zone. Growth only happens when there’s discomfort, so empathy forces us to grow.
  • You’ll also learn much more about yourself. You’ll analyze your own life and perspectives and gain a greater appreciation for the things you have, the place where you live and the life you live where you’re able to bless someone else.
  • You won’t have to wonder if you’re really making a difference. Having greater empathy means you know what’s at stake and you’ll see more clearly what living in poverty is like for a child. And after knowing that better, you can be proud of the choice you made to change a child’s future.

2. It helps develop curiosity …

By engaging with your sponsored child through letters, it’s only natural that questions will come up. You’ll want to know more about how your sponsored child lives and his or her specific situation, and he or she will want to know more about your life.

How that benefits the child:

  • Curiosity leads to discovery. It lets your sponsored child know that asking questions is OK – that by asking questions we learn and grow.
  • Your sponsored child will begin to see that the world is full of possibility if you simply ask the questions. And it’ll open his or her own mind to the possibility that the world could be different for him or her, too.

How that benefits you:

  • In much the same way, you’ll also learn and discover things you never knew. You’ll want to know more about where your sponsored child lives, what their life is like, what it’s like in their country and what they believe is possible.
  • Curiosity may open you up to even one day visiting your sponsored child’s country. And that can lead you to have deeply fulfilling and exciting experiences with memories you’ll cherish, all because you asked questions.
Young man wearing a blue shirt. He is standing outside and is writing a letter to his sponsor.

3. It grows a greater understanding …

Through exchanging letters, you’ll learn more about how Compassion works, what your sponsored child’s time at Compassion is like, how the lessons and support are helping, and what else could be done (i.e., where else you can lend your support) to make things better.

Your child will also have a better understanding of why they should listen to his or her pastor, teachers and tutors and fully engage with all the Compassion program offers them.

How that benefits the child:

  • Your child will begin to see that the Compassion program is about way more than just providing them supplemental food while sharing some Bible verses with them. They will know you are investing in their future. They will know that you believe in them, and they will want to work to live up to their full potential.

How that benefits you:

  • When you practice empathy and curiosity in your letter exchanges, you’ll gain a fuller understanding of the entire system, from how Compassion works in your child’s country to what your sponsored child’s day-to-day life is like to why anti-poverty work is so much more complex than simply giving people more money and stuff.
  • Ultimately, you’ll clearly see why deciding to sponsor was such an impactful decision.

4. It inspires people everywhere …

It might be hard to imagine, but in many places where Compassion serves, people aren’t really used to getting letters at all, let alone from people living in foreign countries. So when a child receives a letter from their sponsor, it’s not uncommon for the whole village or community to know about it and want to know what it says.

How that benefits the child:

  • It boosts your sponsored child’s self-esteem to share his or her letters with his or her family, friends and community because he or she gets to feel special. It’s not about showing off, because communities often celebrate letters together, but it reinforces what your sponsored child hears from his or her pastor and staff at the Compassion center – that he or she has value and a purpose.

How that benefits you:

  • You can feel great in knowing that not only are you making a life-changing difference through your influence on one child’s life, but you’re also touching his or her family, you’re reaching his or her community and you’re sharing hope with more people than you could ever know. That will make you feel both humbled and honored!
Boy wearing a yellow shirt and jeans. He is standing outside his home and is holding his sponsor letters close to his chest.

Writing letters to your sponsored child can be a hard thing to prioritize. But hopefully you see at least four reasons for why it might be something you’d want to do. (Yes, I’m talking to myself again here, too).

The simple fact is that through developing a real relationship with your sponsored child through exchanging letters, you should experience the joy of actively changing someone else’s life for the better in a more full and more fulfilling way.

So, make writing to your sponsored child a priority for this week. Here’s the link to write now if you’d like to write immediately. Otherwise, even just a short letter to say, “Hello! How are you?” is a great way to begin reaping the benefits of letter writing – for you and your sponsored child – this week!

Leave a comment below: What other benefits can you think of when it comes to letter writing?

International photography by Tigist Gizachew, Galia Oropeza and Juana Ordonez Martinez.

Writing a letter

11 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Jennifer Steiner March 31, 2021

    Thank you for your perspective on writing to our sponsored children. I like writing to my kiddo from another country. It makes me smile to tell a story about the crazy wild turkeys we have out west. They like to roam in gangs and intimidate my cats. Jill told me about the rainy season and I get to ask more about what his daily life is like. This is such a neat experience.

  2. Avatar
    Geraldine Dixon March 28, 2021

    Hello writers. Thank you for the article and responses! Earlier in life, I desired to be a school guidance counselor to help remedy the pitfalls I encountered after high school. We discussed empathy, mirroring, and feedback which we find relevant today. Feedback is very important to the “from” and “to” in our corresponding to our sponsored child. So, keep the blog fresh! Let us keep reading and responding for a healthy cause. I believe we are modern day Paul’s disciples – writers to children, searching for hope and needing to know that someone cares across the miles. Letter writing is our ability to spread good news. This is a “great post”. Please continue.

  3. Avatar
    Kate March 27, 2021

    I think letter writing is also an opportunity to realize how much we have in common with our sponsored children. I have one child who struggles with math and I was able to say, “Me too!” I have another lovely girl in Tanzania who wants to visit the Serengeti and I was able to say, “Me too!” and then talk about my favorite animals. For my older (high school & university age) children, I can say “me too!” when they talk about the struggles studying for entrance exams, their hopes for being able to attend university, or their current struggles in university. Poverty lies to our sponsored children, telling them that they are not like us and that they are less-than, but to be able to say, “me too!” helps our children realize that we have so much in common. I think it can also helps me as a sponsor get unstuck from the “what do I write to someone who is SO different?” My children love flowers, butterflies, birthday cake, playing games, french fries, pizza, praying, reading, and their families. And I can say “me too!” to all of those things.

    1. Kaye-Lin
      Kaye-Lin March 29, 2021

      Hi Kate! I love your perspective, and this is such a great way to connect with our sponsored children. Thank you for being a voice of encouragement in the lives of your sponsored children! 😊

  4. Avatar
    Audra Benjamin March 25, 2021

    I would like to put my request to you r office for extending your services to Resurrection Church of Uganda Draba, Uleppi parish,Madi oyibu archdeaconry ,Madi and westnile Diocese in Madi okollo district where compassion international is not operational.in this church we have youths and Sunday school kids .out of these many children are vulnerable who need support from supporting agencies for their well-being.therefore, it’s my humble request to you to partner with us where we are ready.

    1. Avatar
      Shannon March 26, 2021

      Hello Audra,
      Thank you for your message and your desire to help these sweet children. Can you please email my team directly at socialmedia@compassion.com so that we can speak with you further regarding this request? Thank you so much!

  5. Avatar
    Judy Nikkel March 25, 2021

    The hesitation I have about sharing about my life is that I have so many things and privileges they don’t have, and I don’t want to deepen the knowledge or evidence of their poverty. I feel guilty about all I have been blessed with compared to them in Rwanda. Please help me with this!

    1. Avatar
      Shannon March 26, 2021

      Hi Judy,
      We completely understand what you mean. Even more, we actually appreciate the way you feel about this, because we feel it will help you to be a cautious writer. We never want these sweet children to feel like they are less fortunate. Instead of telling your child about what you have, we would would encourage you to truly invest in their heart and encourage them. We suggest sending scripture, teaching them things, sharing fun and inspiring stories, and even asking them questions about their life. If you ever have additional questions, you can always reach out directly to my team also at socialmedia@compassion.com. 💌

  6. Avatar
    Esther Rodriguez March 25, 2021

    I would like to get a response to the letters that I have written to my sponsored child. To know that he and his family are well and that he actually got my letter. Esther

    1. Avatar
      Shannon March 26, 2021

      Esther,
      Thank you so much for hanging in there with us through this very tough year of Covid-19. Because our child centers were forced to close at the beginning of the pandemic, it has been very hard to get letters out from the children. We are just now beginning to see a few centers reopen. Please know as the world opens again, and our children are able to begin back at the center, our staff will certainly be making letters to the sponsors a priority. Thank you for continuing to bless Matias with letters of love and encouragement and I hope you receive one in return very soon!

  7. Avatar
    Michael D. Bailey March 25, 2021

    Great post. I have been teaching my students about empathy through reading a book about Jane Addams for Women’s History Month. I have shared with my students about looking out for others and seeing the needs of others. I shared a personal example of supporting children abroad. It was encouraging to hear the students share about their experiences doing the dame.

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