A Letter-Writing Plan for the New Year

A few years ago, I set a goal of writing one letter a month for the year to friends and family. I didn’t send my first one out until March. Why? Well, first I had to find a stamp. And an envelope. And a piece of paper that wasn’t ripped out of a notebook. And then I had to text the person I was writing to get their address. When I finally dropped it in the mail, I had to wait and wait for them to receive it. Shockingly, snail mail takes MUCH longer than email.

A pen sits atop postage stamps and an envelope.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! Each person I wrote that year expressed such joy and gratitude. My aunt who was going through chemo kept my card in her purse to read when she was at the doctor’s office. A college professor emailed me to say thank you (and to express the irony of emailing her response).

Why am I telling you this story? Because we’re slowly losing the art of writing letters, and I am on a one-woman crusade to educate about the beauty of the mailed letter!

My year of letter writing included quite a few letters to the little girl I sponsor in Guatemala, Bilha. And if I thought sending domestic mail was complicated, sending a letter overseas was even more complicated. Those letters came with all of the obstacles above, plus a few more.

There was the time involved in translation and delivery. Bilha lives in a remote village, so even after my note arrived in Guatemala, it still had to be hand-delivered to her Compassion center.

Then there was the confusing timelines – when did I tell her Merry Christmas? Why was she mentioning Easter in the summer?

Like me, you may have noticed that the child you sponsor is sharing about holidays months after they pass. They’re asking you about your Easter traditions closer to the Fourth of July. The reality is, when you add up the time it takes to mail, translate and deliver letters, months can pass. That’s why we decided we’d start the year off with a handy letter-writing plan to help you understand how to time your letters.

But hear this very clearly: A belated birthday note is better than none! A Christmas greeting received in March will be no less cherished. But if you’d like to work on your timing in 2020, we’d love to help!

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An Annual Letter-Writing Plan

A woman sits at a table, writing a letter.

February: Send an Easter greeting and ask how Easter is celebrated in your child’s country.

April: Ask what the weather is like in your child’s country and tell them about summer where you live. Kids are crazy fascinated by the weather! Send alongside some summer pics of your family.

June: Tell your child you’re praying for their school. In many parts of the world, they’ll be preparing for school when they get this letter.

September: Tell your child you’re thankful for him or her! This is a great time to talk about Thanksgiving as a holiday we celebrate to remember all that we’re grateful for.

October: Send your Christmas greeting. And if you’re super on top of things, maybe you have that family Christmas photo to send!

December: Send a Valentine’s greeting, letting your child know they are loved and remembered!

Birthday Time: Don’t forget to try to send your birthday greeting about two months before your sponsored child’s birthday!

I hope this letter-writing plan helps you with some letter-writing ideas for the year! You can write that fist letter of 2020 today – and tell us in the comments what you wrote about so we can learn from your ideas!


20 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Amelia March 2, 2020

    Hi Becky, thank you for this timeline! I had another question about letter writing for you. Our family’s sponsor children are in Togo. We chose them because we also speak French. We would like to write them directly in their correspondence language. Is that ok?

    1. Christina
      Christina March 3, 2020

      Hi Amelia! That’s so great that you speak French and wish to write letters to your kiddo in French! Please keep in mind that there are many different idioms and dialects within certain regions which increase the difficulty when translating letters. Our wonderful local translators are well versed in the many language dialects where we work, so they are able to translate letters to and from your kiddo while maintaining the emotion and intent as much as possible. For this reason, we do require an English translation to accompany any letters written in another letter. Therefore, if you choose to write your letters in French, please also include the English translation with it. If you’d like to learn more about letter-writing, I encourage you to visit cintl.us/letter-faq. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. Have a blessed day!

  2. Avatar
    Leslie Ward February 5, 2020

    Thank you for this blog info. so helpful!

  3. Avatar
    Sarah February 1, 2020

    This is a great reference to have for letter writing! My parents began sponsoring a little girl a few months ago and we began sponsoring our little guy in December and just began sponsoring our little princess a few days ago.
    I do have a question about what can physically be sent? If I send stickers or something physically in the mail, do they get the actual envelope and items in the envelope or do they get copies of what I’ve sent? I’ve seen some great ideas of things to send but have been a bit confused about whether they get the actual items, letters, stickers, etc. or photocopies.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Sierra
      Sierra February 3, 2020

      Oh Sarah, thank you so much for your partnership with Compassion and for all you do for your sponsored kiddos! We scan everything we possibly can to save time and money; however, something like stickers would lose its value if we scanned it instead of sent the physical item. Out of what you can send your child, we will physically send stickers, pop-up cards, and musical cards. Everything else will be scanned and sent. 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Becky Dresselhaus January 24, 2020

    This was very helpful, but I am stilled confused as to the difference between writing a letter on line and one that is sent through the mail. Do you mean the letters you send to Colorado to be forwarded on need to been sent by the dates you suggest? If the letter is sent via on line, it seems it would be much shorter. I have stopped sending physical letters and pages to my child in Brazil as I thought Compassion preferred the on-line page through the web site.

    1. Mackenzie
      Mackenzie January 24, 2020

      Hi Becky! I am so sorry for the confusion about the letter writing process. When you send a letter by mail, it will take about an extra week to two weeks for us to manually process it in Colorado Springs. Once we process it, we then send it electronically to our national office in your child’s country, where it is then translated.

      However, if you send your letter online, it goes straight through our system to the translation office.

      The time it takes to translate the letter depends on how quickly the translators can process and translate all the letters that go through their office. The letter is then mailed to your child’s Compassion center, which can vary quite a bit depending on how remote your child’s center is. That’s why we recommend sending letters for holidays about two months before the holiday itself.

      I hope this helps, but please let us know if you have questions!

  5. Avatar
    Robin Wall January 24, 2020

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I recently sponsored a child in Ecuador (October 2019). I’ve written my sponsored child like 15 times (I have a reminder to write every Friday). I was wondering when do you normally hear from your sponsored child? I haven’t received a letter or anything yet. I also did a general gift and Christmas gift and was told they would send a picture of what they purchased for my sponsor child. I was just wondering how long it takes to hear back. I’ve sent two cards, but mainly have used the online letter writing to send my letters and pictures. My little nieces ask weekly if a letter has come in yet 🙂 I was able to take them to a Compassion Experience and it was life changing for us all. <3 We chose our sponsor child because she was the oldest and they told us she had been there the longest and most people go for the younger children. I'm so thankful for Compassion and having this opportunity to sponsor my first child.

    1. Mackenzie
      Mackenzie January 24, 2020

      Hi Robin! It is so encouraging to hear how your nieces have joined you in this journey with Elizabeth!

      Because of our reciprocal writing process, your child will write to you every sixty days after they receive a letter from you. If you write to your child consistently (at least once every two months), you may expect to receive letters about six times each year.

      We normally recommend writing about 3-4 letters per year at least. You can certainly write more often than that, but it is totally up to you!

      I show that Elizabeth wrote you a letter in October 2019. This was her introductory letter for you as her new sponsor. Did you receive this letter from her? If not, please let me know, and I can send you another copy of her letter.

      It normally takes a few months for your child to write a thank you letter and to send you a photo of how she used the gift. However, if it has ever been six months since you sent the gift, and you haven’t heard anything, please let us know! We can send a special inquiry to Elizabeth’s Compassion center at that point.

  6. Avatar
    Gina Pearson January 22, 2020

    This is awesome! Thanks so much for the calendar letter writing plan and the comments that followed. The tip about the school year in our children’s respective countries is really great too!

  7. Avatar
    Lynn January 22, 2020

    Thank you for this helpful article. I was confused about the timing of letters I was receiving from the brother and mother of the 7 year old girl I sponsor in Haiti. After I had received 2 or 3 of them, I noticed that the dates they put on the letters were date first, then month and year. That explained the timing. The letters usually took 6 – 8 weeks to arrive. I’ve wondered if letters written online, where it’s easy to include photos, take less time to be received than mailing a letter.

    1. Sierra
      Sierra January 22, 2020

      Hi, Lynn! I’m so glad that you found this post helpful. When you write a letter online, it is sent to and printed out at the National Office in your child’s country right away, rather than taking the extra time to go through the physical postal system and then through our sorting and scanning system at our office here in Colorado Springs. It does save a significant amount of time. 🙂

  8. Avatar
    Missy Voigts January 22, 2020

    I love this guide! I would like to say, though, that it does seem like the amount of time it takes to get a letter to your child depends on the country! My child in the Philippines gets her letters in just two or three weeks, I believe, but my child in Africa can take up to two months!

    1. Sierra
      Sierra January 22, 2020

      Hi, Missy! You do bring up a good point here. There are some countries that take longer to translate letters, due to the workload and the employees that we have working in that country specifically. A letter should never be in translation for more than three months, though; that could be a sign that something is “stuck” in the system. Please let us know if you ever notice that this is the case, and thank you so much for taking the time to write to your children!

  9. Avatar
    Lisa January 22, 2020

    Thank you so much for this article. I have been wondering how long it took to get a letter from me to my sponsored child, Caleb. This will help me make sure that I get the “event” letters there more on time. -Lisa

  10. Avatar
    Nancy Heilman January 22, 2020

    I found this topic super helpful. And I love it when I struggle with something (ie – the timing of our letters to & from our sponsored children) & then there’s a blog about that very thing. Thanks for the tips!


  11. Avatar
    Richard Bellflower January 22, 2020

    Thank you Brandy! This is so helpful. I plan to share this with members of my church who sponsor children.

  12. Avatar
    Sandra January 21, 2020


  13. Avatar
    Beatty Collins January 21, 2020

    Brandy — An excellent idea and good tips. BUT you ought to change the date when you write to your Guatemalan child about “preparing for school”. The Guatemalan school calendar goes from January 15 to October 15. If you send your letter in June, it won’t be received until August when the school year is about over! When I write my Guatemalan child about school, I mail it in October or November so that it reaches her just as the new school year is beginning.

    For other countries, it’s an easy search on Google. Just ask: “when is the school year in [country name]?” and time your letter accordingly.

    1. Sierra
      Sierra January 22, 2020

      Beatty, thank you for sharing this helpful tip!

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