The Impact of Letter Writing

More than four years have passed since Haminton (age 11) wrote, with the teacher’s help, the first letter to his sponsor. His relationship with his sponsor has grown over the years as both of them share their heart and experiences through their letters.

boy holding up cardsHaminton has had the same sponsor all these years. He was one of the first children from his child development center to be sponsored, which is a great blessing for him.

Our Program Communications Field Manual states:

“Child letters play a key role in the relationship between the sponsor and the child. Quality child letters, sent to sponsors on a regular basis, inspire sponsors to a deeper commitment to the child they sponsor. Sponsors consistently rate child letters as one of the most valued pieces of correspondence they receive from Compassion.”

For children, it is also valuable and a reason to rejoice when they hear they have a sponsor and every time they receive a letter.

Haminton’s classmates tell him he’s “lucky” to have someone writing to him very often.

Two letters a year is the minimum number of times that a child writes to his or her sponsor. Once the child development center gets the letter-writing schedule from the country office, children write the draft of the letter they will send in a little notebook. Then it is copied to our blue letter stationery, in order to send it nice and clean.

In Nicaragua it is not very common for people to write letters. Not writing is part of our culture, so children at the child development centers must learn to communicate with their sponsor through their writings.

When children first come to a center, teachers help them to write. Once the children are older, they write by themselves.

Every time Haminton’s birthday comes, there is for sure one letter and a gift for him from his sponsor, which he happily shares with his loved ones.

“Once she sent me pictures, and once she sent money and I bought clothes, shoes, socks, and underwear.”

Twice a week Haminton faithfully walks to the center where he receives love from the staff. He learns about God and other topics. He receives a meal or snack, and he comes with the hope to receive one more letter from his sponsor.

Haminton doesn’t have to walk a long distance. Just a block away from the church building, there is a small house made of pieces of old zinc and wood. That’s the home where he lives with his parents, one older brother and other relatives, which allows him to come always on time.

Registered children are also involved in different church activities. Haminton says, “When I go to church, I sing and pray for my sponsor.” His parents do not attend any church, but Haminton and staff are praying that they will soon come to know Christ as Haminton does.

Isayana, a member of the church staff, says,

“At the beginning, Haminton was uncontrollable. He did not listen to the teacher. He used to go to every classroom and was disobedient.

“At that time he was also not attending regular school, but our staff talked to the parents and with the school supplies they received at the beginning of the year, more interest was shown by them to send him to school.

“Now, he is obedient, stays in class and is in fourth grade.”

Isayana also says that when a letter comes for Haminton,

“I have to give it to him at the end of the class because he gets impatient and wants to read it right away.

“He likes when she tells him about her experiences like walking inside of a cave, or a picture of penguins that she sent.”

woman with arm around boy's shoulderHaminton used to keep his letters in a backpack hanging from the wall, but rats ate them. He only has the pictures, which he now keeps in a safer area. Although he only has pictures, the words written in her letters have been kept very deep in his heart.

“I like her letters because she sends them with love. She writes about her dad, mom and sister and sends me pictures of them. She is young; she likes snow, ice skate and plays with her sister. I also like to read in her letters that she prays for me.

“In my letters to her, I tell her I pray for her and her family. I tell her I like to play with my friends.”

Haminton’s dream when he grows up is to be a policeman because he likes the action. He also would like to be a sponsor like his “because I want to help other children as my sponsor helps me.”

Jessenia (age 28), Haminton’s mother, says, “I am very thankful because my son has received a lot of help. I thank the Lord. I thank Him for sending that sponsor. I encourage Haminton to write to her.”

During the time spent with Haminton, he repeatedly said what was his prayer for his sponsor, “May the Lord bless you, keep you and protect you.”

A warm long-distance relationship and the prayers of everyone involved in the center can make a difference in the life of a child.

“I am very thankful for what she has done for me,” says Haminton.

Today, a little bit older, Haminton is sitting on his chair writing carefully and with love his next scheduled letter to his sponsor.

boy writing at desk

49 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Marlene July 21, 2013

    Oh wow! I just noticed all these comments are from back in 2010. Hummmmmm.

  2. Rebekah Carthens December 16, 2010

    Hello.This article was really motivating, especially because I was looking for thoughts on this topic last couple of days.

  3. buy used car Nebraska November 1, 2010

    I’ve been visiting your blog for a while now and I always find a gem in your new posts. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Heather April 14, 2010

    Just to let everyone know, Hobby Lobby has nice paper-dolls, stickers, etc. I sent my little Andrea in El Salvador some paper dolls.

  5. Paul Nguthi April 14, 2010

    You need to know that the letters have a great impact in the life of the sponsored child. I developed the liking to read the bible since my sponsor would quote verses in her letters and i wanted to write mine too. She was like my parent and i enjoyed every word she wrote. I still keep the letters she wrote me 15 years ago…they are so rich.

  6. Jenna January 26, 2010

    This just gives me tingles all over… I love hearing stories like this, and I pass them on to the teams within Compassion who work with the letters so they know what a difference they’re making by passing those letters from the sponsor to the child and the child’s letters back to the sponsor. THANK YOU to those of you who faithfully write to your children. You are making such a difference in that child’s life. 🙂

  7. Michelle November 8, 2009

    I like the picture suggestion as well…. thanks for the idea!

    I treasure my child’s letters likely as much as the children treasure their sponsors’ letters!!! I can’t wait for the next one…

  8. Shannon K November 6, 2009

    Hi Diane,

    I really like your picture suggestion and will probably use that in the future! I sponsor an almost-eight year old girl in Uganda (she was five years old when I started sponsoring her). Her letters — both from her teachers at first and also from her personally — have always been written in English. That might not be the case at other child development centers, though.

    Hope you’ll hear from your little girl soon and begin a blessed correspondence with her!

  9. Diane November 6, 2009

    There is so much information! There are so many answers to questions I didn’t know I had. I feel more prepared to get my child’s 1st handwritten letter sent correctly. It would be terrible to do something wrong & hold up a whole shipment for weeks in customs.
    Just beginning sponsorship (1 girl in Uganda)yesterday, I just sent an email this morning. It seems important to make contact soon as possible.
    I have an idea but haven’t seen it yet, though this is one huge site! How able inserting photos through a word processor onto a letter (After printing the page out, I could add my handwriting by commenting on photos and such)?
    Comments about each photo can be placed under the photo, with room for translation. The child would have it all on a page together on one or both sides: letter, photos & comments, and translation..?
    I have an off-topic question. Uganda’s official language is English & is taught in school. My girl is in Kindergarten; could she already know English? I’m kind of assuming she probably speaks a tribal language and will be taught English in school. It was a pleasant surprise to discover this. Finding things to send would be easy if she does know English! Thanks in advance for any help.
    Lord bless.

  10. Terese June 8, 2009

    I am beside myself with excitement! I am a new sponsor of several children, and I just received my first letter!

    Boniventure from Uganda sent the sweetest letter on a cute fill-in-the blank form. He told me he wants to raise lots of cattle and become an accountant. I love him already!

    Thanks for all the inspiration and ideas I have received from reading this blog.


  11. Kalah Pointer May 21, 2009

    letter writing is great!!! I hang all my letters on my wall!! Makes, know my sponsor child, it with always! Even though, it is a far way- relationship!!! Enjoy the prayers and see the results in the letters!! God is good all the time!!

  12. Diana May 17, 2009

    @Caitlin – Thanks so much for this information, Caitlin, it really helps! I love the idea about leaving half my paper blank for the translator, I will definitely do that. Also, I did read another article somewhere on this site about the process that the letters go through and how loooong it can be, so thanks for that reminder. And, yeah, that really makes sense what you said about their first letter to me perhaps being written before they ever receive my first letter.

    “getting a head start on loving them” … I love that! 🙂

  13. Caitlin May 17, 2009

    @Diana – Great questions.

    I have only ever used the compassion stationary once. You can write on what ever you like, and the child gets your writing and the translator’s. If you want to make it easier for the translator, draw a line at exactly half of your page and only right on one half, leaving the other one open for the translator. Otherwise, the translator will write on another paper and both the translated paper and your letter will be given to the child. I like to only write on half, because I love seeing my child’s handwriting side by side with the translators, so I imagine, it might be interesting to the kids as well. Also, what I try to do with blank cards is only write on the top half of the card, so the bottom half is open for the translator.

    I wrote both of my kids before I got their official packets in the mail. It wasn’t a problem at all.

    I would just suggest that you include a picture of yourself and also, maybe a picture of your family in your first letter, because it helps the kids really solidify more quickly that they are indeed sponsored by a real person. And, from what I’ve heard, if you want something about the photo translated, write whatever it is on a letter/card, because I don’t think the writing on the backs of the photos gets translated (If I’m wrong about this, I would love to be corrected).

    Don’t get discouraged if the first letter seems like they didn’t even read your letters, often the kids write their first letter to you before they ever receive your letters, and also know that it takes a loooooooong time for the letters to be processed, and some kids only get the opportunity to read your letters and write replies every 3-4 months, so if the letters seem slow, it’s not because the kids don’t like you, they just don’t get as many opportunities to write us as we get to write them. Think of it as getting a head start on loving them!

    Way to go with the sponsoring and then writing!

  14. Diana May 17, 2009

    I am a new sponsor (just signed up to sponsor 2 children today) and I have a couple of questions after reading through some of these posts.

    1. I want to write letters to my 2 children today so that I can mail them as soon as possible. Can I write my letter on plain paper or in a blank card with a picture on the front, or must I use the Compassion stationery only?

    2. Will my child receive my own letter in my own writing in addition to the translated version from the Compassion translator, or will they receive the translated version only?

    3. Will I receive my child’s letter in her own writing in addition to the translated version, or will I only receive the translated version?

    Thank you in advance for your answers to this newbie’s questions!

  15. Cissy May 8, 2009

    Thanks so much for the responses! I hadn’t thought about or of printing labels. You all are an awesome source of information. God is so good!

  16. Jeanette May 7, 2009

    Also, I wanted to say, that although I like to send my children special things, I also want to write often and I just can’t seem to get those special letters together often enough. So I supplement that by using the email, which actually goes quicker, and I write an email atleast once a week.

  17. Jeanette May 7, 2009

    Use They have a ton of stuff. They give you the length and width measurements but not the thickness, but I was guessing that the book I looked at, 20 pages, was probably not to thick. Also one workbook I looked at was too thick but it hat tear out pages so I can send a few at a time. I wasn’t looking for Spanish, a very common laguage in the US. I was looking for Ahmaric. and they had it!

  18. Juli Jarvis May 7, 2009

    I love this line of the post: “He also would like to be a sponsor like his ‘because I want to help other children as my sponsor helps me.’” Is that awesome or what? May the Lord make that a sweet reality in his life some day…

  19. Juli Jarvis May 7, 2009

    Priceless photos here! Just wonderful! Thanks so much —

  20. Caitlin May 7, 2009

    I found some of the gifts useful as conversational tools in the beginning of letter writing, sort of like ice breakers. I’m sure you’ve met with this challenge, and so will your child, when you first start writing, you are almost the perfect definition of complete strangers. For me, being able to send a sheet of stickers of butterflies was an icebreaker, it allowed some sort of a starting point, e.g. “I really like butterflies, I think they are pretty. Isn’t it amazing how God could make such a delicate creature? What do you like?” gives both you and your child a much needed common ground to start with, and once you both get comfortable, you won’t need the stickers anymore, but I sure enjoy sending them still..

  21. Stacey May 6, 2009

    I just became a sponsor a few days ago and already I am so glad I did! I really appreciate all of the information you all are sharing. Especially the ideas for what to include in letters. So far, I have only sent an email to my sponsored child. The next letter I want to be handwritten so all of the ideas I’ve read across the blog are fabulous! But, one question, would it be overkill to start off with all this? Should I wait for the relationship to progress first before I start sending lots of gifts?

    Also, I just wanted to say thanks somewhere lol!

  22. Lisa Miles May 6, 2009

    Chris, thanks for the info. That answers my question perfectly.

  23. Chris Giovagnoni May 6, 2009

    @Lisa Miles – I spoke with the department that processes the letters and this is what I was told.

    The best and easier way for the correspondence team to process your letters is if you place multiple items in a blank envelope and write the complete child number on the outside of the envelope.

    We place all items (e.g., coloring sheets, bookmarks, photos, etc.) in a blank envelope.

    Then we attach your letter to the envelope and write your child’s number on the envelope, that way, if the letter and the envelope get separated, the country office will know which child the envelope should be given to.

  24. Stephanie G May 6, 2009

    I just printed Avery address labels for my three kids….SO much easier to label contents this way!

    I love the ideas for items to include with letters.I hope sponsors will keep those coming!!

    Any ideas for where to find anything printed in Swahili?
    My kids are all in Tanzania and one is a struggling reader and I’d love to encourage him with some printed material for practice.


  25. Anna May 6, 2009

    Such a great article, very inspiring! I wish every sponsor would write to their kids as faithfully.

    As for labeling, I always label every single item separately, including postcards and sticker sheets. And I have a tip for easy labeling! I’ve made an A4-sized sheet of labels with Photoshop – one sheet has 54 labels. I then print out a sheet and cut the labels apart. I make these sheets by creating an empty A4-sized document (or any size the printer can handle). Then I write my sponsor number and the child’s number on top of each other, and copy and paste that until the sheet is filled. Then I save that and print out a new one whenever I need more labels. This can be done with any graphics program. 🙂

  26. Sara Benson May 5, 2009

    I always hear that photos are one of the best things that you can send, but there are all kinds of cool things you can inclued. Cut and paste the blog links below and read all of the amazing ideas from other sponsors.

  27. Crystal G May 5, 2009

    Originally Posted By CissyOkay, 1/4 inch is great! My kids are in Ecuador and El Salvador and speak Spanish. What on earth can I send them? I don’t speak Spanish and can’t find any “spanish” books/coloring books or anything like that in my small town.

    You can send them anything you think children like. I have found ALL kids like stickers, pictures of animals and MAPS, my kids love maps. For their first Christmas card I sent them a World map with John 3:16 quoted and showed where they are and I am on the map. They loved it.

  28. Crystal G May 5, 2009

    Just a word of encouragement. I have met some of my sponsored children and one boy in particular arrived with all the letters and photos I have sent over the years. In fact, he and his mother recognized and found me in a crowd from my photographs. I saw them dragging the interpreter along pointing from my picture to me in a definite “look there she is…” sort of way. I have always just put everything in a single envelope with their name and number on envelope. But, I sponsor several children and will place the individual envelopes in a larger packet for Compassion. As far as I can tell, the items have always been received. My children comment on all the gifts, specifics in the letters, and photographs I send. I image sometimes human errors are made, but from what I have experienced, my children received all their items with out much extra effort on my part.
    This year I have made a concerted effort to not write more often, but to make my letters more personal and interesting. I ask my children to pray for me and share my heart with them more than ever. I pour my heart and love out to them and know that anytime they need that love, all they have to do is read my letters over and over. It is the only way I have to remind them that in my heart, I am always with them.

  29. Caitlin May 5, 2009

    Cissy, you must not live in California. Try looking at a teaching store, maybe. Where I live, Spanish is an easy one to find!

    However, I have been finding French Children’s books for my kid in Haiti, on Amazon, go to advanced search and set the language for Spanish, and the category for childrens’ books, or whatever you may be looking for and start weeding through the options. So, far I have sent Horton Hears a Who, in French (Horton Entend un Zou!), and have Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat and the Hat, and the Hungry Catepillar all in French (haven’t sent these yet, I’m trying to keep the books spread out). Careful with the measurements though, you might have to get creative. Horton Hears a Who and Green Eggs and Ham both came to me in hardback form for French…which were too thick to send(The other two came perfectly sized for sending). So I had to take a box cutter, I cut the cardboard binding off, cleaned it up, used packing tape to “laminate” the two outside pages, and they both looked quite good, and fit the measurements. As a book lover, it was hard emotionally to rip apart a Dr. Suess book, but the results paid off. I did the same for a wordless picture book, for my 5 yo in India. As for coloring pages, try looking for online printable ones in Spanish.

    1. Marlene July 21, 2013

      Caitlin, That’s a great idea to look for Spanish coloring books to send and the idea of laminating the front and back pages in order to fit them into a 1/4″ thick package. I saw someone in these comments who sponsor a child in Ecuador (which I also do) and I’m wondering how much money it costs for clothing items or a soccer ball in Ecuador. My child’s birthday is approaching. Guess i could somehow look it up online.

  30. Cissy May 5, 2009

    Okay, 1/4 inch is great! My kids are in Ecuador and El Salvador and speak Spanish. What on earth can I send them? I don’t speak Spanish and can’t find any “spanish” books/coloring books or anything like that in my small town.

  31. Sara Benson May 5, 2009

    Ok, so while I was posting Caitlin found another answer.

    So, does that mean that we can send a bunch of items all in one letter as long as they are each 1/4 of an inch or less?

    I had just assumed that it was the “laid out and stacked” measurement because of the limited amount of space and the expense of shipping.

  32. Sara Benson May 5, 2009

    Originally Posted By Cissya question – does my entire envelope have to be 1/8 inch or less or is that measurement for each item that I include? Prpbably a silly question but you never know for sure until you ask!

    It is a good question. the short answer is neither 🙂

    If you were to take the letter and lay it flat and then stack up all of the contents, it should be less than 1/4 of an inch.( 1/4 is the new allowance – the website still has the old information)

  33. Caitlin May 5, 2009

    P.S. I also called the office, and the official measurement for thickness is now 1/4 of an inch.

  34. Caitlin May 5, 2009

    @Cissy – I’ve been told it is the measurement for each item, not the entire package, because once it is received at Colorado, they take everything out of the envelope, unfold the letters, check them and then stack the letters and items in the pile going to that country, so the original packaging (envelope, and how the items are put in it) doesn’t even make it to the kids.

  35. Mike Stephens May 5, 2009

    I have been to Nicaragua!!! My sponsor child’s middle name is Jessenia. I agree writing has a HUGE impact on the child and the sponsor.

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU!!!”

  36. Britt May 5, 2009

    I write at least twice a month…but after reading this…my heart aches thinking how the children must wait to get letters from us! Going to write a letter 🙂

  37. Britt May 5, 2009

    @Cissy – I actually would like to know this too…and I’m not a new sponsor….Good question Cissy!!!

  38. Britt May 5, 2009

    @Lisa Miles – I write the number on EVERYTHING and if the pen doesn’t write well on a surface, I write it on clear tape (like Scotch tape) and stick that on the item…don’t know about the other two questions though…

  39. Cissy May 5, 2009

    I just sent a letter out today with pics in a ziploc bag stapled to the letter. I wrote the child’s number on each picture just in case.

    I’m a fairly new sponsor (3 children) and have a question – does my entire envelope have to be 1/8 inch or less or is that measurement for each item that I include? Prpbably a silly question but you never know for sure until you ask!

  40. Amy Wallace May 5, 2009

    I just wrote to my children last night! I used to just respond everytime I got a letter, but now I’m going to write them letters once a month 🙂

  41. Sara Benson May 5, 2009

    Sometimes I put stickers, balloons(which can’t be physically labeled), or photos into a ziploc bag and just label the bag. I figured that since the bag is clear, it was less likely to need to be opened if it was stopped by customs.

    How does everyone else deal with this?

  42. Amy May 5, 2009

    Wow, very powerful blog post. I try to write to both my sponsored boys once a week.

  43. Lisa Miles May 5, 2009

    I have some questions and this looks like a great post in which to ask them.

    I now know that everything you send to your sponsored child needs to have their child number on it.

    1) Does EVERYTHING need the number — every photo, every postcard, every pack of stickers, etc?
    2) Sometimes I put photos in an unsealed envelope and just write the child’s name and number on the outside of the envelope. Is that okay? Will the photos inside make it to my child?
    3) Early on in my sponsorship, I didn’t realize that you needed to put the child’s number on everything — would the mail intake people at Compassion have noticed that it wasn’t there and done that for me? Or is it likely that those things, (photos, postcards, etc.) didn’t make it to my child?

  44. Chuck Guth May 5, 2009

    Having been on Sponsor tours the saddest thing is to have children say “Will you tell my sponsor to write?” – we can never underestimate the importance of the letters. It is more important than the sponsorshilp $- the relationship is the key!!!

    1. Mike Hailey August 28, 2010

      Well stated!!! I’ve spoken to several sponsors who admit that they haven’t written their sponsored child in a long time. I try to state the importance of writing letters, and how important it is to the child. I have a photo of a young Bolivian girl whom I met while on an Advocates trip to Bolivia in ’08, who, when asked along with her 20 other classmates at the project we were visiting, sat silently with her face downcast as all of the other children raised their hands to show that they receive letters from their sponsors. She had never received one in the 2 years she had been sponsored. I read somewhere that there are children who would rather not be sponsored than risk the disappointment of not receiving letters from their sponsor. I will never forget that little girl.

      1. Michelle August 28, 2010

        That breaks my heart Mike….

  45. Sara Benson May 5, 2009

    I hope that all sponsors who read this will immediately sit down and write to their children. God bless him and his sponsor.

  46. Linda May 5, 2009

    Alls I can say is Compassion International ROCKS. I have developed two relationships with children, one from Nicaragua, and one from Ethopia. Both children are so precious. It blows my mind that my two also pray for me. It’s a very humbling experience. One day my goal is to meet them, and with the Lords blessings I will. Any question regarding my children I contact Compassion, and they always answer my questions to the best of their ablility. They honestly care about my children, and what is the best for them. I’m so happy to be apart of this wonderful ministry. The childrens letters mean so much to me too. God bless all of you, and God’s blessings on your sponsored children.

Add a Comment

Read the ground rules for comments.