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Who Knew? Answering Your Sponsorship Questions

Kim Strayhorn has been with ChildFund long enough – 31 years – to remember how the advent of the Internet changed operations in the Donor Services department. “People wanted to write by e-mail as opposed to being called,” he says, “so we had thousands of e-mails, and it was hard to manage.”

The responsibility for handling the deluge fell to Kim and a colleague. But they soon found software that would help them create a mechanism whereby curious site visitors could browse a list of the most common questions. Now, when you click “FAQs” in the top right corner of any page at, you’ll go right to that list, which ranks questions according to the number of hits.

“Pretty much now, we answer e-mails specifically driven toward child and sponsor that they won’t be able to find on the website,” Kim says. In his position as Web Correspondent/Child Protection Specialist, his focus is on ensuring appropriate communications between sponsors and sponsored children.

The question currently ranked number 3 goes to exactly that issue: “Can I send gifts to my sponsored child?” The short answer is that it’s best not to if the child is outside of the United States.

“Unfortunately, all kinds of things can happen,” says Kim, “especially in the countries we work in. Some things get through, but in a lot of cases things don’t ever materialize. Then there’s the customs duties, and we can’t afford to pay them. They’re almost 100 percent [of the item’s value] in some cases.”

“Anything that’s flat and can fit in the envelopes with the letters is fine,” he adds. “And the children love that.”

Read the complete answer to FAQ number 3 and learn more about what you can send to your sponsored child. Also, look forward to more featured FAQs in future issues of ChildWire.


Strayhorn’s 411
Kim Strayhorn
Kim Strayhorn, Web Correspondent/Child Protection Specialist

Thirty-one years?!?
I’ve had a good opportunity to learn a lot. I came from a banking background, so at first I helped to actually process contributions and donations and get the turnaround time to within 24 hours. I later worked in that department where the narratives or biographical information used to come in – everything was paper and actual photographs. We had a whole big area where we stored the photos, and we would make copies of the photos when people lost their packages. Then we went digital … so I got in on the ground floor of that. And then I came back – I started out in Donor Services, and I came back to Donor Services, and then the next thing you know, it was the Web.

Do you sponsor a child?
[Shows a picture of himself holding a small boy, Caio.] I met him when I was in Brazil. He’s deaf, but I didn’t know it. I saw this little boy, and I said, “Oh, he looks like my grandson. … They didn’t know how to tell me he was deaf. And then a girl hollered, “He’s dumb!” And I said, “Oh, no, don’t say that! What do you mean, he’s ‘dumb’?” And the translator said, “He’s deaf.”

I met his mother when she came to get him, and I asked her if she had ever taken him to the doctor to find out what he can hear. She said, “Oh, this is God’s will.” I said, “We’ve got to do something about that.” I said I was going to find him a sponsor when I came back to Richmond, but I wound up being his sponsor. But he’s not in the program anymore – his mother and father became self-sufficient.

Do you have any favorite question that you enjoy getting?
We talk a lot about visits, just describing what it would be like if ChildFund weren’t in a specific area. I’ve visited most of the Latin American countries, and I talk to families and children there. They talk about how grateful they are that we are there, that we are able to help their children. I describe that, and I tell sponsors what they’ll see when they go visit. That kind of makes me light up a little bit, because I’ve seen it firsthand.