Sponsor Letters Can Be a Family Affair

It was 8 o’clock on Thursday morning when children from the child development center entered the courtyard of Christian Alliance of Bobo-Dioulasso. That day was thought to be an ordinary one, except some of the children had extra-large smiles on their faces.

But there really was something special about this day — it was a letter day.

Every child who wrote to his or her sponsor that day felt like it was an important appointment. The children enjoy receiving letters from their sponsors as much as they enjoy writing back.

Unfortunately, many of the children do not receive letters. Among them are unsponsored children, but there are even some sponsored children who do not receive letters. One development staff member shared,

“It is very hard for children not to receive letters. Some children come to me sometimes asking why their sponsors have not written to them.”

When sponsor letters are given to children, it is difficult to see the sadness on the faces of those who do not receive a letter.

On the other side, children who receive letters from their sponsors are beside themselves with joy whenever they are called by development center workers to get their letter.

Letters from sponsors are considered family goods. The child’s entire family reads these letters, and most often it is the mother who keeps them in a safe place. According to our staff,

“Letters are a capital link between the sponsored children and sponsors.”

Many parents come to see our development center staff after reading sponsor letters. These parents usually ask what they should do about the letters and our staff advise them to write a response letter, making sure that all of the sponsor’s questions are answered.

Some parents will make a draft of a response letter with their children and then bring it to the center to copy onto a letter form to send to their child’s sponsor.

In the beginning, development center workers used to give sponsor letters to children with the hope that the children would write back in due time. But our staff noticed that letters written by children and their families were not always accurate and that some or none of the sponsor’s questions were answered. So, another strategy was put in place.

With volunteers, the staff at the Eaux Vives (Living Waters) development center decided to systematically write in a book all the questions asked by sponsors, along with the sponsor’s name and the name of the sponsored child. Now they can make sure all questions asked by sponsors are addressed when children write their reply letters.

Another innovation implemented recently is to make a copy of the letters children write to their sponsors and place them next to the sponsor’s questions in the book. By doing this, our staff can easily check the accuracy of letters.

As far as the actual letter writing, some children are able to write letters themselves and others are not.

Fabrice is one child at the development center who can read and write his own letters. He joined the center in 2007 and is now in grade six, primary school. Fabrice is a brilliant student who will get his Primary School Leaving Certificate this year.

His father is a bricklayer who has two wives and eight children. Fabrice’s mother stays in the village where she works as a midwife.

Fabrice lives with his maternal grandmother.

One of Fabrice’s half brothers, Armand, is registered at the same child development center. The two boys have the same father but different mothers. Armand stays with their father, but the brothers do not miss any opportunity to spend time together.

Fabrice has already received many letters from his sponsor. One of our staff members shares,

“Fabrice reads his sponsor’s letters himself. Every time I ask him, he is able to tell me what his sponsor has written in the last letter.”

Though Fabrice’s mother lives far away, he always manages to show her his sponsor’s letters. His mother enjoys reading these letters to learn about her son’s benefactor, who lives in a country they know only by name.

It is amazing to hear Fabrice’s aunt, who lives in the same house, talk about Fabrice’s sponsor. She has read every letter the boy has received. Sometimes she even makes suggestions about what Fabrice can tell his sponsor about certain aspects of his life.

On this letter-day morning, Fabrice was excited because he was going to write to his sponsor with his own hand. The first step in the letter writing is drawing. Every child who would be writing a letter was given a letter form on which to draw something for his or her sponsor.

After washing their hands to keep the letter forms clean, the children started drawing.

Some are very imaginative while others use biblical posters as models. Every child worked hard to deliver the best drawing possible. Some were very impressed by their friends’ drawings.

Then it was time to write. For Fabrice and some other children, the writing was not a big deal. After a few minutes telling a volunteer what he intended to write, Fabrice began a draft of his letter. After a short while the boy was done.

The next step was to meet with a development center staff member to go through the draft and correct mistakes. Then Fabrice copied the corrected version to the letter form.

For children who have just started school and cannot write their own letters, the process is different. These children have an interview with center staff or volunteers and share what they would like to write to their sponsors.

The staff person or volunteer asks the child the questions from the sponsor’s last letter so the child can provide answers. A draft of the letter is written in a book and read aloud; if the child agrees with what is written, the text is copied to the letter form on which the child has already made drawings.

When this process is completed, these children also can say that they have written to their sponsors.

The happiest sponsored children are those who communicate regularly with their sponsors through letters. In some homes children have posted their sponsor’s letters on the walls of the living room for visitors to see.


11 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Jenny Max May 13, 2011

    As a longtime Compassion sponsor, I never did realize the enormous impact my letters made in the lives of my sponsored children. When one of my former sponsored children found me online a while back, he described how he still had every letter and picture that I ever sent him. For him to have kept them all after ten years, I now understand how important the letters are in creating a bond with the child, while more importantly sharing about Jesus. I encourage you all to write as often as possilble. You never know the difference you are making.

  2. Avatar
    Stephanie T. Green May 12, 2011

    Even when I think I know a lot about how this process works, then someone within Compassion shares another story and more details and I realize how little I really know. I agree with the previous poster who said the letter writing blogs that highlight specific countries or projects are the best! They are definitely my favorite! Thank you Paul Henri Kabore’ for giving us a glimpse into how things work in Burkina Faso!

  3. Avatar
    Samuel Yaw Agyeman Thompson May 12, 2011

    God bless Compassion International and all concerned for putting smile on the faces of the children in Ouaga-Burkina Faso

  4. Avatar
    Nathan Cary May 11, 2011

    I fear to think that many sponsors don’t think how important their letters are.
    In the interest of the children, may I ask that the project staff monitor the letters received for their children. If there appears to be a trend, that the sponsor does not write, someone at the project may act on behalf of the alleged ‘sponsored’ child, and rattle the cage of the sponsor, asking the sponsor to write.
    If the sponsor is still supporting financially, I would ask one of our letter writing supporters to take on this child.

  5. Avatar
    Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies May 11, 2011

    I loved this glimpse into the letter writing activities in this project. Letter writing is so crucial and it is something that I am very passionate about. It was a real treat to have this inside look at how the process is handled for Fabrice and friends!

  6. Avatar
    Stephanie Green May 11, 2011

    Thanks for sharing this and thank you to the many development center workers who make detailed letters, with answered questions, possible.

  7. Avatar
    Juli Jarvis May 11, 2011

    This is really a great post — very informative, and touching to read about Fabrice. I also appreciate the extra work of this project, because as an Advocate I talk to sponsors often that question why they’re not getting specific answers back to their questions.

  8. Avatar
    ronda May 11, 2011

    Thank you. This is really neat! My Sylvain attends Eaux Vives in Burkina Faso. His 1st picture was an airplane with Air Burkina Faso written across it. He has the most beautiful smile in all his pictures. This has to be a great Center for the kids. It is so encouraging to learn more about the activities at the Center.

  9. Avatar
    Jill Foley May 11, 2011

    Recently I’ve begun writing a sentence or two to the mother/father/ siblings of my sponsored children ~ especially the ones I have met in person.

    I also work hard to make letter writing and receiving a family affair on this end. I try to let the kids help write letters and draw pictures, and we read received letters around our dinner table.

  10. Avatar
    Susan Kopala May 11, 2011

    For those children who don’t receive letters from sponsors, maybe if someone helped them write a letter to the sponsor it would stir the sponsor on to realizing the flesh and blood recipient of the monthly debit of the bank account. I don’t do the automatic withdraw, I like the process of thinking of our child and though it’s not exactly accurate, my words to myself each month are ‘oh, I’ve got to pay Spencer!’ It keeps my obligation fresh as well as prayer, daily musings about him and of course letter writing! You should see My face when I get that envelope that says ‘A message from your sponsored child’! I just love him ‘ oodles of noodles’ to use our family’s term.

  11. Avatar
    JD May 11, 2011

    The letter writing blog posts that highlight specific countries or Compassion projects are my favorites… time and time again! Letter writing is one of the most important aspects of sponsorship, I love hearing about it.

    Thank you for the beautiful glimpse (with photos!!) into the letter writing process in Burkina Faso. Such beautiful people!

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