Local Impact

Sponsor a Child and Keep in Touch: Tips for Writing

Posted by Madeleine Richey on Mar 3, 2015 6:36:00 AM

Even though you and the child you sponsor may be thousands of miles apart, writing can be a great way to build a relationship. Maybe you’re like me, oftentimes when I sit down to write, I end up staring at a blank piece of paper. What do you say to a child in a different country whom you have never met before? I’d like to share some ideas with you and share with you what I came up with in a recent letter to my sponsored child.

I started sponsoring my little girl, Wiljanika, in 2012. I had previously supported a different little girl through CARITAS' Haiti child sponsorship programs; however, while on a mission trip there, CARITAS For Children founder, Christopher Hoar, determined that she had left the program. On that same visit to Haiti, Chris became aware that Wiljanika’s family was in a difficult situation and he sent me some photographs of them. 

A Haitian father with his two children Wiljanika with her father and brother in 2012.

Wiljanika was only about 15-months-old at the time, and she was absolutely beautiful. Her mother had died shortly after childbirth, and her father was doing his best to care for her and her older brother, who is still in need of a sponsor. They live in Bassin Bleu, Haiti, which is accessible only by a dry river bed; there are no paved roads. Communication in Haiti is much more difficult because of the lack of infrastructure there. Because of this letters can sometimes be few and far between, but I still write. Last year I received a picture of a bunny rabbit Wiljanika drew for me in blue crayon. Now it is my turn to write to her. 

Here are some suggested guidelines when writing a letter to your sponsored child:

  • Keep letters simple using uncomplicated sentence structure.
  • Print in clear, easy to read handwriting.
  • Your message doesn’t have to be long.
  • Even a short note shows that you care.
  • “A picture tells a thousand words.” 

Next here are some topics you might like to write about:

  • Ask about their school.
  • Ask what they like studying in school.
  • Tell them about your school. (when you were a child, or if you are a student, your current school)
  • Ask your child if they have siblings, or to tell you about their friends.
  • Tell your child about your family, send photographs if you like.
  • Encourage them in schoolwork.*
  • Tell them you are thinking of them or praying for them.
  • Ask them about their favorite game or sport.
  • Tell them about the weather, particularly if you just shoveled out of a snowstorm, or it’s been raining for two days, you get the idea.
  • Ask them about their favorite food.
  • Tell them about your pets, kids love photographs.
  • If your child is writing to your sponsored child, have them send drawings.
  • Write about your home country (buildings, places, the culture…)
  • Instead of writing a letter on a piece of paper, buy a card with bright colors or pretty pictures; often kids will hang cards on their walls as decoration.

Ugandan girl from Catholic child sponsorship program holding letter

Daphine, a student in CARITAS' Uganda child sponsorship programs, holding a cherished letter from her sponsor-mom and sponsor-sister.

I don’t always get a response to the questions that I ask Wiljanika, but I want to tell her and her caretakers that I am reading the letters I receive and that I care about her life. No matter what, I always try to send pictures. Photographs are often the best way for children to connect with you — they’ve never met you, and depending on their age or where they are they might not understand your letter. They love to have pictures of you and your family to hold and look at, and most of them will show the pictures to their friends.

In my current letter to Wiljanika, I’m telling her about my recent trip to Uganda as a missioner for CARITAS For Children, and my new job as a staff writer. Since she is only four, I wrote it on a card with bright colors, I’m also sending her pictures, like I always do, and though the letter is addressed to her it is mostly for her caretakers.

*If you are concerned about your child’s performance in school or some other aspect of their life, please contact the office at 414-323-5000 extension 308 to speak with Cathy Hoelter, Sponsorship Services to talk about the best way to handle the situation. You may also reach Cathy by e-mail. Often it can be counterproductive to criticize grades or behaviors. In countries like Uganda where education is highly competitive, upper level exams especially put a huge amount of stress on students. Positive support from sponsors is crucial for the success of the children and their mental health.


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