Letters have the power to transcend time. A thoughtful letter can be treasured for years. Ask anyone who’s ever received one, they’d describe the glee they felt when they first pulled out that envelope from the letter box and how tears pooled in their eyes as they read words that almost immediately encouraged, uplifted, and strengthened them when they needed it.
This is the impact letters can have. Putting pen to paper to write someone may seem like the least you can do, but this seemingly small act can be the most you ever do to change someone’s life. Because those words spread across a paper can be the only uplifting ones that person may ever know. So, even as time passes, these letters are tucked away in precious places because impactful words are worth reading again and again.
At Compassion, we have seen the beautiful way that letters have sparked and strengthened relationships between children and their sponsors. This is one of the treasured parts of the Compassion program. We continue to witness how this communication has changed the lives of both child and sponsor alike. Through letters, children and their sponsor families have stayed connected and engaged in each other’s lives long before their first or next meeting.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted children’s letter relationships with their sponsors. Since the pandemic, letter writing has reduced drastically. COVID-19 altered all areas of the children’s lives across the world—unfortunately, to protect children, families, staff and volunteers, many Compassion centers had to close their doors. With this closure, came an interruption to communication between children and their sponsors.
After almost two years without writing letters, Compassion centers in Santo Domingo and Los Alcarrizos, wanted to change this and inspire children to reactivate this communication channel with their sponsors. Knowing the importance of correspondence, Ana Maria who oversees the centers in the region of Santo Domingo and Los Alcarrizos, began to find ways to encourage children to write to their sponsors and renew this relationship. But she knew one thing: the idea had to make the sponsors feel loved and valued as well.
Ana Maria knows the letter writing process by heart. She was once the little sponsored girl who sat on those colourful chairs at her Compassion center to pen her heart to her sponsor family. “As a sponsored child, and with the beautiful relationship I had with my sponsors… I would love to send pictures of the murals to my sponsors and let them know that the prayers they once prayed for me have been answered…,” says Ana Maria, DR0160 alumnus and partnership facilitator at Compassion Dominican Republic.
In each center overseen by Ana Maria, she and her team have created a beautiful space where children can have fun, take pictures, read their letters, write their letters, eat their snacks and play. “This is a place for the children to remember their sponsors and for the sponsors to understand that they are loved, remembered, and valued by their children if they get to see it,” shares Ana Maria.
Because of this initiative, children are excited to come to the center and write alongside one another. In some centers, they are even allowed to put the sponsors’ photos on the murals. As they pen their words, you can hear the excitement as each child shares with another their expectations that they will soon be receiving responses from their sponsors too. Children penned words and other expressions that convey how much they value and love their sponsors. “Each center designed an interactive space dedicated to the sponsors and the children. We want the children to be motivated to write to their sponsors and the sponsors to be motivated to resume the relationship by writing back,” says Ana Maria.
More than four thousand letters have now traveled through these centers.
One of the letters journeying through the mail is 12-year-old Carmen’s letter to her sponsor. She can’t wait to receive and reply to her letter from her sponsor. She doesn’t know exactly when her sponsor’s letters will arrive, but she is very hopeful they’ll be on their way soon.
Your Letters Matter
For Carmen—and for many of her friends at the center—the letters are the part of the program she treasures the most (after the meals of course, which she says are also her favourite ). Because, through letters, children have cultivated a deep connection and friendship with their sponsors.
“The sponsor/sponsored relationship is an essential part of the development work we do with the children in our communities,” said Milagros, the center director of DR0701. “This is so powerful that many children have asked me about their sponsors; they were apprehensive about them. However, we are 100% sure that the sponsors were also intrigued to know how their beloved sponsored children were doing through the pandemic.”
In every letter written and received, children and sponsors share their lives’ big events and everyday moments. This bridges the distance between them and makes both child and sponsor feel like they are truly part of each other’s lives. Many share photos, drawings, Bible verses, birthday notes—almost anything that will express their hearts to their sponsor or sponsored child.
With every letter read, trust is built and friendship is cultivated. Children have read words that have encouraged and uplifted them through the toughest circumstances. But children are not the only beneficiaries of encouragement. Their bond with their sponsor is so powerful that when their sponsor shares with them that they are going through a difficult situation, many children also feel the pain very deeply and write uplifting words and prayers to their sponsors.
“When I receive my sponsor’s letters, I feel proud because I receive them with love. She’s like my family. She tells me beautiful things. She tells me I am beautiful and that I will have a bright future.” Carmen says. “My sponsor always reminds me not to drop out of school because I can become someone in the future. I want to be a doctor when I grow up.”
Carmen drew a huge heart and wrote “I love you” in her letter to her sponsor, “so that she feels happy and loved,” she says with a smile. “I really enjoy coming to the center and seeing this giant letter [mural on the wall]. It reminds me so much of my beautiful sponsor whose letters makes me feel proud and loved.”
More than four thousand children from Ana Maria’s centers have now written letters to their sponsors thanks to this initiative.
“The letters are like teleporters. When children receive their letters, they mentally travel to other places and countries and enjoy learning about their sponsors and other cultures,” says Milagros, center director.
Milagros, who has been the center director for more than 15 years, says the relationship between sponsor and sponsored is transformative. “The sponsored-and-sponsor relationship has the power to help children develop a healthy self-esteem, change their attitude, yearn to be professionals and even motivate them to come closer to the Lord,” said Milagros.
Carmen is a testimony of this transformational growth. Many at the center say she used to be shy and timid, but now so much has changed. Today, she speaks up more in class as she participates in center activities and at her school. She gives her sponsor much of the credit for her improved confidence.
“I believe my sponsor’s letters helped me to improve and be more open, because she makes me feel loved and secure,” shares Carmen.
Carmen and her friends value the love and attention of their sponsors and can feel it through the letters they receive. That is why this local initiative has paid off.
Sponsors have become the friends who read without haste, respond with interest and send words of encouragement just when children need to read them. They are the ones who motivate children to press on, to dream, to set their hearts on things above their immediate circumstances. Words in a letter have helped children to see themselves as God sees them and has shaped how they see the world.
Within three months, this initiative at Anna Maria’s centers has managed to get almost five thousand children in the nation’s capital region to resume their relationship with their sponsors through letter writing.
Children at the Santo Domingo and Los Alcarrizos Compassion centers continue to whisper to one another in hope that letters from their sponsors will arrive at the center soon. Carmen is so expectant. She looks forward to that feeling she’s known before when her hopes become a beautiful reality as she hears her tutor say: “Carmen, here’s a letter from your sponsor to you!”
Taking the time to write and send a thoughtful letter to your sponsored child is no small thing – its impact is immeasurable. It shows your sponsored child that you cherish this relationship and are deliberate about continuing to invest in it. As you put pen to paper, you hold the power to encourage a child to press on until they become all that God has created them to be.
We know the hardest part is getting started, so let’s help make it simple. What has changed in your life lately? How has God been reminding you of His love? If you could only speak to them one more time, what would you tell them? Write that down right now.
Write a letter to your sponsor child today or a child whose sponsor is unable to, to encourage them with prayers.