This is What Happens When You Send a Letter to the Child You Sponsor

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.

A girl wearing a bandana and a girl in a striped shirt are standing in front of a pink and white wall, looking at each other, smiling and laughing. They are holding sponsor letters.

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:

Step 1: Sending Letters to Compassion National Offices

A girl wearing a blue shirt, writing letters to her sponsor. Letters from her sponsor surround her as she sits at the table.  She is leaning in close and smiling.

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.

Or …

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.

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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.

Betey, in a black jacket and white striped shirt, sits at a wood desk working with Yeabsira, in a white shirt and blue jeans, who is writing a letter to her sponsor. There is a tan stucco wall in the background.
Betey, right, helps sponsored teenager Yeabsira write a letter to her sponsor.

“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

Lorlor is pictured here on the canoe, crossing the lake. She is holding a black briefcase on her lap that contains the child letters. There are other people on the canoe with her.
Lorlor, front left, a child development worker in Ghana, takes a weekly boat ride to deliver and pick up letters sent between children and their sponsors.

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.

A man wearing a black shirt places child letters into a manila envelope. He is standing outside near a motorbike.
Wichean prepares to deliver letters to children in Compassion’s program in Thailand.

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.”

A Compassion staff member in Thailand helps a girl wearing a green and white dress to write a letter.

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.

Lorlor, a woman wearing a pink dress, hands out letters from sponsors to children in Ghana. The children are wearing yellow and blue outfits and smiling.

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.

Three boys sit at a desk outside. They  have letters on the desk in front of them, preparing to write. Two rows of children sit at desks behind them.

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.

Kick off this amazing journey right now — send a letter to the child you sponsor!

11 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Donna November 10, 2020

    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.

    1. Mackenzie
      Mackenzie November 10, 2020

      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 socialmedia@compassion.com.

  2. Avatar
    Laurie October 29, 2020

    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!

  3. Avatar
    Susan J LaBine October 26, 2020

    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.❤️

  4. Avatar
    Leslie Ward October 26, 2020

    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

  5. Avatar
    Doris Plitt October 25, 2020

    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!

  6. Avatar
    Jan Aylieff October 25, 2020

    Thank you all for all that you do. May God bless everyone involved with Compassion International.

  7. Avatar
    Nadja Vilela Leão October 24, 2020

    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

    1. Avatar
      Shannon October 26, 2020

      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 socialmedia@compassion.com e podemos ajudá-lo a configurar! Muito obrigado! -Shannon

  8. Avatar
    Nancy Miller October 24, 2020

    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😊💕🙏🏼

  9. Avatar
    Jan Bennett October 24, 2020

    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!!!

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