By: Kasey Huss   |   Posted: September 14, 2022

Compassion workers around the world share insights that every sponsor should know.

5 Things Your Sponsored Child’s Center Staff Want You To Know

Compassion workers around the world share insights that every sponsor should know.

Written by Kasey Huss
Photography by Ben Adams and Junieth Dinarte
Compassion staff wearing a white shirt looks back over her shoulder sitting in a  classroom with a group of children lined up facing a chalk board writing lessons.

The staff at your sponsored child's Compassion center witness it all: the moment children are registered, the day they learn they are sponsored and the second those smiles spread across their faces as they open their first letters from their sponsors. Center staff have the closest and most consistent influence on our participants, so we thought they would have some unique insights to share with sponsors. For the first time, here are the Top 5 things your child’s center wants you to know about letter writing!

No. 5. They wish you could be a fly on the wall on letter writing day.

Have you ever asked a child to sit down to write a letter? If you have, then you’ve probably experienced that getting a child to sit down is a challenge in itself! Similarly, sponsored children giggle in groups, squirm in their seats and buzz with energy before getting down to business.

Compassion Ethiopia photojournalist Tigist Gizachew has observed many letter writing sessions at centers across her country. “Letter writing time at any center requires time, a lot of coordination and patience to make sure all the sponsored children have written letters,” she says. “At times, if not well planned, it could be chaotic and stressful!” While older children are busy writing, tutors support the children who cannot write. There is a lot going on.

Your sponsored child’s center wishes you could experience the energy and excitement during letter writing. When you read your sponsored child’s letter, remember that it was written in the middle of his or her wild and wonderful day at the center. Recognizing the context in which your letter was written will enrich your perspective and appreciation for the words you hold in your hands.

No. 4. They want you to know that letter writing is sometimes a new concept to participants.

Many children in poverty grow up in households where family members are unable to read or write. In fact, 30 countries have adult literacy rates below 70 percent; 22 of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, while southern Asia is home to more than one-half of the global illiterate population (51 percent). With illiteracy rates so high, many people in developing countries rely on a different form of communication. “We have an oral culture,” says Alemnesh, a center director in Ethiopia. “We tend to discuss things, tell stories and those things.”

In many cases, letter writing is a practice that your sponsored child is learning for the first time. If you ever wonder why some letters seem short or lack the information you were hoping to receive, remember that your child is engaged in a brand-new experience and is trying his or her best to communicate with you. Your child’s center staff want you to know that every written word from a sponsored child represents his or her journey toward literacy and a brighter future.

An older woman (in a blue shirt), is sitting at a desk with a girl (in gray) and boy (in a white polo shirt), who are looking at what she is writing in a notebook. There are plastic folders stacked on the desk.

No. 3. They want you to know that you give your sponsored child a glimpse into another world.

Milagros has been a center director in the Dominican Republic for more than 15 years. She has observed many children become absorbed in their sponsors’ letters. “The letters are like teleporters,” she says. “When children receive them, they mentally travel to other places and countries and enjoy learning about their sponsors and other cultures.”

When you write your sponsored child, you give them access to a world beyond the one that they know — one that is often fraught with hardship. Children love learning about where their sponsors are from, what the weather is like and what kind of pets they have. Alemnesh in Ethiopia shares, “Especially a photograph can impact a child greatly.” So here is what your child’s center staff want you to know: Your sponsored child thinks you’re fascinating. Share your life with them, including pictures, and they will travel with you around the world in their heart and mind.

No. 2. They want you to know that letter writing encourages your sponsored child’s development.

According to staff, letters go beyond mere communication between sponsor and child. They are an essential part of your sponsored child’s well-being and development. Letter writing improves the children’s communication skills and boosts their self-esteem as they feel loved and appreciated. Sam is a center director in Kenya and has noted that children are even inspired to work harder as a result of communicating with their sponsors. “When sponsors ask about progress in school or Bible reading, you notice determination in the child to improve knowing they will be held accountable,” says Sam.

Alemnesh has noticed that children who receive letters from their sponsors even attend the center more often. “The difference is very visible,” Alemnesh says. “Please write!”

No. 1. Above all, they want you to know that your letters provide hope!

“When you say in a letter, ‘I am praying for you,’ that is hope to a child,” says Sam in Kenya. “Through letters, lives have changed, behaviors improved and perceptions transformed.” Your sponsored child’s center wants you to know that your words matter! “I can’t explain how joyful the children get when they receive a letter from the sponsor,” shares Alemnesh.

Each Compassion center handles letter delivery a bit differently, but most centers make a big deal and a celebration out of letter delivery day. In small communities, it’s rare to receive mail at all, let alone letters from someone halfway around the world. So, when letters arrive, a center may host an assembly where letters are handed out and everyone celebrates as though they received a letter of their own. Hope has been delivered!

Sources:

  • UNESCO Institute for Statistics Fact Sheet. September 2016, No. 38; 50th Anniversary of International Literacy Day: Literacy rates are on the rise but millions remain illiterate.
  • UNESCO. 2017. Reading the Past, Writing the Future: Fifty Years of Promoting Literacy.