In the United States, we don’t really think about it much because it’s so easy — you mail a letter or a package, and a few days later it arrives in the mailbox or on the doorstep of the person you sent it to. And when you order something online, it typically arrives in a couple of days — at most, a week or so later.
But mail and package delivery in the developing world is quite a bit more complex. In most cases, there is no next-day air to small, remote villages. And even if there were, because we take child protection so seriously, there is a series of checks and hand-offs that have to happen at the national Compassion offices all the way down to your child’s local center before your sponsored child receives his or her letter.
In almost every case, your letter travels a great distance, preserved with great care, by a whole host of people who treat your written words as though they were precious gold … because to the child you’re writing to — and, as you’ll see, even entire communities — your letters bring more hope and wonder than you could possibly know.
Let’s step through the process of exchanging letters with your sponsored child, and hopefully you’ll have a more clear understanding of:
- just how important and uplifting your letters are
- the massive effort that Compassion in-country workers undertake with great pleasure to deliver your words of encouragement to your eager kiddos
Step 1: Sending Letters to Compassion National Offices
This is the easiest part and most like what you’re probably used to. You write a letter to the child you sponsor and send it. Now, you can do that one of two ways … You can send a hard copy letter via mail to Compassion USA where, in most cases, we scan your letter and digitally send it to specially trained staff in the national office in the country where your child lives.
If you write a letter via the Compassion digital letter-writing platform, the digital scans are sent directly to the national offices in your sponsored child’s country — skipping the step of you sending a hard copy to Compassion USA.
Step 2: Letter Translation and Child-Protection Monitoring
Once the national offices receive your letters, either electronically or via courier, a small team of caring child advocates reads each letter. This may seem like an invasion of privacy, but they do this for very good reasons. The first reason is practical … most children don’t speak English, so translators at each country’s national offices, like Betey from Ethiopia, translate your words into the language your sponsored child understands.
“The thing that motivates me is knowing how important it is for sponsors and children to communicate. Kids should know what the sponsors really feel, and the sponsors should know how the kids feel about them. So, I do my best in translating whatever is in the letter,” says Betey.
The second reason every letter gets read is for the protection of your sponsored child and for you as the sponsor. The staff looks for any instance of accidental over-communication, such as:
- personal email addresses
- phone numbers
- Facebook and other social media accounts
- inappropriate language
Letters are also checked to make sure there are no inappropriate photos or any content that would degrade the dignity of the child. It’s been caught in the past.
Step 3: Obstacles in the journey
This process has been delayed while we observe safety recommendations as a direct result of the global pandemic. But typically after letters have been translated and reviewed, they are labeled, sorted and bound according to the receiving child development center.
Within each country, Compassion centers are clustered by region, with usually 12 to 14 church-based centers per cluster. Your letters are bound with other letters destined for centers within the same cluster, and then are sent through Compassion staff or via private courier to a pickup and drop-off point within a reasonable distance from each center in the cluster.
This is where it gets really interesting, because dedicated workers from each center then make long, hard and sometimes dangerous journeys to these pick-up and drop-off points for letters between children and their sponsors.
Take Wichean in Thailand, for example … he travels every week nearly two hours by motorbike from the high mountains to the main road where the nearest coalition point is. The journey is hard enough during the dry season, but when it rains, Wichean makes the trek on foot — navigating washed-out roads, mudslides and flooding. These conditions can be dangerous, but he’s honored and duty-bound to make the journey.
“What I do is not just one of my responsibilities, but it means so much to the children,” says Wichean. “And I feel so much joy in doing it.”
Step 4: Assembly, delivery, coaching and reversing the process
Each Compassion center handles letter delivery a bit differently, but most centers make a big deal and a celebration out of letter delivery day.
It may seem a bit mundane to you and me, but in small communities like those in the Volta region of Ghana, it’s rare to receive mail at all, let alone letters from someone half-way around the world. So when letters arrive, the center hosts an assembly where letters are handed out and everyone celebrates as though they received a letter of their own.
Esinam, a project director for one of the centers in the region says:
“When children get letters, the whole community hears about it and rejoices. For someone abroad to think about a child [here] and write to that child, it is a very big thing for them.”
Writing letters is also part of the child development program curriculum. The exercise of letter writing teaches children how to form handwritten letters properly and how to use proper sentence structure in their own language. It also helps children to practice valuable communication skills. That’s why, in most cases, workers at nearly all Compassion development centers help children to write letters to their sponsors — whether they’ve received a letter from their sponsor or not — every couple of months.
The process is then reversed. Letters are carried to coalition points, mailed to the national offices, translated and then scanned and sent back to Compassion USA to be sent to you.
And that’s what happens when you send a letter to the child you sponsor.
I hope this gives you some insight into just how many people are involved in making sure your sponsored child receives your loving words of encouragement. Each one of them is honored to do it. And each one of them is also 100% dedicated to seeing your sponsored child reach his or her full potential in Christ. So keep sending your letters cheering them on! Perhaps now is as good a time as any to write your next letter to the child you sponsor.
25 Comments |Add a comment
I would love to have a letter from Jeila in Honduras since she is being sponsored by over 100 ladies and we are meeting together in September. Is this possible? I wrote back in June and have heard nothing – thanks for your help
Hi Darlene! Thank you so much for choosing to bless sweet Jeila with your love and support. I see that her first letter to you became available on August 16th. You can read it right away by logging into your online My Account on http://www.compassion.com. Please let us know if you’d like any assistance with that. A physical copy of Jeila’s would have also been mailed to you shortly after the 16th, and it typically takes one to two weeks to arrive. Therefore, if you haven’t received her letter in the mail by the 30th, please let us know, and we would be happy to resend it to you. I also see a second letter from Jeila that is already in translation and should be available in a few days to weeks depending on how fast it can be processed and translated. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. Have a blessed day!
Hi, Anna answered to Justine on 04/14/2021 and she said the child she sponsores used the money she sent him in a new outfit and treats. I have sent my sponsored child a family gift for 4 months now and I have no way of knowing how they spent the money. I would love to know how the family gift helped. How can I find out?
About letters, I have written 8 letters since Dec 2021 in Spanish, bec child lives in Nicaragua. Have my letters reached the child, or have they been shredded? I read in one of your articles you discard lttrs not written in English. Is that so? Should I re-write all these letters in English?
Also, on my account, there is a letter my sponsored child sent me on 02/22, but it says it’s being processed since then. Is that normal? How much longer should I wait for it to finish processing?
Leticia, I completely understand and appreciate your concern for sweet Alani. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention so we may help you. I will also send you an email fully addressing all of your questions, but I’m happy to touch on a few points here as well.
I’m so sorry to hear that you have not yet received Alani’s letter that has been in translation since February 22nd. Regrettably, letters have been significantly delayed due to the prolonged effects of the pandemic. Please rest assured that our wonderful field staff and translators are working diligently to process letters as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Because Compassion works in many areas with different dialects, we do not suggest that you write to your child in her native language. However, if you wish to write to Alani in Spanish, we ask that you please include an English version as well. This will allow the translators to provide the child with the most complete and accurate translation. All letters, not just letters written in other languages, are scanned and then shredded after a period of time, and they are all stored in a secure system virtually. If your letters were not accepted by the national office for any reason, we would have notified you.
I look forward to answering all your questions more in-depth in my email. I’m also happy to address any further concerns you may have there. Have a blessed day!
I recently sponsored a little girl from Indonesia! I was told at the event I was attending that I would be able to send “packages”? I am reading comments from below and it does not seem so?
Can you please let me know?
Hello Tina! Congratulations on sponsoring your little girl from Indonesia. The sponsorship journey is such an amazing experience, and we are excited for you! That is a great question, thanks for asking. I am sorry for the confusion surrounding what was told to you at the event. Please know many of our Compassion crew at events are actually volunteers and they may have not had enough information to provide you an accurate answer. While we are not able to send gift packages overseas to the children, you could send an optional monetary gift for your sponsor child’s birthday, family, or a miscellaneous gift. We do allow a few physical items to be sent, like musical pop-up cards, bookmarks, and stickers. We also give the opportunity for a gift package to be dropped off in country (during your own personal travels). With this option you could bring a package to our Indonesian National Office and they would be able to get that package to your child and then we would follow up with a picture and note from your kiddo once they received it. Please note that currently, in light of the pandemic, this option is not recommended as our travel restrictions are still in place. I hope this helps answer your questions!
Hello. I have a sponsored child with a birthday coming up. I know that we may only give money, as we addresse not allowed to send packages, but is the child given the money directly, or the family? Is it used to purchase gifts and other birthday accoutrements that are given to the child? Can I have any say in Sunday I’d like to have bought for her? Im sorry, I’m very new to this so I don’t know all the ins and outs… Thank you.
Hello Justine! Thank you for your questions, and for wanting to bless your sweet child for her birthday! Birthday and General Gifts are given directly to your sweet kiddo to purchase something in their community. Typically, the child’s family meets at the child’s center and the church staff can accompany them together to purchase a gift with the funds. ? During the pandemic, this process is not always a possibility, and some gifts are distributed directly to the child and their family. You can definitely suggest what the child could use their gift money for, but we ultimately leave this up to the child, and cannot guarantee that they will purchase anything specific. With the last gift I sent my little guy, he was able to buy a new outfit and some treats, along with a few household necessities. Thank you for your questions, and you are welcome to reach out to us with any additional inquiries! We are happy to help. Our email address is [email protected]. Thank you! ?
Would I be able to mail an illustrated children’s bible to my 6 year old? She lives in Kenya and speaks English. What about thin, soft cover books?
Hi Mary Jo! We appreciate your desire to bless your kiddo in a very tangible way. Regrettably, we are not able to send packages to your child, including Bibles and books. Instead, we encourage you to send a monetary gift. The child and family, with the assistance of church staff, will purchase what they need most. This also benefits the local economy of your sponsored child by supporting local businesses. There are other fun ways to bless your kiddo too! You may also send scannable, flat, paper items (such as greeting cards, coloring pages or photos) with your correspondence to your child. These items should be no larger than 8.5” x 11” and will be digitally scanned at our headquarters to be delivered electronically to our national offices. Each letter, and accompanying scannable items, should total no more than six front and back pages. Items received that are not scannable or are in excess of six front-and-back pages, will be donated to a local children’s charity. If you have any further questions about our letter writing guidelines, more information is available here: cintl.us/letter-faq. Thank you so much for blessing your sweet child with your love and support!
Thank you for explaining in detail. I had no idea how letters were getting to my child. Thanks to everyone at compassion for making this happen!
Thank you so much for this information. We do not know all the avenues for the
letters to get to our children. It is such a process and thanks to all the caring individuals
that make this happen. I always thought or knew it was a long journey for the mail but
had no idea such a shared effort that goes into it for these children.
Thank you to all of you for your devotions.
Thank-you for some fresh ideas that fit for writing to my Valeria.
During these locked down times I miss her letters and she probably misses mine. I can only imagine the look on her face when things open up and she receives the letters I have written her in the past year that are now being held somewhere…. I hope and pray she will know how special she is to me!!!
Thank-You! Mary Ann
This was a fascinating, informative article. Thank you for sharing, because I have wondered how my letter gets to my sponsored child.
Thank you so very much for all those who go to such extremes to get my letters to my children. I am grateful. I am also wondering if there was a way to get a digital copy of one of my letters after translation? I would like to see how my message looks and sounds after you’ve translated it.
Hi Donna! Thank you so much for asking about your letters after translation. Sadly, we don’t have a way to send you a copy of your letter after translation, since they are completed in country. Our translators complete your letter in your child’s country and then mail it to their child center. Regrettably, at this time, we are only able to keep a copy of your original letter image in your online account. If you have any further questions about this, please don’t hesitate to send us an email at [email protected].
Thank you so much for all the hard work it takes to deliver these letters! They are such treasures! I really miss getting them since COVID, and I hope that mine will make it to my children soon! God bless you!
Thank you all for working so hard to help us connect with our children through letters. I can’t tell you how happy I feel when I see that I have a new letter. And it is amazing how connected I feel to each of my children through those letters. Thank you, again.❤️
Thank you so much for all the hard physical work you put into this. Amazing how God ties us together with bundles of mail reaching so many little hearts that are and will be changed forever. God bless to each of you!!!!!1
Thank you for sharing the letter delivery process with us. Now I know to add prayers for each person who has a part of the delivery of the letters I write. May God bless them for what they do!
Thank you all for all that you do. May God bless everyone involved with Compassion International.
Boa tarde, a paz do Senhor. Gostaria de saber se escrever cartas é exclusividade só de quem é padrinho, ou qualquer pessoa pode escrever para uma ou mais crianças da compassion, mesmo que elas ainda não tenham sido apadrinhadas. Gostaria de escrever para algumas, caso possa, como devo proceder? Aguardo resposta. Obrigado
Olá Nadja, muito obrigado pelo seu interesse em escrever para uma criança necessitada! Saiba que Compassion está sempre procurando por pessoas que desejam escrever. Existem muitos patrocinadores que não sabem escrever ou não têm interesse em escrever e gostariam que alguém escrevesse para seus filhos em seu nome. Se você estiver interessado, envie um e-mail para [email protected] e podemos ajudá-lo a configurar! Muito obrigado! -Shannon
Thank you so much for the information. I sometimes wonder if Gift receives my letters and the funds I send. I pray daily for Gift, my child, for her family, her town, Uganda, and for Compassion to make correct, Godly choices for each child.
My God Bless your love for them????
Wow! Thank you Kyle. This made me tear up!
“When children get letters, the whole community hears about it and rejoices. For someone abroad to think about a child [here] and write to that child, it is a very big thing for them.”
And the lengths people go to get the letters to the children!
This process is very important for us sponsors to know. Thank you again!!!