Advice From the Woman Who Writes to 52 Children in Poverty

Every month, Jenith Cowley sits down at her computer to write letters to 52 children who live in poverty. It’s not because she has a lot of free time on her hands — she’s a single mother with a full-time job. She does it because she knows her words can give hope to children living in seemingly hopeless circumstances.

A woman in a green sweater stands in front of a wall covered in pictures of children.

“Letter writing is so incredibly important and makes such a huge impact in the lives of these children,” says Jenith, an administrative assistant.

Jenith sponsors two children through Compassion, Vitoria in Brazil and Lamesignew in Ethiopia. Her monthly financial commitment gives them the opportunity to grow, learn and play at church-based child development centers in their communities. She takes full advantage of one benefit of sponsoring through Compassion: exchanging letters with the children she supports.

Like most sponsors, Jenith wishes she had the money to sponsor more children.

“I’m a single mom, so those two sponsorships do stretch me financially,” she says. “But it’s important, so I welcome the stretching.”

When Jenith found out there was a way to encourage even more sponsored children without any extra financial commitment, she signed up to become a correspondent — someone who writes to a child in place of a sponsor.

“There are several reasons that some sponsors might not write letters to the children they sponsor,” says Jenith. “I actually picked up my last correspondence because both the sponsors, a husband and wife, got seriously ill at the same time. They want to financially support, but they just can’t write at the moment.”

For the last 3½ years, Jenith has finely tuned the process of writing letters to children whose sponsors don’t write to them. Here are her secrets to writing better letters, becoming a correspondent, or getting a correspondent if you need one.

Tips for Occasional Writers Who Wish They Wrote More Often

“Sponsors might not write because they don’t have enough time,” says Jenith. “If that’s the case, I always encourage sponsors to pick one day a month and make that their letter-writing day. Put it on your calendar and in your planner, set reminders, and spend a little time once a month writing a letter.”

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Jenith says it takes about an hour and a half to write to all 52 children using the online writing tool on compassion.com. She uses that feature to write the first letter, selects the “duplicate for another child” option and personalizes each letter before sending.

“Throughout the month when I receive letters from the kids, I keep a list of highlights — something that I want to respond to,” Jenith says.

“So I make a general letter for all of them, but then I personalize it by speaking to those highlights from their letters.”

“I want to encourage them to do well in school,” Jenith continues. “Because we have to realize that their family members may not have gone to school and may not fully understand the value of getting an education. So someone has to speak into that — to praise them when they get good grades or pass to the next grade level.”

Tips for Frequent Writers Looking to Keep Their Letters Fresh

“I come up with themes every month,” Jenith says. “It could be a holiday, or something about my city, or something about my family, or my favorites. And I write about that theme.”

In February, Jenith chose Valentine’s Day as her theme. She talked about how the holiday is commonly celebrated in the United States, and she tied the theme into God’s love for us.

“It’s good to tell them that you’re praying for them and if they have something specifically that they want prayer for, they always feel like they can ask.”

For Those Interested in Writing to More Children in Poverty

If you have the desire to encourage more children in poverty, but you don’t have the budget for more sponsorships, do what Jenith did: Volunteer as a child correspondent. That means you’ll be writing letters to children in place of their sponsors. These sponsors have opted out of writing and agree to the correspondent arrangement ahead of time.

When sponsored children receive any communication from their sponsors, it brightens their day — and even their lives. Many children save letters from their sponsors into adulthood, keeping them in a safe place and rereading them for encouragement later in life. But some children never receive a single letter from their sponsors. They watch their friends receive letters and wonder why their sponsors don’t write to them.

That’s when correspondents save the day. If you’re feeling inspired to write to a child on behalf of a sponsor, reach out to Compassion’s contact center for more information. You can send an email to ciinfo@us.ci.org or call 800-336-7676.

For Non-Writers Who Might Need a Stand-in

If you sponsor a child through Compassion and are able to write a letter, you should! The mobile app makes it super easy to dash off a quick note from your phone and upload a photo your child will be excited to see. The online writing tool is also fast and easy, allowing you to choose from different stationery, to copy one letter to multiple sponsored children, and to easily see what your child said in their last letter to you.

But maybe letter writing just isn’t your thing. That’s OK! In that case, Compassion is happy to find you a correspondent stand-in, so the child you sponsor gets to experience the joy of receiving letters. So if you can’t write but want to give your sponsored child that joy and hope, Compassion’s contact center will help you find a correspondent. Email ciinfo@us.ci.org or call 800-336-7676 to get all the details.

When you agree to a correspondent, you give up your right to send and receive letters from the child you sponsor, agreeing to have a correspondent take over that aspect of your support. You continue to send your monthly financial support to the child and can still go on a sponsor visit. And you will still receive updates about your child’s progress, new photos as he or she grows — everything you receive now, except letters.

The Rewards of Writing

A woman, a Compassion correspondent, reads letters with pictures in them.

For Jenith, the hour-and-a-half commitment every month is well worth it — especially when she hears back from the 52 children she writes to. They thank her for writing to them, and they tell her how much they love her.

No matter which tools you use to write to the child you sponsor — and how frequently you do so — you are building an important relationship. And you’re shining a light into a child’s little corner of poverty — where darkness, despair and ugliness threaten to overwhelm.

“I just really believe in the power of our words to have an impact on children’s lives,” Jenith says, “to remind them of how much they’re loved and how special they are, and to encourage them to do their best.”

WRITE A LETTER TODAY!›


Photos by Daron Short.

18 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Jessica M. September 5, 2020

    Hello,

    I am writing for someone that would like to be a correspondent but they can only write in Spanish. Can she write letters to children in Spanish countries?

    1. Taryn
      Taryn September 8, 2020

      Hello Jessica, thank you so much for being willing to ask this on behalf of your friend. We advise our sponsors and correspondents to write in English and avoid writing in that child’s native language. If you friend were to write in Spanish, we ask that an English version of the letter be sent as well. Since we work with so many different countries and dialects, our field offices will send back or cancel letters that we send if they are not written in English. When you include an English written letter, this will help the country offices if there are any issues. We appreciate your friend’s heart to bless children in poverty. If you have any other questions about this, feel free to send us an email at socialmedia@compassion.com. ~Taryn

  2. Avatar
    Sue Anderson April 6, 2020

    Hi!
    Please add my name to the waiting list to become a correspondent. I already sponsor a young girl from Nicaragua, but love to write letters and would love to step into this role. I would take any child from any country that needs correspondence.

    Thanks!
    Sue Anderson

    1. Christina
      Christina April 6, 2020

      Hi Sue! Thank you so much for your heart for children and your desire to write! I have placed one request on the correspondent waiting list for you with no preferences. The requirement to be a correspondent is a commitment to write at least three times a year. In turn, you will receive three letters a year from the child. However, the more letters you write the more you will receive from your child. We assign correspondents for sponsors who do not have the time or desire to write, and as soon as an opening becomes available, we can assign a child to you. At that time, we will send you an information packet for the child, as well as writing instructions. Please let us know if you have any questions! Have a blessed day!

  3. Avatar
    Lauren April 4, 2020

    Hi,

    I am a sponsor and would like to become a correspondent. Could you please contact me?

    Thanks!

    1. Christina
      Christina April 6, 2020

      Hi Lauren! We appreciate your desire to become a correspondent for a Compassion child! I am sending you an email now with additional information.

  4. Avatar
    Andrea March 12, 2020

    Hello everone,
    Everone is talking about the Corona Virus.
    Would you write about this to your children?
    Please advise.
    Thank you.
    Andrea

    1. Avatar
      Shannon March 13, 2020

      Hi Andrea,

      This is a great question! We would encourage you to stick to nothing more than encouragement when writing your kiddos. This will hopefully avoid causing any concern or panic for them. You can tell them you are praying for them and their community during this time. We think that would be great! 💙 Thank you so much!

  5. Avatar
    Carol Hetler March 11, 2020

    Please tell me how I could start writing to multiple children.

    1. Christina
      Christina March 11, 2020

      Hi Carol! We truly appreciate your desire to become a correspondent for a Compassion child! We would love to have you write to a kiddo! The requirement to become a correspondent is to write at least three times a year. In turn, you’ll receive three letters a year from the child. Of course, the more you write, the more you will receive from your kiddo. Please know that our heart for correspondents is to slowly add children over time to avoid overwhelm and burnout. We recommend this for the child’s benefit and protection. I would be happy to place you on the correspondent waiting list, and as soon as a kiddo becomes available, we would place that child on your account and send you welcome booklet. Do you have any preferences (i.e. gender, age, or country)? Please keep in mind that the more specific your request, the longer you may have to wait for a child meeting your preferences to come available.

  6. Avatar
    Alice March 8, 2020

    Thank you so much for your inspiration and advice. Blessings upon you.

  7. Avatar
    Sandy B. March 6, 2020

    Thanks for this inspiring update about Jenith. I was previously a correspondent but had forgotten over the years how that had transpired (I eventually came to sponsor that child, as well). Now I have the information again. Thank you.

    1. Mackenzie
      Mackenzie March 9, 2020

      Sandy, thank you so much for sharing about being a correspondent! It is such a precious ministry opportunity, and we are so thankful for your time as a Compassion letter writer and sponsor! Blessings! 💙

  8. Avatar
    Dawn Smith March 6, 2020

    Jenith you are such an inspiration! What a wonderful act of love you are doing. I am seriously going to look into doing this as well. I just signed up to be a sponsor this week and I am so excited. I have been wanting to help more children but not sure of finances since I will be retiring soon. This is perfect! Thank you for sharing and God Bless You

  9. Avatar
    Albert Hall March 5, 2020

    I can, and do, attest to how important writing to these children is. I was blessed to visit a girl we sponsor in Burkina Faso. When I visited her home, and family, she went into their home and came out with a stack of letters. I think she had saved every letter we had sent her. Oh, I’m going back to see her again in April!

    1. Avatar
      Shannon March 5, 2020

      Albert,

      This is truly so special! We can say that this is true in so many cases. These children really do cherish their letters! Thank you so much for choosing to be a devoted sponsor! It means so much to us! Praying blessings over your visit to come!

  10. Avatar
    Derek March 5, 2020

    Jenith’s first tip is actually exactly what I do – as a sponsor of multiple children. I write a draft that I want to go to ALL of the kids. Then I personalize it for each one.

    1. Avatar
      Shannon March 5, 2020

      Derek,

      This is awesome! Thank you so much for choosing to be a blessing to these kiddos! Letters truly do make them feel so loved and special! 💙

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