A Fresh Perspective on the Top 3 Letter Complaints

I love letter writing — I consider it my hobby! And what I especially love is that this hobby allows me to encourage children all over the world through Compassion. I believe that I can follow the Great Commission by coming alongside the churches that Compassion works with and encouraging the children I write to follow Jesus.

A girl with blonde hair and a blue dress on sits on her bed, legs crossed, writing a letter to the child she sponsors.

This vision is what keeps me writing even when it is hard, and especially when I feel like I’m not connecting with a child. Letter writing is a way to come alongside and spiritually mentor a child!

Letter writing also makes my Compassion sponsorship personal. When I consistently write to the children, I spend time thinking about them during the day and praying for each child by name. Sponsorship is no longer just a gift of my money, but of my time.

But it does get hard sometimes.

Here are some of the biggest frustrations that sponsors like me face, and the perspective I try to keep in mind as I persevere in writing.

1. The child I sponsor doesn’t answer my questions.

A girl from Guatemala in a red shirt with her hair pulled back sits at a wooden school desk, reading a letter. She is in front of a green wall.

When I’m writing letters, I do two things to help kids and their tutors notice my questions. I number each question, and I make sure to only ask a few questions in each letter. However, some kids seem to never answer my questions!

When this happens, I try to keep in mind the local people building relationships with the children. I love how Compassion gives us information about each center, along with letters from pastors and center directors. When I hear how these people are working with my child, it is so encouraging!

I am reminded that even if I don’t hear it from the child I sponsor, there are tutors and church members pouring into my child’s life, and they know how the child is truly doing. I remember that I can support their work in the children’s lives through prayer!

2. I don’t like the templated form letters.

A letter is shown, with pictures on it and places to write. It lays on a table and two women's hands are pointing at it.

Although form letters may feel impersonal, I have a new respect for them since working on letter writing with my own kids! My oldest kids (ages 7 and 5) look at a blank page and don’t know what to share. When they have a template in front of them, they enjoy the process much more!

When a child writes using a template, I try to find tangible ways to connect with them. For example, if they shared that they have a brick house, I can comment that my house is brick too! Do they like going to the river to play? We live near a bayou and we like to play in the water too!

I also have found that children really enjoy when I share what I’ve learned about his or her country or when I write about animals (and send coloring pages of the animals). Sometimes sparking a child’s interest helps the child share more!

3. The letters are impersonal.

A girl from Thailand wearing a white traditional Karen tribe shirt smile while reading a card that she holds in her hand.

When I receive letters that seem impersonal, I try to remind myself that kids are all unique. Some kids like to write, and others would rather be running around outside. Some older kids may take time to build trust. They may have written and written, never receiving a response from a previous sponsor.

So I try to be patient when a child doesn’t share personally. Some kids will open up over time, when you love them through letters.

And for those who don’t open up, I try to faithfully remind them that they’re loved and supported through letters and prayer. Everyone needs the reminder that they’re created in God’s image and that they’re valuable. And we might be one of the few people sharing this message in our sponsored children’s lives.

Our letters are making a difference — even when we don’t know it!

A young girl from Uganda with her hair in braids and a checkered shirt holds a letter in front of her and smiles.

I have had the privilege of talking to some of our sponsored kids after they’ve completed Compassion’s program, and each one has commented about letters being an encouragement.

I would like to share about Maria. When we sponsored Maria, I did not feel connected to her. Her letters were never personal, she seemed disinterested in the Compassion center, and she eventually dropped out of school and Compassion’s program at age 16. But a few years ago we reconnected.

“I want you to know that I treasure your letters and your photos and that I always have you in my heart,” Maria shared with me.

She said that God used the seeds planted through the center and through my letters, and when she was 18 she decided to dedicate her life to God! She graduated college and is now teaching second grade and Sunday school.

I honestly had no idea that she even cared about my letters. I went through many times of discouragement while writing to Maria. I often felt that my words were unimportant. But looking back, I am so thankful that God encouraged me to keep writing. He used those words to reach Maria — and she is now reaching many more children in His name!

This is what Compassion is about … releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. God did that for Maria. And I feel privileged to have played a part through letter writing. I know that God will use your letters in the life of your child, even when you are not yet able to see the results.



34 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Kate February 26, 2022

    One of the “impersonal/generic” comments that I’ve learned to rethink is when my kids talk about the weather. In North America, talking about the weather is often small talk, but for many of my kids, the weather is vital to their crops growing, their income, and even their safety. When my kids in Africa (Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania) comment about it being rainy/sunny, I tell them that I am praying that God will bring a mix of sun and rain for their crops. When they tell me that they’re planting beans or potatoes, I tell them that I am praying that God will bless their harvest. I also pray for their livestock. The line, “I bought a goat with the money you sent” is an opportunity to pray for the health and safety of their goat, their family, and their livelihood. My kids have replied to my comments with more in-depth information about the weather, their crops, their livestock, etc. because I’ve asked and prayed.

    1. Shannon February 28, 2022

      This is so awesome! Thank you so much for sharing your perpective on this topic! I think it is so helpful to remember how precious and dear to their lives, these “simple” topics might be to us! ?

  2. Melva Hunter February 13, 2022

    I have never received any information about the Centers my 5 Honduran children attend. I sent family and project gifts as well as general gifts. I don’t know what they purchased or even if the monetary gifts arrived to the centers or children and their families. I got 4 form letters from the children and have not heard from one of them yet. I know translation is a problem as is COVID but in the computer age and cell phones should help speed up the process. Where can I read about the Centers my sponsored children attend?

    1. Elizabeth February 14, 2022

      Hello Melva! Thank you for reaching out to us with your concerns and for sharing your feedback. I am so sorry that you have not received thank you letters acknowledging the gifts you have sent to your sponsor children’s families and projects. I understand your disappointment and desire to hear how your sponsored children are doing and how the gifts were used. Please know that thank you letters can take up to six months to send back to the sponsor and, regrettably due to COVID-19, thank you letters are significantly delayed in most countries.
      In regard to your question about information on the centers your five sponsored children attend, we are more than happy to look into this for you! We can research each child’s center and let you know if they are operating normally, in smaller groups, or at a distance through home visits. I hope this information helps! Please email us at [email protected] if you would like for us to look into your gift thank you letters and the operation status of your sponsor children’s centers and we will be happy to help!

  3. Rene R September 15, 2021

    Good afternoon. I’m writing this comment because I found it incredibly misleading to receive letters from one of the children I sponsored in an adult’s handwriting and no name was listed for the person doing so. I looked forward to receiving letters in the child’s handwriting with their real questions or even their stories. I noticed that none of the letters were ever dated and the children never acknowledged the gifts I have sent them. I called CI to ask about this and how one of the children never answered any of my questions and shared the same information as previous letters. i was unsatisfied with the response I received (two separate phone calls).
    Out of curiosity, I looked up the CEO’s salary and that of the upper leadership at CI and found that the top 5 (I believe it was 5) make almost $500k a year! I found this alone unacceptable and with my doubts about whether the children I sponsored actually exist I regrettably cancelled my sponsorships.
    I am heartbroken thinking that these children do exist but I could no longer justify sending money to support two children and several millionaires. I pray that God forgives me if my decision is wrong, but someone making $400K+ a year on money intended to lift children out of poverty is a gross abuse of a “charity”.

    1. Kaye-Lin September 16, 2021

      Hi Rene. Thank you so much for sharing your feedback with us. I am very sorry to hear the disappointment we have caused you. Please know we are so thankful for the time that you sponsored Eliese and Daniel. I completely understand your concern regarding the letters you received, and I’m sorry there weren’t any dates or indication of who was writing the letter. We are able to send inquiries to the church to fix these mistakes for our sponsors. Along with this, due to COVID-19, adults may have been writing letters for your children because they were unable to write the letters themselves. In many of the countries we work in, the children were not able to go to their child center, so they may have not had the supplies they needed to write letters themselves. This did mean that the Compassion staff and volunteers had to write letters for these kiddos. Even though this may have been the case, the adults writing these letters were getting information directly from the children. With that said, they should have included their name, and I apologize that this did not happen.

      I am also sad to hear that the letters did not mention the gifts that you blessed these children with. Regrettably, due to letters being delayed, the thank you letters may have not reached you before you canceled your sponsorship. Thank you letters can take up to six months to send back to the sponsor.

      Finally, I wanted to address your concerns regarding our CEO’s salary. At Compassion, we do our best to exercise prudent business judgment in balancing the stewardship of the ministry’s financial resources. This includes offering salaries sufficient enough to attract and keep the well-qualified employees who are required to effectively carry out the mission of our ministry. That being said, I do understand that it may be unsettling to see the salaries that our upper management make, but we want to be transparent with our sponsors by providing this information. We stay committed to still designate at least 80 percent of the donations we receive to go directly to the children and their program activities.

      I do hope this information helped explain these topics a bit more. If you have any other questions, please email us at [email protected]. We would love to address any other concerns or questions you may have. Many blessings.

  4. Cheryl Atkinson May 11, 2021

    I have been sponsoring Nur in Egypt for over a year now. I can understand the problem of letter writing as she is only 7 years old, but she has written a few. However, I have never received a recent picture of her! Why? I also sponsor Fernanda in Ecuador. She has never written and she is 14 years old. I also don’t have a recent picture of her! I only have my sponsor pictures of these girls. I feel they should send us updated pictures every 6 months or more often.

    1. Nicole May 11, 2021

      Hi, Cheryl! First of all, thank you so much for sponsoring sweet Nur and Fernanda! We understand that you started sponsoring amid the pandemic; and we are so sorry for how hard that alone has been. Please know that these situations are not normal and have become complicated as a result, tough even. We apologize for any confusion that may have occurred as a result. ? As a fellow sponsor, I can definitely understand how frustrating it is to not hear from your kiddos nor be updated more frequently with photos. Due to COVID-19, many of our centers have temporarily closed or are operating at limited capacity; and because of this, a lot of the children do not currently have access to their letter writing materials. Each country is different, and this may be why you have not heard from Fernanda yet. But please note that your letters to her can still be delivered when church staff members do house visits. Generally speaking, kiddos often do not have someone to assist them at home with writing letters and even older children may still need quite a lot of help. ? As for the photos, Compassion strives to update child photos every two years; and when sponsors give a gift of $60 or more, they receive a “thank you” photo that will include the child and/or a family member. Both the photo updates and gift photos, regrettably, have been affected or put on hold, respectively, by Covid-19. We are praying all this will end soon and be quickly resolved. I hope all this information helps! If you have any other questions, we would be happy to help. Please don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected].

  5. Mary Ann Zinn March 28, 2020

    Thank-you for your encouragement to keep writing our Kiddos.
    I love my Valeria so much, she feels like the granddaughter didn’t have until I started sponsoring her at the age of 4 years.
    She just turned 10 and I have been privileged to write her and receive letters from her (a relative before she could write) about six times a year. Her current letter with a drawing is hanging in a special place in my home as is her latest picture – next to my make-up mirror reminding me to pray for her every day.
    We have talked about many things over the years including her dream of becoming a doctor so she can help her family and people. When the time comes I want to be part of making that a reality.
    God put this beautiful child in my sights one compassion Sunday and entrusted me with helping her overcome poverty. So glad I stepped up to serve.

  6. Missy Voigts October 15, 2019

    I sponsor a couple of girls and for their birthdays last year I sent some very intricately cut pop-up greeting cards. They were all paper, but they were $13 each and neither one remarked about the cards in their letters and I’m wondering if they were just simply scanned and thrown away? I really wanted to give a treat to them but perhaps they never received them?

    1. Sierra October 16, 2019

      Hi Missy, I’m sorry you never received an acknowledgement from your girls about the pop-up cards you sent. Those do classify as items that would be physically sent, so we would not have scanned them and thrown them away. It’s possible that they simply may not have recognized the value of the cards you sent and didn’t think to comment on them when they received them. If we were unable to send them, you would have received a letter saying that they were ineligible to be sent. I would suggest you maybe ask your girls in your next letter if they received the pop-up cards you sent, and see what they say! Thank you so much for taking the time to write to them and make them feel special. 🙂

  7. Christina Doza October 12, 2019

    Is it possible to write too many letters to my correspondent child?

    I’m excited to get to know Nadine and want to share so many things with her. She is 7 years old and may not be able to write very well yet

    1. Mackenzie October 14, 2019

      Hello Christina! It is possible for a child to feel overwhelmed by the amount of letters she receives. However, letters are something that the children treasure so deeply, that we would encourage you to err on the side of writing more often than not. We generally recommend sending about 3-4 letters per year, but you can write once a month or twice a month, just depending on how often you feel led to write.

  8. Glenn Christie October 11, 2019

    I have called Compassion frequently over the years and have asked the following question several times and have gotten several different responses. I enjoyed sending 4 x 6 photos to my girls but then found out – since the new letter-writing process began – the photos are scanned (just like gorgeous greeting cards) and tossed in the waste basket. What a was of a $5 to $7 greeting card. Can you tell me what kind of paper the girls get their 4 x 6 photos on? I hardly ever send photos anymore since I got that disturbing news.

    1. Sierra October 11, 2019

      Glenn, I am so sorry for the disappointment that you’ve experienced with the new letter-scanning process, and also that you’ve been receiving conflicting answers on the topic of what paper we send photos on. When we send photos to your sponsored child, we scan them as a high-quality print, but it is on regular paper. Photos still mean so much to the children when they receive them, and they’re still able to keep the photos close to them. This new process does save our ministry time and money, but again, I am sorry that it has caused this frustration for you.

  9. Susan Kopala September 20, 2019

    Hello, we have 3 sponsored kids. The youngest is 6. Will things that fit in large envelopes go through? I have sheets of stickers and a thin sticker book etc that I’d like to have go to our little girl in Thailand.

    1. Sierra September 23, 2019

      Hi Susan! Thanks so much for reaching out and for posing this question! The rules surrounding what you can send your sponsored children is that you can send up to six sheets of paper (up to 8.5×11 size), per child, per letter. A page of stickers would count as one sheet. 🙂 Sadly, we aren’t able to send along books or anything with staples or bindings, even if it is thin; however, you can tear sheets out of the sticker book and send then individually! Hopefully this answers your question. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you.

  10. Karen Kaye September 19, 2019

    I wish every sponsor would write regularly to their child, OR let Compassion know and put them on the list for a correspondent. It makes me truly sad to hear the stories from the directors of the centers who report that the children who do not get letters are very sad and think their sponsor does not love them or care enough about them to write. The correspondence sponsors is SUCH an excellent idea. I write to 4 girls besides the 2 I sponsor financially. Those letters are treasures and gifts for these kids. Please, sponsor, PLEASE write to your child. Even just a few sentences an a picture of your family a couple of times a year. My heart breaks thinking of kids sitting in a room, hoping and praying that THIS time they will get a letter………only to be disappointed over and over. I wish we could fix that part of this program. I would write to more kids, and I know others would, too, because there is always a waiting list for getting a correspondent child.

  11. Lisa Memberr May 26, 2019

    I have been writing and receiving letters from my sponsored child for the past 3years. I received a photo of him as soon as I selected to be his sponsor. But, I have not received another photo of him since then. Can I expect to receive another photo?

    1. Sarah May 28, 2019

      Hi Lisa! I am so sorry that you haven’t received the updated photo of Kodzo, The photos of Kodzo look very similar due to the shirt color being quite close. I am emailing both of the photos to you so that you can compare them with what you have received at home. IF you haven’t received the updated photo, I’d be more than happy to order a new copy of it for you!

  12. Candy Wilson May 10, 2019

    The young lady we sponsor is now an adult (19 years old). At what point can we communicate with her outside of having to wait on Compassion letters to get translated and sent, etc? At some point are they given an option of exiting the program and given options on how to continue communicating with their sponsors in other ways? For example, we have been trying to talk through letters about college applications, grants, etc because our young lady is in the process of trying to get into a university in her town. Unfortunately there are time sensitive deadlines with the application that we would love to be able to help her with, but with Compassion’s policy about no other contact other than letters has made it almost impossible to help her in this regard in a timely manner. Do you have any information or suggestions about what I am asking about?

    1. Sarah May 13, 2019

      Hello Candy! Thank you so much for the constant encouragement you provide to Carol through your letters and support! While registered in the program, children are only able to contact their sponsors through the letters they write. Living in Peru, Carol has the opportunity to continue in Compassion’s program until she is 22 years old. She may decide to leave the program before that, but our age limit in Peru is set at 22 years old. While Compassion does allow sponsors to continue writing when a child leaves the program, we strongly discourage it due to privacy and safety concerns. The communication is outside Compassion’s oversight and is no longer monitored for content. Sponsors have received solicitation for money from people claiming to be friends or family members or even from the formerly sponsored child and that can create an uncomfortable situation. We also know that sponsors who continue corresponding face the challenge of finding someone who can translate letters to and from the child. In addition, most children in developing countries do not have the resources to send letters through the postal system. Once Carol graduates from the program, we would be happy to discuss the option with you! I know that the letter timeline can make it difficult to communicate as efficiently and quickly with Carol as you would like. Please know that the leadership at her center is also working diligently to help her achieve her goal of enrolling in a university as well.

  13. Jennifer May 6, 2019

    Thank you for this insight. We are getting ready to sponsor our first child and are very excited to send him letters. When we decided on the child we wanted to sponsor we realized he is not old enough to write. Would you still recommend for us to write letters and maybe send coloring pages? I was thinking of sending paper and asking that he draw a picture we could hang on our fridge. Then send him a picture of his picture on our fridge. Not sure we are being overly ambitious. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I hope in the future to sponsor more children.

    1. Sarah May 7, 2019

      Hi Jennifer! Thank you so much for desiring to impact a child’s life! Yes, we absolutely still encourage you to write to your child! Even though your child may need some help reading your letters and replying to them, the letters do provide immense encouragement for him and for his family as well! The tutor at his center will help him write reply letters to you and encourage him to draw pictures for you included with his letters :). Coloring pages are also a wonderful item to send to younger children!

  14. Viola April 22, 2019

    Hannah, thank you so much for the encouragement. You have inspired a spark that has been in my own heart. I currently write to two children. We have also had four previous sponsorships over the last two and a half decades. I am just now seeing my letter writing as a bigger part of my ministry to these children. Letter writing is now more of a joy than a duty as my perspective changed. Thanks again.

  15. Dugue Junior April 17, 2019

    I really appreciate the support that Compassion provides to the children, it’s a proof of Jesu’s love. I bless the name of God. If could join the team of International Compassion to participate in the battle against poverty I would be cheerful.

  16. Hannah Hinojosa April 12, 2019

    My goal is to write personalized letters every other month to each child, and I respond to any letters the child has written. The nice thing is that I can use the duplicate tool online and don’t have to upload photos each time I write! But I’ll change the text when I’m personalizing letters. On the in-between months, I send stories about hymn writers, share about an animal or country, or send an update about my family. My goal is that each child receive at least one letter a month.

  17. Yvonne Reynolds April 12, 2019

    Wonderful post Hannah! I love to remind sponsors that we have an opportunity to encourage the children we sponsor through the letters we write to them. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could build an amazing letter writing relationship with every child that we sponsor, but sometimes that is just not possible. Some kids never have written letters before, some cultures and countries don’t put a big emphasis on letter writing, and for some kids, it is just not the way they express themselves. But never underestimate the power of our letters for the sponsored children. They treasure our letters and the way we encourage them. They save them and re-read them often. We have the opportunity in every letter that we write to tell them that God loves them and He has a plan for their life. The letter writing is for them, not for us.

  18. Ann April 11, 2019

    Hannah, what a wonderful blog post!! Thanks for the heads up you’d gotten to write a blog post. It’s so easy when the letters we get are less than we’d like to lose sight of the fact that God uses our letters to minister to these kids. It’s about them, not us. Thanks for the excellent reminder.

  19. SANDRA J BENNETCH April 11, 2019

    Keep writing! Keep encouraging! Their lives and expectations are much different than ours, but we can help them to dream. Reach across the miles with a verse or sentence that will make a child smile.

  20. Catherine Eames Hughes April 11, 2019

    Thanks for this encouragement. It can be difficult to connect with some children, but that can be true with anyone. The letters we send are precious to not only the children themselves, but to their families as well.

  21. Kevin April 11, 2019

    Thanks for the encouragement Hannah! I will keep that in mind as I write my next letter.

    I have to ask, how do you manage to write to 111 children?? Are these supplemental letters that you personalize for each child?


  22. Larry H Lyda April 11, 2019

    I received the introduction letter. I have written several times and havent heard anything from the child aim sponsoring. I feel, I should at least hear from the sponsoring church as to her status and wellness. I understand a 5 year okd may not want to answer my questions, but, the sponsoring group there should provide an update!!

    1. Sarah April 12, 2019

      Hello Larry! Thank you so much for writing to your child frequently :). I do want you to know that I see a letter from Rebeca that is currently going in translation. In Compassion’s program, the letters do serve as the most frequent update regarding the child as the child (and a tutor depending on the age) write these letters themselves at least twice per year and up to six times per year if the sponsor is writing frequently. It does take time to get your letters delivered to Rebeca. Once a letter arrives, Rebeca has 60 days to write her reciprocal letter to you and have it sent back to our national office in Mexico for processing. As I said, you do have another letter on the way from Rebeca right now, which should be placed on your account soon once it finishes processing.

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