Child Sponsorship Is About Relationship Building

Before Compassion Philippines hired Trips and Visits Specialists, I used to handle sponsor trips. I did my best to take good care of the visiting sponsors. I talked about my country, Filipino children and how Compassion operates here.

I had three favorite lines that I shared with sponsors. The first two were, “You are our heroes,” and “Thanks for making Filipino children happy.”

I meant those words. I am truly amazed that people from miles away share their lives with children living in obscure, squalid squatter colonies in the Philippines.

Then, the third line, “Sponsorship is not about the money you give but about the lives and relationships you build.”

This was not just a clever thing to say. It’s a profound statement that I learned from the children themselves. I’ve seen that our children are more concerned about building their relationship with you than the help they get.

smiling girl in red dress“I did not receive any reply letters from my first two sponsors. I felt sad. It’s as though I was writing to a fictitious person, an imaginary friend. So just think how happy I was when I received my first reply letter from my third and present sponsor.

“I can’t explain how excited I was that time. It’s not only me who gets excited whenever I receive a letter from my sponsor, my mom, too. And I am so happy because in every letter I received, stickers with verses in it were also enclosed.

“Other than reading their letters, I get to know them well, too, by looking at the pictures they send me. The feeling of being connected to a part of your family far from you makes you feel more loved.

“Communication is really a big thing in strengthening the bond that binds a sponsor and a child together.

“The best types of letters from sponsors are the ones that tell something about themselves and their lives. It would be better if the sponsors can tell a bit more about themselves. A brief summary of his/her life means a lot to the sponsored child.

“It can be as simple as writing what kind of place they live in, what kind of work they have, what they do in their free time and even their favorite stuff. It would be nice if children learn about their sponsors from other countries or other backgrounds and see how different, or surprisingly familiar, their lives, issues and dreams are.

“Acknowledging the achievements that the child has shared can also be of help in building a better relationship. In this way, the sponsor could learn more about the interests of the child and would give deeper support. Praises will always make one feel good.

“Although the children are thankful for the blessings they are receiving, it is inevitable for the sponsored children to be curious about how their sponsors can manage to sustain themselves, and at the same time lend their hands to those who are far away from their country. In this way, by sharing, the ‘stranger’ barrier between sponsor and sponsored child will slowly disappear, although the two have not yet met.

“And of course, inspirational and enlightening words coming from sponsors would definitely contribute greatly to the sponsored child. By sharing their relationship with Jesus Christ and sharing their prayer requests, sponsors develop themselves and their children spiritually. Words from a sponsor, despite the physical absence, can be a source of encouragement and inspiration for the sponsored child to be a better instrument for God.

“Indeed, response letters from our sponsors really bring a feeling of gladness to us.” — Rona

I went to CCWI-Frisco Student Center, and asked many sponsored kids this question: “How can your sponsor be a better sponsor?”

There were some children who hoped for more gifts, but I was not surprised that most of the children talked about your letters and knowing you more.

Here are some of their responses.

“I want my sponsor to write me always and occasionally send some greeting cards. I want to know about his family, what his home looks like, and what his country looks like. I also want to know how he met his wife and about their baby.” — Zarrah

“I love it that my sponsor never forgets to write me letters. I know he always thinks about me. I’d like it if he would send a picture of himself and his family. I want to know what they look like.” — Raffy

“What I really love about my sponsor is that she is very friendly and always writes about what is going on in her life. I would like my sponsor to write me more about her future plans, hobbies, and what she does during her free time. I hope she will never forget to write me and pray for me.” — Pauline

“I hope that my sponsor can come visit so I can personally ask him how he is doing. I want to talk to him in person. I will tell him many things about the Philippines.” — Michaelangelo

“I really, really hope my sponsors will come visit me. I will cook my special spaghetti for them, as well as chicken adobo.” — Anjanette

“It captures my interest a lot whenever he tells stories about his wife who is a Filipina. I’m excited to know when they could have a baby.” — Jhemaica

“What I like most about everything she writes is how she tells me to walk on God’s path. I also like it when she praises my talent, my personality and everything I do is a blessing to her. She writes mostly about her work in a camp and how she spends her time with her husband. One thing I’m curious about my sponsor is if she’s pregnant because she’s been married for almost two years now and I still haven’t read in her letters of them having a baby.” — Hallelujah

“I appreciate it whenever she writes her experiences in her country. She even tells me her stories about God that make me feel inspired. I just want to know how she would react if I flunked in one of my subjects at school. What is she going to tell me if ever that would happen? Sounds funny but I am so curious to know.” — Ryann

“‘I am truly blessed by God. That’s what my sponsor tells me whenever I receive her letters. My sponsor and I often talk about our latest activities. She even shares to me the activities of her children. I am very much eager to know why she chose to sponsor a Filipino child instead of children from other countries.” — Precious

“I can feel the love and care whenever I read the letter from my sponsor. I feel glad when she tells me that she is really proud of me. She gives me inspiration when she shares about how God has helped her to overcome her hardships. I want to know more about her family especially about her sibling who she mentioned once in her letter.” — Christine

“I like it when my sponsors tell me that I’ve become an amazing man now. And they are very encouraged because they said that I’ve grown up just like the person they thought I would become. They also serve as my inspiration especially every time I read in their letters the ways God has helped them in all their circumstances in life. They always tell me to pray to God, most especially in time of hardships because God is always ready to help. I want to know why they wanted to sponsor a child.” — Jake

“I feel motivated when my sponsor tells in her letter that she is proud of my achievements. I also feel happy when she says that I am beautiful. She often tells me stories about her grandchildren. She tells me how naughty they are. She loves her grandchildren so much. One thing I want to know is why she chose me to be her sponsored child.” — Jackielyn

“I am inspired by the letters my sponsor sends me. He often tells me stories of God’s greatness to Him. He also tells me about his family and the things he likes to do. I want to know the qualities of a sponsored child he looked for when he chose me to be his sponsored child.” — Precious

“My sponsor always sends me greetings and holiday cards. It feels like I am physically with them during special occasions when I actually am not. She really loves me and shows care for me in each of her letters. I am curious to know how it feels to live in their country. Is it like also here in the Philippines?” — Christopher

“My sponsor likes to write her life experiences even in her young age. I came to the extent that I become interested to learn how to swim because her sport is swimming and she often shares to me how she enjoys doing it. I am curious to know the kind of school she goes to. I even want to know if we have the same subjects at school.” — Kristine

“I enjoy reading my sponsor’s letters because I really feel that I am a part of their family. I want them to come visit me so that I can finally meet them and personally thank them up close and tell them how I am so grateful that they are my sponsors.” — Brenlyn

“I know my sponsors are always praying for me. They always pray for my health. I just recovered from tuberculosis. I just hope that they will write more often. I really love them.” — Maricor

“I really want to know something about my sponsor and how she is doing in life. I am thankful that I just know that she is there supporting me and my studies.” — Noemi

Remember my third-favorite statement: “Sponsorship is not about the money you give but about the lives and relationships you build.”

I asked a former participant in the sponsorship program who can write well the same question, “How can your sponsor be a better sponsor?”

She is Rachel Valenzuela. She just graduated from the Child Sponsorship Program and is now a schoolteacher. This is what she answered.

According to Rick Warren, the best use of life is love. I personally witnessed how sponsors best used their lives by extending their love to the children, including me. However, being sponsors is not enough and it will never represent the totality of the sponsorship because there is still the need to express love through time.

When they accepted the responsibility as sponsors, it is a must to set a time for letter writing. It is through this [letter writing] that the sponsored children will be updated about them. It is through this effort that children will know that they are greatly appreciated in terms of stories, accomplishments and so on. Remember, children are some of the best story-tellers.

So, I challenge [the sponsors] to reply immediately after receiving their letters because such responses mean a lot to [the children]. I was once a kid so I knew the feeling of patiently waiting for replies.

I discourage [the sponsors] to discuss busyness in their letters because it may affect what the children would think. Talk about what the sponsored children wrote in their recent letters because this will motivate the children to share their wonderful experiences and it will assure them that their sponsors do read their letters.

Send recent pictures whether being asked or not because pictures do excite children to know more about their sponsors.

Improve penmanship because this may affect the feeling of the children upon receiving their letters.

Always send spiritual icons to the children because they view sponsors as God-given gifts. They put so much trust, respect, and admiration in their sponsors. Thus, they expect the sponsors to include amazing things on how God changes them every moment of their lives. Giving memory verses from the Bible will help children to understand what sponsors like to share with their spiritual involvements and convictions.

Simply put, sponsors will become better sponsors if they will take on extended responsibilities. Becoming better is a process; it will never be instant. This is not to belittle sponsors but to simply allow them to know any possible gaps they have had in the past, and inform them about the important points to consider in expressing their love to their chosen children.

36 Comments |Add a comment

  1. cerissa January 31, 2016

    Hi I’m looking for a sponsor for my son
    .. He has leukemia and I am not capable of giving his medical needs as I am person with disability and no work pls help me find A sponsor

    1. Susan Sayler February 1, 2016

      Cerissa, please email us at [email protected] for more information about finding a sponsor for your son. Thank you and God bless!

  2. Mary December 13, 2011

    This is a great Article. How long does it take for the letters to reach Burkina Faso? I am a brand new sponsor and I just recently sent a letter of introduction. I’m so excited!

    1. Debbie December 14, 2011

      Usually takes 2 to 3 months. Are you a member of ? If not, you want to join, and we can answer all your questions.

  3. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies October 26, 2010

    Jean, it is good to give 2-3 months travel time, but in my experience the kids don’t mind if they are a little late.
    Mikki, we live in NY also and our Compassion kids loved snow pictures from last Winter!!

  4. Mikki October 25, 2010

    The very things that the children like to hear from us sponsors is the same thing that Blesses me when I hear it from them. I like to discuss Holiday traditions with them to see how they celebrate.
    My two sponsored kids have never experienced snow, so I sent them a bunch of pictures of my two boys having fun during a big snow storm that we had in Buffalo New York (snow? in Buffalo?)
    The absolutely Loved the pictures and were amazed at the snow!
    That opened up a topic of “how does snow feel?, how cold is it? does it hurt when it falls down very hard?

  5. Jean October 22, 2010

    I had not been sending cards. That’s such a great idea. How long before Christmas or birthday or any other reason should a card be sent to finally reach a child in Haiti?l

  6. Dionna October 21, 2010

    This was insightful to read. I hesitate to talk a lot about what kind of house I live in and some of the things I do because I don’t want to come off too rich to them when they have so little. I try to talk in more general terms.

    I think it would be great if Compassion allowed us to upload pictures instead of having to mail them in. I know I for one, would send my sponsored child more updated pictures if this was an option.

    1. Stephanie November 1, 2010

      I’ve sent a few letters where I copied several photos into a Word document. I liked it because I could add captions under the photos, and could place them next to the section that talked about what was in them (i.e. a picture of the beach by the paragraph that talked about a family trip, or a picture of my daughter by my description of her ballet recital). I printed them out and sent them on their way, and my kids got a new letter AND 5 new pictures to boot!

    2. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies October 26, 2010

      Dionna, do you have a Walgreens nearby? We upload pictures to the Walgreens website and have them printed. They are generally ready within 10 minutes and very cheap. I heard that Compassion may allow picture uploads in the future, but they would charge to cover printing costs. It would probably be cheaper to print them through Walgreens anyway.

  7. Christy T. October 9, 2010

    This is a great post. I just used it, actually, to write to my three sponsored boys for the “second Friday” letter-writing campaign. I told them each about the other two boys we sponsor, and told them what country the others are from. Then I printed off a world map and highlighted each of the countries (and the United States) so they would know where each of the others lives. I plan to use these questions as a theme for each letter I write.

  8. Marvin October 8, 2010

    This is a great post! I was on a sponsor tour with Edwin Estioko in May of 2006…he was great at helping us get around. The sponsor tour really changed my life.

    This is helpful to remember the value of encouraging poor children. I’m an American living in Taiwan a country very geographically close to the Philippines but very different in many ways. The church has a self funded program to help poor children living in poverty. Taiwan is very different from the Philippines…its more about having or not having money for the long hours of education children need to compete for good schools (12 hours a day). Poor children don’t have the money for the after school programs so the church is creating a program to help the students. But more than money the children need hope and encouragement. It is easy to forget the emotional needs of children living without fathers or sometimes mothers what we call a no parent family…the grandparents are raising them.

    Some people asked questions like why some kids don’t write… I suspect that some of the kids are so broken emotionally it’s difficult for them to write or function the way you and I do…it is true with some of the kids in Taiwan. They will at times literally crawl under the table and sit.
    I visited one child I sponsor through compassion in the Philippines…I took a flight to Manila and then to Bacolod and drove over ruff roads for 2 hours to what looked like the end of the world or close to it. And then the child did not talk that much. Being abandoned by your father and mother is a hard thing…not something a few quick letters and a visit will fix…only Christ, the church and project caseworkers and maybe a few hundred letters from us will help fix them emotionally.

  9. Christine Graham October 7, 2010

    I absolutely agree with you Stephanie about feeling a special connection with a child ( in my case a young man who is 18 years old) I only hear from three times a year. In the nine months I’ve been sponsoring my special friend in Ethiopia, I’ve received two letters from him, but for some reason I feel bonded to him, a close connection I’ve felt from the first day that God led me to sponsor him online back on New Year’s Eve last year. I too agree that God has paired us together for a reason and he does write wonderful letters. It does not frustrate me that I don’t hear from him often. As long as I do my part as a sponsor (prayer, monthly support, love and encouragement through letters and additional gifts) that is all that matters to me. I know that it will have a lasting impact on my dear friend.

  10. Stephanie Green October 7, 2010

    Great post and excellent advice! I felt really encouraged as a sponsor by the children’s comments above. I, too, agree that i feel more connected to those children from whom I receive more frequent letters but I DO have one child from whom I hear only three times a year and yet I truly feel a special connection with him. I believe this is a God-thing…that our relationship is something special because God has placed us in each other’s lives for a reason (and he writes wonderful letters!).On the other hand, I am sometimes frustrated by the child who is 14 and has written virtually the same thing in each of her reciprocal letters for the last year and a half, never answering any of my questions or mentioning my visit to her. I try to remind myself to always press on with each of my children. They ALL need all the love and encouragement we can share whether we know the details of their lives or not. It’s sometimes a tough lesson on patience and perseverance but one that I know God continues to teach me through my involvement with Compassion !

    1. Marvin October 8, 2010

      I live in Taiwan a developed country but with many issues… I suspect that some of the kids are so broken emotionally it’s difficult for them to write or function the way you and I do…it is true with some of the kids in Taiwan. They will at times literally crawl under the table and sit…they n
      do not know what love is….

  11. Elizabeth October 6, 2010

    I really agree.

  12. Dan Thomas October 6, 2010

    As sponsors it is hard to open with children especially when you have to avoid certain topics. ( I know this is done for the protection of the children and sponsors). With the kids that are not in the frequent letter system. I feel that it’s a one-sided relationship. I rarely get any responses of my letters. I hope one day all countries will be on the frequent list.

  13. Denise L. October 6, 2010

    There is a struggle here, where our sponsored children want to see photos of our house and how we live, and Compassion tells us not to feature our possessions. More sponsors would happily send photos of their homes if they weren’t afraid of going against Compassion’s advice. My own home is humble enough that I don’t think it matters.

    One thing I’ve done to help my girls feel more a part of my life is to take a photo of my house from the street, then proceed down the street to the neighborhood arterial, taking a photo on each new street, going about a mile until I come out to a spot with a great view of our city. I number these photos so the child can “take a tour” with me.

    1. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies October 6, 2010

      We took a picture in front of our front door, cropped in pretty close. It showed part of our house, but not very much of it.

      I like your idea of a tour. I plan to send some photos of our small town, featuring Main Street and the library we go to several times a week.

  14. Kathy Olson October 5, 2010

    This is an awesome post! Very useful information whether one is a new sponsor or an experienced one.

  15. Kim Edge October 5, 2010

    God led me to sponsor a young woman who is an orphan in Ethiopia. I wanted to help an AIDS orphan in Africa back when the news reports came out about them decades ago, but I did not know about Compassion then. When I selected my girl online, I saw that she was the same age as I was when I was orphaned, and she was in Africa, so I felt very led to pick her. I was elated to be helping to rescue her and I was ready to be a hero and lay a love-bomb on her that I had stored up during my lifetime! I was so excited that I wrote many letters in the first month and I thought I would hear from her overnight. Or in a week at the latest!

    I phoned Compassion and was surprised that it would take a couple of weeks for her to even find out that she was sponsored at all.

    Now I look back and laugh at my ignorance of how poor Ethiopia is and what a lack of telecommunications that they have. Kenya, next door to them, is far better connected. I knew nothing about Ethiopia having survived a communist government, and that corruption and lack of a genuinely free democratic government was still crippling them. I didn’t know that the government owns all the land there and only grants out leases. Well, you could write a book about all that I didn’t know about Ethiopia! Including that my child would only write three times a year.

    So, I had to swallow my disappointment and pray to God for patience. I asked my child to pray for me too, and I told her that I was disappointed that I could not hear from her more often. She understands that I love her and long for her, and tells me that she enjoys my letters, especially my “good advices” (which are encouragements to read certain Bible passages or chapters). I have had to learn to live with longing. But really, this is actually something God has made me well-suited for, since I long for my dead mother. So I do think God placed me in this frustrating situation of longing and disappointment to teach me something about being humbled, and of being in God’s position of loving an obtuse human population. God is frustrated as well, and he goes through mood swings too….LOL So I encourage all frustrated sponsors to take heart as well share in the sufferings of God.

  16. Michelle Wright October 5, 2010

    Out of our 6 children, one doesn’t write frequently, so I can relate to feeling some distance with that child. I came to realize, though, that I don’t know the situations in his life or why he doesn’t write. Perhaps he needs my support more than the other 5. Would I love to hear from him more? Absolutely. Am I doing this for me, though? No. I have SO much in this life, I am able to give to him, minister to him without worrying too much about what I get out of it.
    God has paired us together, and His ways are far above my ways. I will continue to write to each of our children at least twice a month, no matter how often I hear from them. I’ll pray that I bring encouragement and love.
    If any of you feel you are lacking in mail, I encourage you to become Correspondent sponsors with more children. You may get more tan envelopes to brighten your day!

    1. Donna October 29, 2010

      Yes, Michelle – your reply mirrors the true spirit of Jesus, reminding us all of what this ministry of Compassion is all about – and what a privilege it is to be a part of it! Thank you.

  17. star October 5, 2010

    I must agree with Jan. My strongest bond are with my kids from Bolivia and Ecuador. It is hard to establish a bond with a child that doesn’t write on a regular basics. Especially when they don’t answer our questions But I will leave everything to THE LORD. I will continue to write to all my kids once a month. Regardless what country they live in.

  18. Debbie October 5, 2010

    I don’t know, I was a bit bothered by this blog. I agree that it is absolutely wonderful to have a great relationship with the kids, but….what about the ones that don’t write, and don’t ask any questions. Should I love that child any less? I guess I am/was like so many sponsors that complain all the time about not getting letters or very short letters from some kids, and yet lately I am coming to realize that these kids need my help, my prayers and my encouragement just as much as the ones that write me long letters. Haven’t we all had people in our lives, especially when we were young, that we said very little to, and yet that person made a lasting impression on our lives?

    1. Marvin October 8, 2010

      I live in Taiwan a developed country but with many social issues… I suspect that some of the kids are so broken emotionally it’s difficult for them to write or function the way you and I do…it is true with some of the kids in Taiwan. They will at times literally crawl under the table and sit. Many are abandoned by parents…and live with grandparents or they do not do well in school so they feel bad about themselves. I suspect that many of the kids that write the least need our help the most. But only God working through the local church and project workers and sponsors can really make a lasting impact of the child.

      1. Kevin Rumell February 15, 2011

        I know this post is 4 months old, but Marvin couldn’t have said it any better: the ones that write the least, likely need our help the most. Pray for them !!! Be faithful to them !!!

    2. Lauren Smith October 5, 2010

      I have a total of 6 children. Three of them write very often. One writes pretty often. Two of them don’t write often at all. I agree with Debbie, in that prayers and encouragement are two great gifts we can give our kids. And no, we shouldn’t love a child that doesn’t write as often any less.

      My philosophy has been to write just as often to the ones who don’t write. I figure if they can’t/don’t write because they are burdened or busy with work and family responsibilities, my letters will encourage them. If they don’t write simply because they don’t write, I hope my letters will encourage them to write me back. And, if my worst fear is that their center is not encouraging them, facilitating them, helping them, etc. to write as often as they should, my deluge of letters along with those of other sponsors could be just the encouragement that the center staff needs to get things rolling for all of the children.


  19. Jan October 5, 2010

    This is an awesome post, which I will return to frequently. It has many wonderful ideas for future letters! I sponsor many children and I love writing to them and receiving their return letters. I am amazed by the relationships that can be built with these wonderful young people.

    That said, I have a similar concern as Teresa. As an adult, I can handle the disappointment of not hearing back quickly form my sponsored child. But the relationships with those children from non-reciprocal countries just aren’t as strong as the ones with children from countries where a HUGE effort is made, on the side of those countries’ offices, to get the kids’ mail to the sponsors in a very timely fashion, sometimes weekly. Some countries may claim they just don’t have the money, but who has less money than Bangladesh and Bolivia and Ghana? And who is losing out? Their children – because the sponsors have often become frustrated and disillusioned and backed off themselves, or even, God-forbid, let the sponsorship drop. Some do not even choose children from countries that rarely write. I think it is owed to ALL the children to form the strong relationship that builds from having these frequent letters. Yes, I would be happy to see letters more often from those children; but I really want them so my kids can hear back more often how deeply I care for them in my responses to their letters. (And yes I do write the non-reciprocal ones as often as the others, but I cannot reply to letters I am not receiving.) I hope that Compassion’s future will include a reciprocal program for every country participating.

    1. katie October 30, 2010

      i have to agree with Jan. my sponsored children mean the world to me, and i think that compassion has an amazing mission. there is so much out there encouraging sponsors to build a relationship with their children, which i think is amazing. however, it’s really difficult to build that kind of relationship when i only hear from my child once every 3 or 4 months. i write to my children every week, but i often feel like i’m grasping at things to say or i’m saying the same thing over and over. that being said, i’ve never sponsored a child from a reciprocal country, but i really really hope that this becomes true of all compassion countries.

  20. Teresa October 5, 2010

    “So, I challenge [the sponsors] to reply immediately after receiving their letters because such responses mean a lot to [the children]. I was once a kid so I knew the feeling of patiently waiting for replies…..Talk about what the sponsored children wrote in their recent letters because this will motivate the children to share their wonderful experiences and it will assure them that their sponsors do read their letters.”

    We sponsors often feel the same way. We write faithfully, and then wait for months to get a letter in return (especially from countries that are not reciprocal). Many times, the topics we discussed and questions we posed are not addressed. It makes it just as tough on us to form a relationship with the child when this happens. We run to our mail boxes every day hoping to see that cream colored envelope, just as our children anxiously wait on mail day to see if they will get a letter from us.

    1. Lauren Smith October 5, 2010

      I stand with Teresa in her challenge to answer letters from your child/children as soon as they arrive. I do this even if I’ve just written to the child a day or two before.

      As Teresa comments, it takes a long time quite often for letters to get from here to there and here to there, so why not respond to the child’s letter and get your letter off to them as soon as possible.

      I’ve also gotten in the habit of asking people I meet, especially at church, “hey, do you sponsor a child with Compassion?” If they say no, I can share my joy in sponsoring children with Compassion. If they say yes, I ask, have you written to your child recently? If they hem & haw, I figure they haven’t so I go into the joys of receiving a letter and sending a letter. I once got an e-mail from a friend I’d talked to about Compassion the day before and she confessed that her family sponsored a child and never wrote. She said she would gather the family and make the effort to write often.


  21. Sherry W. October 5, 2010

    So much to learn from this post about how to be a better sponsor and mentor and Compassion friend. I will return to this post again and again!

  22. Angie R October 5, 2010

    What a great blog. It takes me right there to my children and their feelings on my letters. I found great ideas about adding more on myself, my struggles and how God is always there. I love to hear about them, so it makes sense that they want to hear about me. These children have such insight.

  23. amy October 5, 2010

    Thank you so much Edwin- this is an immensely helpful and encouraging post. What a great joy and honour it is to be a sponsor.

  24. Michelle Wright October 5, 2010

    I think this is an amazing blog post and I hope that many sponsors read this and are inspired to write! It is one of my passions, to tell sponsors just how much those letters mean. It is a bog focus of my own personal blog and something I share when I work tables for Compassion. Thanks for spreading the word!

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