Growing the Sponsorship Relationship

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By By Christine Ennulat, With reporting from ChildFund’s national offices in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mozambique, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the United States and Zambia
Posted on 12/21/2011

How wonderful that one of your New Year’s resolutions will be to write more often to your sponsored child! (Right?) To help inspire you, we asked staff in the countries where we work to share with us children’s reactions to correspondence from their sponsors. What they told us reveals sponsorship to be an important, vibrant relationship that includes comedy, sometimes tragedy and, often, puzzlement. So, as you grow your connection with your sponsored child, here are some helpful things to know:

1. Some everyday activities may require explanation.
“My sponsor’s letter says that they have gone to picnic,” says Ronald, 7, who lives in Zambia. “I didn’t know what picnic is. I wondered what a picnic is and where it is supposed to take place.”

“They said they also ate ice cream,” he continues. “I have never tasted it, but I have heard children that live in town eat ice cream. When I grow up, I want to go to town and eat ice cream.”

2. The idea of pets may mystify children living in extreme poverty.
Allyna’s sponsor loves dogs — a lot. “In the Philippines, they are usually ignored. They just wander in the streets,” says the 7-year-old. “And [my sponsor’s dogs] have their own house! I am really wondering why dogs are that valuable to them. I want to ask my sponsor — I’m just shy to do it.”

3. But some sponsored children do have pets, which may come up in their chatty, newsy letters.
Christhian, a 13-year-old boy living in Bolivia, wrote to his sponsor, “Once my little dog named Shado got out and chase a female little dog, and then he got lost for a week. When he got back, he was very dirty, and now he wants to get out every single day. I think he is dating a little female dog.”

4. Speaking of pets, think twice about sending that snap of your pet python …
… especially if your sponsored child lives in Mozambique, home to puff adders, black mambas, green mambas, snouted cobras, spitting cobras, boomslangs and, yes, pythons. Snakes are not a pleasant thought for most children in our programs.

5. Your sponsored child’s experience of birthdays may be meager.
In Zambia, 9-year-old Ernest recently got his first-ever birthday card. “I wonder what the sponsor meant by ‘many happy returns,’” he says. “It is my first time to receive birthday card and presents, but it has never been practiced in my family. That made me think that my sponsor is a very nice person. I said thank you to him in my letter.”

6. Among the 30 countries where ChildFund works, 28 lie within the tropics. Therefore, snow is … strange.
Snow is a wonder for sponsored children in Guatemala. “How is the snow?” they ask. “How does it fall down? How does it melt?”

In Zambia, 10-year-old Joyce received a picture of her sponsor and a friend walking in snow. “Thank God we only have rains in Zambia and not the snow! I don’t need to wear such heavy clothes even when it is raining,” she says. “My sponsor would like the weather in Zambia. It is nicer and warm.”

7. Sometimes, news from your sponsored child’s world may be worrisome, even sad.
In Sri Lanka, one sponsored child’s family was particularly poor, and her home situation was unstable. After a few years of sponsorship, the girl had to leave ChildFund’s programs because she got married. She was only 16. (Early marriage is common in some places where ChildFund works. Although we educate about and encourage alternatives, in the end we do not have jurisdiction over families and children.)

Her sponsor inquired about sending the girl a parting gift. When she received the message, she said, “I wish I had someone so caring like him in my family here. I am sure I would still be schooling and not have got married in that case.”

8. Often, though, their words bring chuckles.
From ChildFund’s United States programs:

“My poppy is short that is why I’m short but I don’t care cause I like being short cause it don’t matter if you short or not cause you can still get a good wife when you grow up.” —12-year-old boy

“I don’t think you are old till you are 72 years old.” —14-year-old girl

“Do you know Obama? If you do, please tell him I want to meet him someday.” —10-year-old child

9. Sometimes, sponsored children worry about their sponsors.
Daeng, 17 and living in Indonesia, calls his sponsor “mother.” When she became ill with breast cancer, she set up a monthly monetary gift for Daeng, but there’s something he wants even more. “I don’t care whether I have a package each month or not,” he says. “All I want is a letter from my mother, telling me about her well-being.”

10. When your sponsored children do hear from you, it inspires them. And that’s an understatement.
“Dear Sponsor,” writes Rita, in Uganda, “I am glad to write to you a poem about how I feel when I get your cards.”

I feel good, I jump high,
laugh then smile.
When I receive a birthday card from you,
my dear sponsor, I wish you were here.
I feel that you love me and that I love you,
that you know me and that you care,
because you never forget me.
I learnt English. I learnt to read.
I learnt how to write.
I learnt how to draw
just because of you, my sponsor.
When I get your cards,
I feel good, I jump up high,
laugh and smile
when I hear from you.

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For more ideas about writing to your sponsored children, see our page of letter writing tips.

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