Translating Love: An Interview With a Letter Translator

Compassion has thousands of staff and volunteers around the world, from tutors to center directors to letter translators. They work faithfully to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Whether at a national office in southeast Asia, at a small church in rural El Salvador, or elsewhere, Compassion has a global team that top to bottom does what they do for a reason: to see lives transformed because of the love of Jesus.

Meet Betey.

A woman in a plaid shirt crosses her arms and smiles.

Betey is one of those people. She has been working at Compassion’s national office in Ethiopia for three years, translating the letters that are exchanged between sponsors and children. Because of her diligent work, children and sponsors can encourage each other, share prayer requests and express their love for one another. The words that she translates bring motivation, inspiration and hope to children and sponsors alike.

We had the chance to talk with Betey and find out what motivates her, inspires her and makes her laugh in her job as a letter translator!

What is the funniest thing you’ve read in a letter, either from a kid or a sponsor?

It’s funny because, for sponsors, animals are pets, but for the kids, animals are not pets — they’re just food or maybe a good business. So, when sponsors say, “My cat just died, and we buried him last week. We were so sad …” There’s like a whole page about the cat! And the kid would respond and say, “Oh. Oh, I’m sorry. OK.” They take half a sentence. That’s funny. Kids don’t really keep pets here in Ethiopia, so they don’t get it.

What is the most impactful thing you’ve read that a child has written to their sponsor?

It’s impactful when the child writes what they are really going through. It might be a happy moment or a sad one, but you can see that the child really meant it when they wrote the letter.

When the child says, “I will pray for you guys. I love you,” they really mean it.

I have a few friends who were sponsored, and they say, “Oh, we really meant it. Our sponsors had a big, big influence on our lives.” It’s a big deal — the kids say “thank you” again and again. The most repeated words in the letters are: “Thank you, thank you. How are you doing? Thank you.”

A letter translator kneels in front of two girls at a desk writing letters.

What motivates you as a letter translator?

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. I feel like I am the connection between the sponsor and the child, so it’s a huge responsibility.

What do you wish sponsors knew?

I wish the sponsors could come and see their kids here. It is the ultimate wish of the child. They say, “I wish my sponsor could come see me here. They could come see what I do — I go to class, I help my mom at home and I do my chores. They could come see how life has changed for me since they came into my life.” So, I think that would be great for the child.

What would you like to say to the sponsors?

Good job. It’s really nice that you pick a child — you don’t know the child, you haven’t seen the child — and you just start to sponsor them. It’s amazing how you are willing to do that for children you don’t know. It must take a very huge heart to work extra to prepare money to send here. That takes a very big heart.

We are so thankful for people like Betey.

A woman, a letter translator, sits at a table with her arms around two girls.

Her faithfulness enables sponsors to connect with the children they sponsor at a deeper level. There are faithful translators just like Betey at every one of Compassion’s national offices, ready to translate the letters you send to the child you sponsor.

Write a letter to connect with the child you sponsor today!


MORE: Need some inspiration on what to write? Check out all of the amazing articles about letter writing on the blog or all the resources at our Compassion Letter Club on Pinterest!

Words by Alyssa Esparaz and Amber Van Schooneveld; Photos by Ben Adams.This article was originally published by Compassion Canada.

13 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Stephanie April 1, 2021

    I just started sponsoring three girls and I’ve been slowly receiving their introductory letters. I just received my first letter from my girl in Thailand. The format of this letter is broken down into different sections, and there is one section that has not been translated at all. Also, on the translated side, there is a dark blue border around where the translation is supposed to go, but some of what was translated was printed on top of this border, making it hard to read. Is there a way this letter can be re-printed so everything is clear, and what wasn’t translated can be translated?

    1. Shannon April 1, 2021

      Hi Stephanie,
      I am so sorry to hear this happened with your letter. Please know I was able to locate the letter and I am having it sent back through translation so that we can get that fixed for you. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you!

  2. Juli Romine January 11, 2020

    A huge thank you to all the translators. Without all of you our sponsorships would not be complete. You are a very special blessing. I know I speak for most of us that we get as much out of our children and their families as they get from us. Compassion is an honor to be a small part of. To be able to see Richard and his family would be a dream come true. Maybe some day God will bless me in that way. Than you again for all you do.

  3. Michael L September 24, 2019

    Thank you very much for this interview. This just shows how Compassion International is able to change lives. Not just the children, but the sponsors, the translators, and others that are able to see Gods work being done. When I was on a visit to one of my kiddos I took a guided tour in a national forest in Indonesia. The guide told me that he had been a translator for Compassion for three years. I could tell by the way he talked that it had a major impact on his faith in God and in humans. And to Dale, I would suggest that you write 53 letters this year, the 53rd one you could deliver to them in person. It will break your heart. In the best way. I spent almost 24 hours on my knees in prayer after my first visit.

  4. Sally Streeter September 18, 2019

    Please visit your child if you are able. I have been to Haiti twice to see my boy, John, once in 2015, and again in 2016. I am 75 this month, and I am praying that I might get to go once again. He was so thrilled, as were all the children, and Compassion takes care of all the sponsors as if they were family. When you come home, you will never be the same, I promise you. Please consider the trip, if you are able.
    One of the best things is that you can take them all the gifts, clothing, toys, or whatever you choose, and they are so gracious. However, I think knowing that you made the trip just to meet them, is the best gift ever. The first time I met his father, he hugged me relentlessly, and could not stop sobbing. That made two of us! I consider his entire family as part of my own. John is my third grandson, and calls me Mimi! Thank you for your love for your child, I totally know how you feel!
    Sally Streeter

  5. Michael September 18, 2019

    I was sponsored by Compassion. I now help children write letters and i can say it’s the best experience. I also try to explain to smaller children who can’t read the letters from sponsors.

  6. Eric Antwi September 18, 2019

    Betey good does for hearty work done. Truly our hearts melts with children sharing their lives and experiences. How I wish the whole world would be sponsors of this worthy cause. Long live planet earth and long live those who work to maintain it.

  7. Michael D. Bailey September 17, 2019

    Thank you for your blog post. I really enjoyed hearing from the translator’s perspective. I am encouraged to keep writing to my sponsor children.

  8. Dale September 17, 2019

    Dear translators, thank you so much! I write to my 3 boys every week, over 50 times a year. I would love to visit them, but I am 70 and I think just seeing my kids would break my heart because I love them so much! They make my cry when they write and say say love me and call me Papa. They pray for me too. I am getting so much more from them than what I give them! I believe God hears kid’s prayers long before He listens to adults. You are the link between me and my kids, I love you for all your work. You make this relationship strengthen between spouncer and the kiddos! Thanks so much! Dale Morissette

  9. Emily September 17, 2019

    About how many sponsor letters do you receive each week?

    1. Sierra September 18, 2019

      Hi Emily! As of last month, we received about 30,000 sponsor-to-child letters per week. 🙂

  10. Emily September 17, 2019

    Approximately how many sponsor letters are submitted each week?

    1. Sierra September 18, 2019

      Hi Emily! As of last month, we received about 30,000 sponsor-to-child letters per week. 🙂

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