Now that you're actually sponsoring a child you most likely have some questions about what to expect from the experience. And you're in the right place for answers.
Regardless of how long you've been sponsoring a child, whether you're a new sponsor or a long-time sponsor, we expect that you'll appreciate what follows.
We asked our some of our employees and sponsors to share the most important things they thought you should know about sponsoring a child, and what things they most wished they had known when they first began sponsoring a child. What follows is their collective wisdom.
From our staff in Colombia
- You are an example of the goals that the child is now able to dream of.
- Behind each letter you receive there is always a hopeful child waiting for a word of encouragement.
- Writing consistently is important! It will take some time (possible a year or two) to establish a good “flow of conversation” between you and your child.
- Not all sponsored children will be engaged in the program the same way. Each child and culture is different with different backgrounds and ideals. For example, try not to compare how often your friend’s sponsored child writes vs. how often your child writes you.
From our staff in Honduras
- Latin American culture is oral. We like to make jokes, to hug, to laugh out loud, to express orally but we are not used to express by writing. This is why sometimes you may find some letters repetitive or shallow.
- Many children feel discouraged when they don’t receive letters from their sponsors and other children do. Children feel so much more motivated when they receive letters. It makes them feel loved, motivated and encouraged to keep at the Compassion program. The children and their families treasure the letters as very valuable items.
Edwin Estioko, Field Communications Specialist, Compassion Philippines
Children highly value your letters and usually keep them inside a special box (e.g., an old shoebox made beautiful with colorful designs and drawings). There have been documented cases [from numerous Compassion countries] when during typhoons and floods, this box was one of the first things the children thought of rescuing.
Dave Olson, Senior Strategic Advisor
Your child is helped through a local partner church — not a community center. The child comes to the church center, and is ministered to by the church-based staff. Your child is known by name.
Bob Cleary, USA Product Marketing Director
Poverty does more than rob a child of his or her physical life; the child loses his or her God-given sense of dignity and self-worth. Children in poverty miss out on the understanding that God loves them. Sponsoring a child helps rebuild a child’s sense of God-given value, and meets his or her spiritual, physical, educational and relational needs.
Your sponsorship may be a different experience than what you initially think it will be. And you may never know the full impact your sponsorship has on your child’s life. Be okay with letting it be exactly what God wants it to be.
Joe Cammaroto, Distribution Services Manager
- When writing to your sponsored child, please make sure your sponsor number and the child's number are included on the letter. This saves us hours of research in determining which child to send the letter to.
- Please, send only gifts that are flat paper items, 8 1/2″ x 11,” no more than 1/4″ thick. Anything not meeting this standard will be donated to a local charity.
- Write to your child often. Short frequent letters are better than yearly updates. And keep in mind it may take several months to receive a response due to shipping, customs, translation, etc.
Carl Holmes, Sponsor and Donor Relations Representative
We work only in countries with stable governments, where we can take a long-term approach to child development. I get lots of questions about why we aren’t in China, or in Iraq, or Sudan, etc.
Kees Boer, Sponsor and Advocate
The two things that are far more important than your financial commitment to sponsoring a child are your prayers and your letters. The children look at the sponsorship as a relationship. When they don’t get letters and they regularly write them, it gets very discouraging. They want to know you.
Susan Sayler, Sponsor and Donor Relations Representative
The interaction, guidance, prayer and support of loving, caring adults in the lives of children is core to our sponsorship program. For this reason, we make sure that every child has at least one adult at the student center who is assigned to get to know and guide him or her.
The exact ratio of adults to children at each development center is determined jointly by each church partner and our local country office. While some development centers may have 50 children enrolled and others may have 400, it's up to the church to determine how many volunteers and staff are needed to run the program, and to provide individual attention to each child.
Matthew Kruger, Sponsor Donor Services Communication Specialist
Having a current email address or cell phone number on file allows us to share important sponsorship information with you more quickly, eliminating the need to wait for mail to arrive. And in cases we need to share crisis information affecting your child, getting that information to you as quickly as possible is our goal.
Just remember that [your sponsored children] are going to read your letters again and again, like you do theirs. They will notice recurring themes. I tell my Mateo in just about every letter that I am proud of him. I’ve been sponsoring him since he was 6; he’s now 13. A sentence in his last letter really melted my heart. He thanked me for being his sponsor and for always believing that he can do great things. Then he asked me to keep writing him.
From our staff in Guatemala
- In Guatemala, we don`t provide formal education to our registered children. What we do is to reinforce math and Spanish grammar, and we teach the topics included in the Compassion Development Curriculum.
- Generally our registered children start attending school when they are 7 or 8 years old. They start in first grade (without going to kindergarten) and are not able to write and read very well until they are in third grade of elementary school. That is why many letters are written by a tutor or a parent, until they are able to write in a legible way. And in many instances, even the parents don’t know how to write and read, so almost every letter is written by the child’s tutor.
- In Guatemala we have 23 different languages, and that is one reason children raised with their native language find difficulties in learning how to express correctly in Spanish, until they are 11 or 12 years old. Additionally, many volunteers at the development centers don`t understand Spanish so they can't help write letters. The ones who barely understand Spanish find it difficult to write good quality letters. They also are not used to writing letters.
Catherine Hilger, Project Manager
- Always know that whatever level of engagement you have with the child you are sponsoring, you ARE making a difference in his or her life. Stay the course. The fruit of sponsoring a child takes time; it is not an overnight matter. It takes steady, consistent support and prayer.
- Be transparent and bold. Your sponsored child wants to know you. Share your prayer requests. Guide that child. Coach him or her just as you would your own child.
Chris Giovagnoni, Senior Internet Marketing Specialist
We ask that you don’t communicate directly with your sponsored child, via e-mail, phone, Facebook, etc., outside of the letter-writing channel we offer, not to hinder or interfere with your relationship but as protection for both you and the child you're sponsoring. Direct communication can develop into potentially problematic situations – for you, the child and us.
One example of a problem that can occur is when a family member demands money from the sponsor to guarantee the safety of the child.
Before a child is registered in our program, the children and the parents agree to our communication guidelines. Initiating contact outside of Compassion places the child, family and church partner staff in a difficult situation.