Writing to your sponsored child is a lovely way of fostering a connection between you, and can help motivate and encourage a child.
Why should I write and how often?
Writing to your sponsored child can be very motivational to them. Not only does it show them and their family that a real person is taking an interest in them, and cares enough to support them, it also serves as a change from their day to day lives. With their experiences often limited to the immediate community, a letter from another country is a very exciting surprise. The children’s lives can be very difficult, with competing priorities such as home duties, health and similar, so knowing that someone wants them to succeed can really help them stay involved with their schooling.
You can write as often as you like, bearing in mind that your child may not be able to reply to the letters. Or you can write annually like your child does, even an occasional letter is enough to let the child know someone is supporting them.
What should I write about?
Start with a friendly hello to everyone, it’s always nice to greet other family members as well as the child. If you’re unsure who lives in the house with your sponsored child, you can email our UK team and they will let you know.
Write about things that may be familiar or of interest to your sponsored child. Think of things that cross cultures, such as talking about your family, any pets, funny stories that have happened during the week. Hobbies and sports that you enjoy, a description of your work or school. If you are celebrating a holiday, tell them your customs, although try to avoid mentioning gifts that may seem extravagant to them or other indicators of economic difference. You can tell them a bit about any work you do, remembering to explain what you do rather than use an unfamiliar job title.
Keep it positive, warm and friendly. If you know that the child has worked especially hard to achieve something, praise them for it!
Consider the age of the child and make sure your letter is age appropriate.
Keep your language simple- remember you are writing to someone for whom English may not be their first language, so try to avoid slang and colloquialisms. Our team will translate messages for children whose English is not advanced to that level yet but idioms can nonetheless cause confusion!
Consider learning a few words in your sponsored child’s language, such as ‘hello’. If you can, learn a little about their customs and celebrations, and ask questions.
Ask some questions about their life, school and hobbies.
Keep your letter fairly short- bear in mind that your life is very different from theirs and it can be a lot of new information to take in. An A5 card is plenty to start, and photos will be welcome. Children often put photos up on their walls at home.
What should I not write about?
Try to avoid things that emphasise the difference between your cultures and lifestyles such as material possessions and money, the size of your home etc.
Avoid suggesting they visit you sometime, as this puts a heavy obligation on the child. Ditto suggestions of you visiting them as this raises real expectations, which may not come true.
Avoid sensitive topics such as death or sickness as this may be upsetting to the child.
Avoid politics and religion! It’s fine to express your faith but choose your wording carefully so as not to influence the child. For example, it’s fine when talking about your weekend to say you went to church on Sunday, but it would not be ok to say that the child should also go to church. The Kindu Trust sponsors children from all faiths – you can check with our team if you would like to know whether the family is religious, and what faith they might belong to – or you can ask in your letter!
It’s fine to be warm and friendly but avoid over familiarity as this may cause offence to the child’s family. For example, it would be inappropriate to refer to the child as ‘your child’, as many of them have existing parental figures who they identify as such. What is a normal expression of affection in one culture is not always acceptable in another.
Don’t include negative questions about why the child or their parents aren’t doing ‘better’. The lives of the children and their families are very different to our own and, though you may have a sense of frustration that the child’s grades are not higher or why the parent does not have a job, it is important to remember that they are living in a very different context with challenges we would often not even be able to imagine! If you have any concerns along these lines please address them to the UK team, they can be very dispiriting for a child who may be trying very hard and create a fear that they will loose their sponsorship support.
What happens to my letter?
Once you’ve written your letter, you can post it to our team in Ethiopia using the following address; Your Sponsored Child’s Name, c/o The Kindu Trust, PO Box 1500, Gonder, Ethiopia. You can use Royal Mail to post it.
Let our UK team know by email and they’ll let the Ethiopian team know to expect it and check the PO Box.
When your letter arrives, our Sponsorship Team will ring the family to let them know. If they family live in Gondar or Tikil Dingay they will visit our office to collect it. If the family live in an area further away the team take it to them as soon as they can. When with the family letters are translated and explained, the child and family are given any items/photos and the letter to keep. We always take a photo of the child with the letter he/she has received.
Our Sponsorship Team then informs our UK office that the letter has arrived and been passed on and sends the photo. And we send the photo to you to show that your letter has safely arrived and been passed on!
Can I send gifts?
Photographs can add a lovely personal touch to your letter. This can include photos of you, your family, your school or favourite places in your local area – this can mean a lot to the child and expand their knowledge of other countries. (Please remember to avoid certain shots that may not translate culturally, such as photos of people in swimsuits, which aren’t seen in Northern Ethiopia!)
Small gifts like stickers, pencils, paper, ribbons, bookmarks, balloons or other small items that fit into an envelope are fine. If you want to send something larger, please consider one of our Celebration Parcels. We have a Birthday Parcel for special occasions, full of little treats. Or consider a gift of money so the child can choose something they may need, as well as allowing them to invest back into the local economy. A blog on sending parcels will be coming soon!
Will I get a letter back?
While it is very exciting for a child to receive a letter, we would caution that it is best not to expect one back. For the child letter writing will be a new and unfamiliar experience. Writing materials can be difficult to get hold of, and expensive for children in Ethiopia, and the concept of a pen pal is not known. Going to a post office and getting a stamp would be impossible for most children.
They may also not understand that the tradition is to write back, or to answer all your questions. Children may be very busy, with school and housework and writing in another language is an added challenge. Your child gets support in writing their annual letter to you for the updates, but with a small team we are unable to guarantee time to support every child to write, translate and post a reply – as much as we would love to! Rest assured the child will be delighted with having received a letter, and will take great joy from it even if you don’t receive a response.
Please also bear in mind that it may take some time for post to go to and from countries! At least 2 weeks is usual from anywhere in the world.
If you have any concerns or questions, you can get in touch with the UK office who can answer questions. Remember that a letter sent with good intentions will be viewed in the light it was sent in, so don’t be nervous about writing!
Want to sponsor a child? Follow the link HERE