Why Do My Sponsored Child’s Letters Seem So Impersonal?

Questions about letter writing are the most common ones I hear in the contact center. Many sponsors call or write us because they are frustrated with the quality of the letters they receive from the children they sponsor.

Why Do My Sponsored Child's Letters Seem So Impersonal?

A few days ago, I spoke with Judy because she was upset that the student she sponsored, Carlos, doesn’t answer the questions she asks in her letters. She was also frustrated because she had just received a letter wishing her a “Merry Christmas” … in June!

I explained to Judy that many of the children in our programs struggle with the concept of writing a letter:

“You are probably the only person that Carlos will write a letter to, and he probably struggles with grasping the concept of having a conversation by mail.”

“But Shaina,” she replied, “He is 15 years old! Don’t you think he should have a better grasp by now?”

“Well, in Central and South America it’s not common for people to write letters, so the children at the child development centers are learning something completely out of the ordinary for them. But despite the cultural differences that may play a part in this, this probably isn’t the whole picture.

“When Carlos receives a letter from you, he probably takes it home and puts the letter in a special place. He may not have it with him when he writes back, particularly if he waits until the designated time during which all children in the center write their sponsors.

“Often during this designated time, teachers will write a list of suggestions or letter samples on the board to help the kids with their letters. If he’s left his letter at home, he may rely heavily on the suggestion on the board. This often makes the child letters sound scripted or unoriginal because children will copy the samples or follow the list word for word.”

“So what do I do? I really want to have a better relationship with Carlos.”

“If you have specific questions for him, I suggest that you keep them brief, simple, and number and highlight each question. This will call attention to your questions. It also helps to write Carlos every time you receive a letter from him. This will help your “conversations” get into rhythm.”

I also encouraged her, and I encourage you, to read the frequently asked questions about letter writing that we have on compassion.com.

I know that the quality of the letters you receive can sometimes frustrate you. I’m sorry for that. I hope that you can see the letters you write as a ministry opportunity, an opportunity to pour into another person’s life halfway across the world, an opportunity to teach, mentor, celebrate, encourage and pray with a child in need, rather than just an exchange of information and details. Your consistent presence fosters trust and tells your child “I care about you and want to be a part of your life.”


We originally published this post on June 17, 2010.

84 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Jen August 27, 2023

    Are there more than one sponsor for a single child? We received a letter from our child however it seems like this letter was meant for someone else. It has someone else’s name in the top left corner and her letter says Dear Mitchel when Aubrey, my 13 year old daughter is her sponsor. The letter also is wishing Mitchel a Happy Easter when todays date is August 27th, 2023. It is a letter from our sponsored child because she is the one that signed it but it is written to someone else. My daughter and I are confused to say the least.

    1. Christina August 28, 2023

      Hi Jen, thank you for bringing your concerns to us. We have a one-to-one sponsorship program, which means that when you sponsor a child, you are that child’s one sponsor. However, we have seen friends or families sponsor a child together. We also do have a correspondence program for supporters who do not wish to write to their child. In that case, we have volunteers who have signed up to write to children who need letters. I can see that Aubrey is Joy’s one and only sponsor, so I would love the opportunity to help you further and look into this letter. Please email us at [email protected] and provide an image of the letter in question possible. I look forward to hearing from you!

  2. Sharron Barajas July 16, 2023

    Hello. My husband and I have sponsored a young boy for six years now. He lives in Haiti. .
    I receive a letter from him about two times a year. All of his letters are the same. They’re never personal in any way, not even using his name, not talking about his age, no mention of his family, no details at all. My family and I were homeless when we began sponsoring our child to Compassion international. I’ve always had so much hope and love for our child that we sponsor. We have sent many gifts of money over the years for Christmas and his birthday, and during times where we have had a little bit more blessings, we send money to his family. This is what we thought. It’s just been this last Christmas that it dawned on me that the Christmas money that we send goes to the entire children’s school as a whole. So, I started sending one Christmas money gift for the school and one for him and his family. I’ve never received any information on whether the thousands of dollars that we have sent, on top of my sponsorship., have really helped his family, or not. I do know from calling Compassion international, that our sponsored child’s mother is a single mom of more than seven children. The letters are always the same and recently, there’s been no picture and since the beginning of us receiving a letter it’s always been the same… this little half circle with a line, making it look like it is a boat and honestly it looks so fake. It’s all done with a pen that’s really light and it looks like an adult has done it. I feel so much guilt for even feeling this way. My family and I live underneath the poverty index and I wouldn’t have it any other way to help sponsor the child that we do…recently, I received notice that the monthly donation would be increased. I’m very worried about our sponsored child and about his future and honestly, I really wonder , if he even exists.
    Warmest Thoughts and Prayers,

    1. Amy July 18, 2023

      Sharron, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about your journey with the child you sponsor. We are deeply grateful for all the sacrifices you have made to ensure he and his family have been cared for so well. I am so sorry the experience you have had with letters and gifts has left you wondering if your support is making a difference in his life. We truly value your feedback and welcome the opportunity to look into this further to see if we can help provide some clarity on his situation. Please send us an email to [email protected] along with your sponsor number. God bless!

  3. Khamida mamike June 6, 2023

    Greeting i have one burning issue concerning kids complaining abaut compassion in kenya kids are told to write what they what them to write but not in their hearts and there is something going on ,the kids are still strougling in povrty istead the money end up in the pokerts of managers or hower i dont know much but what i know is kids are stil in poverty

    1. Amy June 6, 2023

      Khamida mamike, please send us an email at [email protected] so we can speak with you further about your concerns. Thank you!

  4. Christian Hacker August 15, 2021

    is there any way to verify that the sponsorchild is real and not some kind of scam? Mine is now 9 years old supposedly, the drawings look quite the same for years. The letters a brother writes never had any reference to my letters, or even mention the name I sign my letters with. For all I see it could just as well be a letter that is being sent to countless other sponsors with their sponsorname pasted on top, with a “brother” collecting all the money.

    1. Nicole August 16, 2021

      Hi there! Thank you for raising your concerns and allowing us an opportunity to look into this situation further! As a sponsor myself, I have seen my child’s letters be written by volunteers and tutors at times. Would you kindly send us an email and provide your sponsor ID as well as child’s ID? We will be happy to check on your child as well as the letters. Our email is as follows: [email protected].

  5. Michael McClung May 18, 2021

    The poor quality of letters we’ve received from our sponsored child in Columbia is our biggest frustration with Compassion International. We’ve sponsored her for 15 years, and never once has she referenced a single thing we’ve written or asked in our letters. In truth I’m not sure she knows who we are at all. This girl graduates or ages out of the program in less than a year, and I’m ashamed to admit that in the last couple of years we’ve been discouraged and reluctant to write to her because of the lack of any connection or relationship.

    1. Jesse May 19, 2021

      Hello Michael! Thank you for sharing your feedback with us. As a sponsor myself, it can be frustrating when my child doesn’t answer the question I have asked or repeats herself. So we completely hear you! We don’t have an answer as to why every child responds a certain way but I can tell you that occasionally a child will save their letter in a special place and then when it is time to write their sponsors in school they don’t remember the questions asked! Other times the teachers will give writing ideas to help them and that can sometimes come across very generic when the child writes about flowers. My child in Bangladesh constantly writes about food although I always ask about school! Also, occasionally children are reserved because they don’t know what to share and they too are nervous about breaking cultural barriers. My one encouragement to you today would be to not give up on writing some more letters! Each letter you write means the world to these kiddos, whether they tell it to you or not. Being seen, loved, and known is such an empowering gift. Please do reach out to us at [email protected] with further questions or concerns and we will be happy to assist you!

  6. Lisa Troxel July 14, 2020

    Why does my sponsored child write like he is answering questions that I did not ask. Does he have 2 sponsors?I also received two identical letters from him once.

    1. Taryn July 14, 2020

      Hello Lisa! We are so glad to hear of your concern for your child. It generally takes several weeks to months for your letters to arrive, which means he may be responding to a letter that you wrote several months ago and not the most recent letter. Often the project directors and tutors will write prompts on the board like, “talk about your week” or “write about your favorite hobby”. This is why it is common for them to write answers to questions you did not ask. We have a strict one child per sponsor policy and I can assure you that you are his only sponsor. If you received two identical letters at once that was probably just a misprint on our end. Again, I am so sorry for the confusion. If you have any other questions, please email us at [email protected]. Thank you for being a blessing for him! ? ~ Taryn

  7. JustMe April 19, 2019

    I myself was a bit puzzled as to why my girl just kept asking me to pray for her family…no details, no explanations, just “please pray for my family”. I was especially confused because her second letter was asking for prayer for a whole bunch of things! However, in the last two letters, her prayer requests have been more specific: “Pray for my grandma to get better”, “Pray for me to have more strength”, “My family needs a lot of prayer.” It just takes time for them to open up to you, some more than others. 🙂 And if you’re still unsure, you could always ask them if they have any prayer requests. 🙂

  8. Emily April 22, 2014

    Something helpful I have noticed with my children is that at first the letters are more impersonal but as they get to know you they often start to reveal more of themselves to you. Maybe at first they could also be a little scared especially for those that might have had sponsors that never wrote, waiting a long time between sponsors, or was dropped. It might just take a while for them to realize you are here for them, you will love them and that you will write them. I have had kids that quickly warmed up to me while others took a year or so . Know that the letters are appreciated and encouraging the children. I do not know how many of my children say thank you for the letters I send them, and how happy they are to know what is going on. I know your children feel the same even if they dont always express it. It is very rewarding to see the journey our kids take.

  9. Martin Le-Van January 4, 2014

    Don’t heart guys, we sponsor 5 kids in the Philippines and get letters like that, sometimes we ring them and hear answers to conversation like eg; yes, no, Ummm Errrr, but don’t worry they love and respect you for what we do for them. They are just shy and not have a good grasp of the western world and English. So don’t give up or stop your support “They need us more than ever”
    God Bless you all.

  10. Martin Le-Van January 4, 2014

    Good evening everyone,
    Just a short note to put every ones mind at ease on this letter writing matter. We sponsor 5 children in the Philippines and I appreciate it can be frustrating and somewhat disheartening when we get letters that seem structured and questions not answered can assure you the children are real as we have visited Compassion Philippines and the little one there are overjoyed to meet their sponsors.You have to understand these kids have nothing or very little and their knowledge of the western world is very limited to say the least, although the staff paid and unpaid (if we can call it pay) more a token pay do a fantastic job educating and working with the children. Truely I am a grown 6’2” tall 101 kg Navy Chief Petty officer and I have to contain myself when we leave them, but getting back to the point their grasp on English is limited although it’s taught in nearly all the public primary schools int he Philippines now they get little practice as they have no or little contact with English speaking folk their parent/s/guardians if any are mostly from the provinces and speak no English so when they write a letter it’s structured from a example up on the chalk board or verbal instructions often the better educated ones will help or even write for the others and copy word for word so please do not feel
    taken forgranted or unappreciated Its not that at all. We sometimes ring our children 4 girls and one boy with a cell phone supplied to them from us and truely I’ts wonderful to hesr their voices but the conversation in by no means stimulating eg; yes, no, umm, etc but God love em there gorgeous little darlings and so respectful compared to some of the disrespectful,rude, spoiled,brats in my country. So take heart it’s all worth it our eldest is now a high school teacher, the next eldest is in college training to be a flight attendant, and the others are in primary or high school all doing terrific considering 2 came off the streets.
    God Bless you all,
    Marty. (Australia)

    1. Robyn Brown May 7, 2018

      What a beautiful note of encouragement you have written.

  11. Tom January 4, 2014

    It’s funny, but I have never been disappointed in a letter I’ve received from the boy I sponsor in Colombia. Rather, I worry that MY letters to him are not all they should be. I’m a 54 year old man writing to a 7 year old boy I’ve never met who lives in another culture in a world I can only imagine. Do my words convey just how interested I am in him and his life? Do they capture the attention of a little boy who doesn’t know me? Are they enough? A trip to Colombia is not practical for me, so the letters and my prayers are all I have to offer. I am more worried about letting him down than in him ever disappointing me. His words and drawings always lift me up. I hope I am doing the same for him.

    1. peter oliver June 6, 2016

      Tom i have that problem as well writing something that could inadvertantly upset them ihope compassion uk would tell me before sending it off on line Im 71 but i enjoy writing to my six year old lad. Its a good work and eventualy eternity will show its results.

    2. Vicki Small January 6, 2014

      I like the suggestion in the post, that we consider our letter-writing a ministry; I would add, “instead of thinking about what we get out of it.”

      I, too, am sometimes frustrated at the copied-from-the-board content and tone of letters. And every now and then, I wonder what my girls think, when I send off a quickly written, mostly generic letter to them, rather than responding to their most recent letters. And I remember hearing and reading, over the past 11 years, that a simple note expressing our love and encouragement, and assurances of our prayers and our belief in them, are deemed much better than the nothing that so many children get–because their sponsors don’t write.

      I know that paragraph seems awfully disjointed, and I’m sorry. I’m just trying to offer different perspectives that might help, most of the time. As you build your relationship with your newest child, know that she wants to know all of the things about you and your family that you want to know about her: who are your family members, what pets do you have, do you have a garden, what do you like to do; they also want to know what your favorite games were, when you were a child, and the like. I’m thinking that the more you share of your life, the more you are likely to learn of hers. Blessings to you for sponsoring her!

  12. Ken Ostrowski January 3, 2014

    This is so helpful! I get this question asked so many times. I will print it and share as needed. Thank You and may God continue to Bless the work that Compassion provides.

  13. Debbie January 3, 2014

    Susan, I think that a copy of the letter or at least a note in a file of our questions or topics that we wrote on should be available for the child. I know that my kids are different ages, and different abilities, and I don’t question those that just aren’t capable of writing a long letter, but I think some times the kids are being cheated out of an opportunity to have a really great relationship with their sponsor. I had one boy that for a few years asked me for a picture of myself. I sent so many pictures. There was never any reference to any of my letters. I have the same problem, though. If I don’t write down by their name what they asked, or go back and look at their last letter, I certainly am not going to remember what they were asking. I think there are enough instances where we have seen great letter writing, and it’s from kids who aren’t top of the class, but you know someone taught them how to write a letter.

    1. Susan Sayler January 8, 2014

      Debbie, I’m so sorry for the frustration you’ve had with repeated requests for photos and lack of acknowledgment of things that you’ve sent in your child’s letters.

      Many of our student centers keep note of questions that were asked by the sponsor. That is why we recommend highlighting, numbering, or somehow bringing attention to your questions. That way, the tutors can easily look at the letter, and keep note of questions that the sponsor has asked so that they can make sure the child answers them in the next letter. This also helps your child to understand a little of the etiquette of “okay my sponsor wants me to respond to this.”

      Compassion obviously has room to improve in this area and some centers do better with helping the children with the letters than other centers. We will continue to work on this and we will certainly keep your feedback in mind. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We appreciate it.:)

  14. Katy Causey January 3, 2014

    Great post, Shaina! Thank you.

  15. Yvonne January 3, 2014

    I have just started sponsoring an 9 year old girl and was wondering at the last letter I received…I just presumed the questions weren’t answered as they’d crossed in the post I was hoping to get an answer to some of the questions next time but it looks like that may not happen. My own daughter the same age and I was hoping for a relationship of sorts to develop with the family. I don’t agree that wanting to know about the girl and her family is selfish – we pray for her every night but we can only pray generically and now we don’t even know who else in her family to pray for – the original listing said there were 3 children yet her letter just said she had an older sister. Perhaps it just needs a simple change of plan at the other end ie they keep their letters at the centre ( I presume they are given them there) until they have written their reply that way at least the questions would get answered eventually – or keep a copy of the letters at the centre. I will continue to write but I must admit I was wondering what to write in the next letter – I can’t tailor it as I don’t know her interests eg send pictures of animals / whatever

    1. Susan Sayler January 3, 2014

      Yvonne, I’m so sorry that your frustrated with your child’s letters and especially about the most recent letter. Hopefully, the tips in this blog post will help a little bit. Many of the children bring their letters home because each sponsor letter is absolutely cherished and is kept in a safe place at their home. However, it may be possible to keep the letters at the project until the child writes a reply letter. I’ll be sure to share this feedback.

      If there is different information in the letter than in our information for your child, we’d be happy to verify it for you. We want to have the correct information and we want you to be able to build a relationship with your child. Please call us at 800-336-7676 or email [email protected] and we’d be happy to check into this for you.

      Thank you so so much for praying for your child regularly. I’m sure she would be so blessed to know that you do!

  16. Emily January 2, 2014

    I have sponsored kids who write frequent and long letters and I have others who write shorter form type letters So I have experience with both sides. I write my children monthly sometimes twice they will get two letters each from December. Its about these children and encouraging them and loving them even if they are not all amazing letter writers. Think of your own kids did your child like writing letters when they were young? Some kids will naturally be better writers then others and words come easier. And culture also can and will play a role. Even in the letters that are more form like is usually learn a thing or two about the children Especially the young ones. Keep writing your child, i suggest numbering and highlighting I have certain kids i do this for, and hopefully you will receive letters that give a little more info. I love my sponsored kids whether I hear a long sweet letter or a short form it does not matter. I also have kids who are learning to write on their own and they have become a little shorter and I understand that I am excited to see how much her writing has improved.

  17. Steve January 2, 2014

    Well said. Keep up the good work. Love in Christ!

    Steve Everett (SDS Canada) team.

  18. Liz Thompson August 16, 2012

    A personal relationship with your child via letters or visits is a great goal for someone to have. A lot of people on here are assuming selfish motives, as if the supporters want the letters for entertainment value.
    All this self-righteousness needs to be dialed down and we need to come together as a Christian community and love each other. It’s a good thing our kids can’t see this.

  19. Judy L Harrison August 22, 2011

    I have sponsored my child in Ethiopia for 10 years. He will be 18 this October and I want to send him a special monetary gift to help him with his continuing education, as well as help his family. The translation of the last few letters I have received do not seem to fully translate what he has written. He writes a full page, and the translation amounts to one or two sentences. If I send money, I want to know how it has helped him and his family. It makes me wonder if he really receives what I send? Can I trust that he will receive all that I send? I’m praying for him and his family. Thank you, Judy Harrison

  20. Amy December 7, 2010

    I try to remember that these are kids talking to a stranger they can’t imagine except for the pictures I send. We have gotten interest letters with their pictures and snippets about family… some very formal as they, or their teachers, are not even sure how to talk to these people across an ocean. One constant, that one other lady mentioned, is that with kids being kids…. they almost ALWAYS ask about our dog Bullet and we try to send them pictures as updates! Maybe it’s oversimplified theology, but I think they can kind of GET the idea of taking care of a sweet puppy as a child the way The Big Guy takes care of us every day!!!

    Our letters also cross at odd times. I do wish I could insert pictures in the online section rather than having to send hard copies separately. I assume that slows things down getting to them.

    Thank you for all you do…

  21. Mary December 2, 2010

    Thanks Shaina for your post…..I have printed this and will take it with me when we volunteer at Compassion events….we often get this question, and now we not only have a more educated answer, but I can give them a copy of your answer.

  22. Charles McCalla November 18, 2010

    I just got a letter from my child Jimmy written on Sept.30th, and he sent me a new picture of himself. He is still asking to know more of me and my family! I have now “Twice “, sent pictures to him and know that if he received them in my letters, he would have mentioned them to me! I last sent them on July 18th, which was before his letter to me in September! I told him again, all about me and my family. He still asks, over & over each letter.
    If it was not for his need, I would choose another child ministry !
    I am very disapointed, and nothing is offered to remedy this problem. I hope that this will be posted, but would be surprised if it was.
    Lord, please give me patience !

    1. Shaina November 19, 2010

      Charles, I’m sorry to hear that you’re disappointed. Without looking at your account, I can only offer guesses of what has caused this. Because letters can take 2-3 months to travel from you to Jimmy and the same amount of time back, it is very possible that they crossed in the mail. In your next letter, I encourage you to separate your questions from the body of your letter, number and highlight them. This should alert the project worker to your questions. Also, Jimmy may not have your letter in front of him when he writes to you. Many children keep their sponsor’s letters in a special place in their home. If you’d like us to take a closer look at this, please contact us at (800) 336-7676.

  23. Amy Blakney November 9, 2010

    Our child, Senia, from Honduras, has been writing to us for years. I have never been frustrated with her letters. They do still seem young and inexperienced, although she is now 14. But I have been very frustrated with the translator. Her last letter didn’t even make sense. I had a friend, from Panama, translate Senia’s actual words. And although she said Senia’s grammar wasn’t good, I understood the letter much better. So the translations leave a lot to be desired. And I guess now I am wondering about her education. I would think at the age of 14 she would be able to compose a simple sentence properly.

  24. Charles McCalla November 9, 2010

    I sponsor Jimmy because GOD provides me with this gift and I want to show the love of JESUS to him. I too, would love him to know that I cared enough to answer his questions, and that he received the pictures that he also requested. I feel very frustrated that he did not get the pictures,(as he informed me) and he still asks me the same questions again. I want to believe that in the 21rst century, the mail going to a country not at war, would eventually get there! I do not want him to think that I don’t care enough to answer his questions or send the pictures to him. It breaks my heart that he may think this!
    I want to write more and have sent duplicate pictures again to him. He has sent me pictures , but wants some from me!
    This is disapointing for me, but GOD’s grace will always be sufficient!
    Please hear the sponsors, and work on improving this important part of the ministry for the sake of the children.

  25. Christine Lewis November 9, 2010

    But our child in India is pretty young (equivalent to first grade) so we are told that she can not write anything to us, though we would love to see her just write her name or draw a picture. The letters from the SRA are always pretty much the same, and I don’t understand that at all. We ask questions in our letters that we never get answers to. For example, the SRA says in every letter that Preety’s favorite game is ludo. I have asked for a simple explanation of the game many times but I am continued to be told that it is her favorite game, but that’s all that is said about it. It’s like every letter is a form letter with little or no personal touch.

  26. Ed Gugliucci November 9, 2010

    My sponsored child is a 9 year old boy in Columbia and he writes wonderful letters! They are very personal and answers all of the questions I sent him. I sign my letters with xxxx-oooo-xxxx for hugs and kisses, and now he does the same!

  27. Gaby November 9, 2010

    I was intrigued by this subject and though I have treasured our letters from Yati in Indonesia, I always wondered about the time lapse in between. This answers that question. Yati has been a blessing to my husband and I and as one poster said, I too cannot hold back tears when I read how she prays for US.
    I do have question – I am reading above that some people send gifts, I was under the impression you can only send things that fit in an envelope (stickers, pictures, bookmarks)?

    1. Shaina November 9, 2010

      Gaby, you can learn more about the monetary gifts you may send to your sponsored child here: https://blog.compassion.com/give-a-gift-to-your-sponsored-child-how-what-why/

  28. Karen November 8, 2010

    The 15-year-old girl I sponsor in Tanzania and I started exchanging Bible verses early in our relationship, and we’re still doing that. I have gotten a lot of “food for reflection” from the verses she has sent me, and I hope she benefits from the ones I send her as well. I also was troubled by some impersonal letters at first, but that situation is getting better the more letters we exchange. I try to remember that her life is not easy, and if I can bring a little light into her life, I’m glad to do it.

  29. Robin Greiner November 8, 2010

    We’re getting to visit our child, Randi, tomorrow!!!!!!!

    As for letters, I think it makes it VERY hard that we don’t get Randi’s letters for THREE MONTHS after he’s written them! If I assume that it takes 3 more months for my letters to get back to him, that’s 6 months in between when he’s asked me a question to when I can get back to him with an answer. Makes for very difficult “conversation.”

    I try to use my letters to him as cheery updates, and for encouraging him in his school work and spiritual life. I would love to have letters that could be received weekly, but I just don’t think it works that way in reality.

  30. Roger Medlin October 28, 2010

    When this program was presented at our church, I thought of all the things our grandchildren enjoy. Many of the things they have are simply “wants” and not “needs”. When I took a packet to sponsor, the little dark haired girl looked very much like our oldest granddaughter who father is from China. When I looked closer, she had the same birthday. What are the odds, same age and same birthdate? I knew this had to be from God.
    I write to her often and she replies. My problem is that this seems to be the only time I cannot hold back tears. How blessed we are to have this opportunity to help her in some small way. Having an adopted daughter in our family from foster care is one thing but being able to help and support a child far away is a similar blessing.
    Thanks to Compassion for allowing us to have this additional blessing in our lives and to have one more little one to pray for and seek for her God’s daily care.

  31. Sandra Brencher August 19, 2010

    This is in reply to Carolyn on August 12. Carolyn, bless you for sponsoring 3 kids. It will take some time to develop a relationship with the kids.
    It surprises us that a 10-year old is not writing his or her own letters, but in some countries the schooling is poor and they just don’t have the skills yet.
    I was thrilled the first time I received a letter written by a child’s father because I knew he was involved in raising his daughter and coming to the project.
    My young man in Dominican Republic told me himself about the elections. I can think of three reason this might have been important to him. Some countries are very proud of being democracies and having elections, and the project may have wanted to share something about their country with you. Also in some countries those campaigning will throw parties or give away things in poor neighborhoods to encourage votes. So it might be a time where there is a lot of noise and hoopla in the streets and he is very aware of this exciting time. Also, school may be closed on election day and what kid wouldn’t be looking forward to a day off from school.
    I believe children do know there is someone who cares about them and supports them, but the concept of an unknown person 20,000 miles away caring for them and supporting them is very difficult to grasp. I would encourage you to keep writing and in every letter, tell you child you care about him or her and that you pray for him or her. You can also ask the child to greet his or her family for you, as the family often reads the letters. The parents may have a better understanding of the relationship than the kid and will be praying for you, too. Keep your letters short, simple, and keep them coming. You will be more of an encouragement than you know.

  32. Diane Nichols August 14, 2010

    I was concerned as well about some of the letters of the older kids being impersonal, then I realized that I was thinking like someone in this country thinks. Some of these kids don’t even start school until they are 10 or 11 years old so by the time they are teenagers they don’t have the writing concept down yet. If the center worker helps them, they may not know what the child and I have discussed in the previous letter. Sometimes the child is so excited about something in a letter to me (like a gift I sent), that is all they write about and forget to answer the questions, having sponsored kids for about 5 years, I have found that if you just keep asking the same questions with new stuff thrown in of course, they will answer the question, I have found that once they know how to write well, they are good letter writers. The other thing that is hard is to not use expressions they are not familiar with, it takes practice. For instance, when they write “we are keeping fine here and hope the same for you” Write back the same way “We are keeping fine here and hope the same for you”
    They seem to understand it better.

  33. Carolyn Garner August 12, 2010

    I am a relatively new sponsor of 3 children. I have received 5 letters, and none of them have been written by the children. Either a parent or someone from the school/center write the letters. Topics in the letters include thoughts about the country’s election, etc. and other items which I’m sure the child could care less about. This is disappointing as I’m not learning about the child and it makes it difficult to know what to write about in return letters. Frankly, it makes me a little suspicious if the child even realizes there is someone who cares and supports them. Just wondering.

  34. Diane Nichols July 23, 2010

    When my family first started sponsoring children, we found it unusual that they responded in a different way then we expected. We finally remembered that we were thinking about how children in this country should write at a certain age, like 10-15. We need to realize that the kids in the other countries may have started school late and also are not familar with the concept of letter writing, sometimes I get wished Merry Christmas early or late but I reailze that the child may know that their letter takes months to get to us and they want to be sure that a Merry Christmas is wished. The positives far outweigh the negatives when I hear about our litte boy with club feet getting them fixed or one of the kids writes and says that without our supportive letters he would probably have quit school. He is doing quite well in school and may be headed for the Leadership program.

  35. Ronald Colson July 21, 2010

    We do not get these notifications. That was just an example about the lack of response to our questions we ask Alexander. We are excited to get the letters, but we don’t feel Alexander is fully participating in the responses. You have lots to do and it is understood that time is a factor. This is not a complaint. We are greatful that God has blessed you and your foundation with
    all you have done. This is just an obsrvation. God Bless and keep up the good work..

  36. Suzette Lyons July 19, 2010

    I remember my first pen pal when I was a kid. I was not that creative. I mostly said the same stuff. It was embarassing to me when I was shown the letters later by my cousin who I was writing to. Wish I could of thought of more things to say. So I can see how hard it would be for a child to write to a stranger about thier life.

  37. Ronald Colson June 30, 2010

    We are disappointed that our questions for Alexander aren’t being answered. Alexander never mentions the gifts we send. What do you do with this money?

    1. Shaina June 30, 2010

      When you send a monetary gift, the staff of your child’s project will take them to the market and help them purchase what they would like. You should receive an acknowledgement letter of your gift. If you do not receive one after 6 months, please contact us at (800) 336-7676. One of our representatives would be happy to assist you.

  38. ines June 28, 2010

    For some children it takes more time to be more personal.

  39. Amy Wallace June 27, 2010

    I haven’t had too much of a problem with my kids’ letters being impersonal. As time has gone on, I’ve noticed they’ve become much more open in their letters, even the younger ones.

  40. Cassandra Kaehn June 21, 2010

    Are we allowed to send items other than letters to our children?

    1. Shaina June 21, 2010

      You are allowed to send other paper items to your sponsored child. Please read this blog article on letter writing ideas: https://blog.compassion.com/letter-writing-ideas/

  41. James H. June 18, 2010

    My littlest one is only 6 years of age. I only ask that she draw pictures. The translator doesn’t always get the words correct, but just knowing that someone took the time to help her write a little something is enough for me. I keep the letters in a special place hoping one day we can meet and just share how something so simple could mean so much to each of us.

  42. Beatty June 18, 2010

    I’m just back from a group tour where we had the opportunity to visit our sponsored child and where the topic of letters came up often. It was very, very obvious how much letters from a sponsor mean to a child. Our child had our letters with her when we met, and they are all read over and over again by her and by all of her family. Another child shared her sponsor’s letters with us and had tears in her eyes as she told us how important those letters were. And then there was a child we met who had been sponsored for six years but had never once received a letter; you could hear the sadness in her voice.

    I treasure all of the letters that we receive regardless of the amount of detail in them. What is important, though, is that we write to our child and share our lives, encouragement and prayers with them. Please write your child. Your letter can mean so much!

    1. Ken M. June 20, 2010

      The parents appreciate the letters, too. I went on a sponsor tour in October 2009 and the mother of one of my children had every letter I had sent to her son in a binder along with copies of letters he sent to me. She even had a copy of a letter her son had just written/sent to me just before the tour.
      My youngest child’s mother had a picture of me that I had sent in my intro letter to her son. She showed me the picture and showed the picture to her son to let him know that he is meeting the person who sponsors him.
      I was really surprised both times.

  43. Linda T. June 17, 2010

    I’ve been sponsoring my girl in Ecuador for almost 7 years. And amidst the short, generic, “form” letters, there are often nuggets to be found. Like: ” I love you as well as my mother, father, and sisters.” Or, ” I dreamed you came to visit me on a ship like the Titanic.” And in her last letter she told me of a vacation to the jungles in Ecuador where she saw monkeys and birds and ate a worm that was supposed to be healthy to eat…. and she liked it! 🙂
    So, when I get frustrated by an impersonal letter, I thank God for the nuggets, and for all that He is doing for these children through Compassion. And I am so grateful to Compassion for allowing me to be a small part of it.

  44. Beth Luebke June 17, 2010

    Keep in mind too that not all kids are on reciprocal system. I have a young girl in Honduras who writes about 4-5 letters and it’s been a year for our relationship to blossom. Yesterday, I got a letter saying “I am so glad to get to know you. I think your cat’s name is funny. I have two kitties named Skiri and Pancho.” We connected through our pets!!!

    I do write about 1-2 times a month via my Compassion account email set-up OR send a snail mail. You don’t have to wait to get a letter to send a letter. Most kids will write about 3 times a year. There are so many kids waiting for letters and it really hurts their feelings when you don’t write and their friends get letters. Write a letter today about your trip to the park, your last church visit, a Bible verse, what times of year your kids go to school, write about what you do and ask them what type of work they would like to do. They need role models who reaffirm their worth. And if you need more ideas, go to OurCompasson.Org and connect with other sponsors in your child’s country.

  45. Sheri June 17, 2010

    I heard this question yesterday from a sponsor! This was a great post. Thank you!

  46. Karen June 17, 2010

    The best part of the letters we have received from our Compassion Children over the years were the pictures they drew before they were even able to write an actual letter. Priceless!

  47. Shaina June 17, 2010

    Thank you for all of your comments!
    Lisa- What I can tell you is that every project is different. For example, the project that my sponsored child in Tanzania attends goes over and beyond the requirements. We receive report cards, pictures of him and his family, and very thoughtful letters. My sponsored child’s project in India, however, only sends the required three letters per year (she’s too young to write). In this instance, the change is most likely due to the change in projects- not a cultural issue. I’m so sorry that you’re not receiving the same letters you were at the beginning of the sponsorship, but I hope that knowing the difference you are making in his life encourages you to continue writing him.

    1. Martin Le-Van January 4, 2014

      Good post Shaina.
      Hopefully mine will be posted soon after approved.

    2. Lisa Miles October 29, 2010

      I just wanted to come back and share that the letter writing process is back on track with our youngest boy from Ethiopia, (the one who switched child centers.)

      In retrospect, I wonder if, when he switched child centers, he thought he was getting a new sponsor? It would explain why he was asking how many children we had, where we lived, etc. — stuff he already knew about us. After he got another letter from us, perhaps at that point he realized he was stuck with us. 😉

      Shaina, thanks again for your help. I guess it can be a little bumpy, in many ways, when a child moves and switches child centers. I just need to learn to be patient and let the process work itself out.

      1. JD November 9, 2010

        Lisa — It’s quite possible that he may have believed he was starting from scratch with a new sponsor — I never would have considered that… wow… I’m SO glad that our prayers were answered and that communication has been flowing more smoothly with him since. Beautiful answer to prayer!

        Thank you for the update!

    3. Lisa June 18, 2010

      That makes sense. My Ethiopian boy moved from a child center in a very small town, to a child center in one of the biggest cities in Ethiopia — so there may be a difference in the number of children at the child center. It’s a lot easier to give personalized letter-writing advice to 50 kids vs. 350. We would never, ever consider not writing him, though!!! As he gets older and writes his own letters, I’m guessing we’ll see more consistency. We have another Ethiopian boy we sponsor who’s getting ready to graduate and that’s been the fun part of sponsoring him. He is REALLY into the letter-writing process and we get such an interesting perspective from him on the country of Ethiopia, his life in Ethiopia, etc. I always say, sponsor a younger child AND an older child — you get in an interesting and slightly different experience with the two age groups.

      Anyway, as always, thanks for the help!

  48. Bob June 17, 2010

    Not to us, but to Your Name be the glory!

  49. Stephanie T. Green June 17, 2010

    If God said to you, I want you to go to the ends of the earth and tell them the good news of Jesus Christ even if you get nothing in return for it, would you do it? You bet you would. Well, He has told us to do that and there is no promise of a reward other than pleasing Him. I’m so thankful for Compassion for going into these impoverished countries and setting up camp so I don’t have to. Thank you Compassion for providing a trustworthy avenue for me to help fulfill the Great Commission.

    1. Janelle June 14, 2011

      Amen! It saddens me to see how many people are complaining about not getting the type of letters and interaction they’d like. Yes letters, pictures, drawings etc are amazing. And I would love to meet my little sponsor boy one day. But the bottom line is, I decided to sponsor a child for his benefit… to bless him. Whether or not I get some kind of ‘relationship’ that meets my standards or not is secondary.

      1. Mike Stephens January 2, 2014

        well said, I often forget that myself at times that the earth doesn’t revolve around me 🙂

  50. Lisa June 17, 2010

    Shaina, I have a question. We’ve sponsored a boy in Ethiopia for 3-4 years. For the first 2-3 years he used to always comment on the stuff we sent him, he would comment on our letters, ask questions about our daughter and us. He always included drawings he’d done. We sent tons of our photos to him, and many other things over the years.

    Last year he moved and was enrolled in a different child center. Ever since we’ve been getting generic letters. The handwriting in every letter is completely different. Even his signature is in a clearly different handwriting in every letter, so I don’t think he’s even signing these letters. No more drawings. And he’s been asking really strange things like “send me your photo”, “send me pictures of your country,” “tell me about your children.” He has years of photos of us and our one daughter and our country, so it’s weird that he’s suddenly asking these kinds of questions.

    I’m just really starting to think he’s not even participating in the writing of these letters. I wouldn’t be concerned if these were the letters I’d been getting from day one — but it’s the fact that the tone of them has completely changed and it’s like they’re being written by a complete stranger. I can’t chalk it up to “culture” as he’s in the same country — only the child center has changed.

    Could it be that at this new child center the children are less participatory in the writing process? Or is there less emphasis on letters in some centers and more in others? I’m guessing he’s in a bigger child center, so maybe they have less time to focus on him and his letters, but I would think he would at least sign his own name to his letters, (he’s 11 years old.)

    1. JD June 18, 2010

      As a sponsor and an advocate, this concerns me and breaks my heart. I too, would want some answers. Please contact Compassion directly (and it’s likely they’ll see this comment as well), and explain this to them. They will investigate.

      ((((((((((((((( hugs ))))))))))))))))))))

  51. Lauren June 17, 2010

    Four things I want all of my kids to know:

    God loves them.
    God has a plan for their life.
    I love them.
    I’m praying for them.

    I always convey this when I write to my kids. The letters are about them, not about me. The greatest gift we can give our kids is to pray for them. Build a more personal relationship with your child through the One that knows them best, God. Build a more personal relationship with your child through the One that died for them (and you), Jesus. Build a more personal relationship with the same One that lives in them that lives in you (if you are a Christian), the Holy Spirit.


  52. Denise June 17, 2010

    It’s my experience that girls are naturally better letter writers than boys. Remember being a young student? The boys may chafe at writing a letter to an invisible person, because what they really want to do is to finish and get out there and play. Girls often linger over assignments and put their hearts into them, because connections are so important to girls.

    You might try sending a family gift. Surprise Carlos with it! He will be the big man bringing wealth into the family, and he’ll relish that prestige. Tangible gifts (whether or not his family chooses to use them for boring things like food staples) make you seem more real and more directly influential in Carlos’ life. You’ve got his attention. And if any part of the gift gets used for something Carlos considers interesting, he’ll definitely remember that next time he writes. Each letter from you helps build the relationship over time, and as he matures, he may find he has a lot more to say in his letters to you.

  53. Brandi June 17, 2010

    I guess at this point, having never exchanged a letter and waiting for my packet, I just want to be sure that my child gets what he or she would want most from my letter. That would be my biggest frustration is if they were disappointed. That might change when I see their little face and want to know everything that is going on in their minds and lives – their hurts and fears and hopefully, their joys and triumphs- they’ll come one day!

  54. Federica D. June 17, 2010

    It’s not easy to accept that letters from your child are often cold and impersonal.
    I sponsor eleven children with Compassion, and sometimes I feel a strange sadness when I receive a sheet just full of blessings [and I’m grateful, sure!] but It’s impossible for me to understand if the child’s fine or not, if it’s worried about something, how about school…I think it’s normal.
    Passing time,
    I understood that It’s first my personal “human” need, perhaps not a child priority.
    It’s my desire to know that something’s changing in his/her life, that it’s really working…we need patience, I think, with our wishes and with children…they are so far, really far from our mind form and culture.
    But love it’s love.
    I want trust in a future, for them, the best I can imagine.
    I ‘ll wait until my “personal” letter will be on my hands.
    : )
    Please excuse my bad English, I’m Italian.

  55. John8com June 17, 2010

    “So what do I do? I really want to have a better relationship with Carlos.”

    I don’t mean to be appear flip, but I want to say to this member: Dear sister, if you’re frustrated with your relationship with your child then either patiently persist or get on a plane and go see him. Something tells me the content of those letters would change dramatically with a face-to-face meeting.

    I love the letters that we receive, but I don’t expect anything from them for the very reasons described in this article. And besides, it’s not about how we feel when we receive letters that motivates us to give to children in Jesus’ name – at least it shouldn’t be.


  56. Vicki Small June 17, 2010

    Excellent post. I sometimes feel the same frustration, although toned down from what it used to be before I heard the same information you’ve provided, Shaina. I received a letter, yesterday, from one of our children who has often written letters I knew were straight from her heart; this most recent one reads as if she struggled to find something to say in a few sentences.

    That’s when I remind myself of the cultural differences, as well as the fact (as was recently covered so well in another post) that sponsoring is not about me.

    But I also know, from having taught freshman composition courses at our community college, that some people never do learn to express themselves well in writing–and that’s in *our* culture. They just never become comfortable with writing and never find their writing “voice.” If so many, many people in America have that difficulty, I can well imagine some of our sponsored kids will never overcome that obstacle.

  57. JD June 17, 2010

    What an important post! Thank you, Shaina, for shedding some light on this. We have been very blessed to have had great communication with our Compassion Kids (although we have yet to receive a letter from our girl in Bolivia), but I know it’s not always the case. Having read what you shared on the letter writing culture in South America, I feel prepared in the event that Lizbeth’s letters from Bolivia aren’t full of warm fuzzies 🙂 I’ll still cherish them and love them, and appreciate how difficult it may be for her to communicate in that manner… I treasure those letters either way.

    We’ve sponsored Bessy in Honduras for five years (will be meeting her on a Compassion Advocate trip in a a few weeks), and we have yet to know how old her sister is, so bringing something for her sister is a wild guess as to ages and interests 😀 The letters, though, have been awesome — her mother writes them for her, and she’s so expressive and enthusiastic, it’s beautiful and heart warming.

    All in all, though, I find that pouring love into my letters for them, and writing to them often regardless of the quality of the letters I get back, is what makes a difference. The more I pour into the relationships, the bigger the blessing all around.

    The following words from your post speaks volumes — I couldn’t have said it better…

    “I hope that you can see the letters you write as a ministry opportunity, an opportunity to pour into another person’s life halfway across the world, an opportunity to teach, mentor, celebrate, encourage and pray with a child in need, rather than just an exchange of information and details. Your consistent presence fosters trust and tells your child “I care about you and want to be a part of your life.”

  58. Nina June 17, 2010

    As much as we love the letters we get from our kids, I think we need to remember the most important part of this process is OUR letters to THEM. I’m sure we have no idea how important and encouraging they are to the kids – bringing our love to them, and showing them Gods love thru our words. We may only ever get form letters, with not too much information, but the seeds of hope we plant with our letters, may go with them the rest of their lives. And that is our goal.

  59. Mike Stephens June 17, 2010

    I mean this goes without saying, but I’ll say it hahahahahah, I’ll say it to myself, Mike if you want a better relationship with your child go visit them and ask all the questions you like, even make a list Mike before you go so you don’t forget.

    1. Momma Foster December 3, 2010

      That is just not a possiblity for many, many people who sponsor children, and isn’t very helpful.

      1. Mike Stephens January 2, 2014

        you are correct, but a friend told me his mom would say “where there is a will there is a way” but his mom would say “where there is a way there is a will” if I am going to complain about something in life I better have truly exhausted all possibilities. I complain a lot now, but your comment help me realize with prayer and a little help along the way a whole of impossible is made possible. If choose to do something about 110% of the time it happens. That is what is amazing to me. I have a goal/dream to win the olympics in the triathlon august 9, 2016 at copa cabana beach in rio de janiero, brasil and I have no idea if I’m going to win or not until it happens, but I want it to happen. If I win that race, hopefully I will not have cheated, I am confident anyone you are thinking of can visit their sponsored child if they want to. I know Jesus making blind people see like we read in the bible was a long time ago, but He still specializes in the RIDICULOUSLY IMPOSSIBLE, if win that race I’m challking it up as one more impossible thing God has done in my life! Go JESUS!

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