How to Foster a Relationship
with Your Sponsored Child
The decision to sponsor a child is no small matter. Sometimes people decide to sponsor while at an event like a church service or a concert. They get wrapped up in the compelling appeal, the beautifully photographed smiling faces, and the internal draw to make a difference in someone's life. Of course the financial support makes a huge difference in the life of the child and the supporting organization where he or she receives services. But I'd like to suggest that stopping there is not enough. Taking the time to build a relationship and doing what you can to let that child know that someone on the other side of the world is thinking about them is an important part of participation.
Our first experience with child sponsorship was about 15 years ago. While attending an event, we got swept up in the emotion to select a picture and make a commitment to $35 per month. It was a boy in Romania, and the organization was World Vision. We were a family with two young boys, and although we had heard of programs like this before, we had personally never participated.
Our first thought was, "Can we afford this?" Then our second thought was, "How do we choose from this sea of photographs?" We picked a boy that was about the same age as our oldest son. Although we've learned a lot over the years, we are still learning what it means to sponsor a child in a developing country. The joy and purpose in the sponsorship are found when sponsors move beyond the financial obligation and engage in relationship building.
Child sponsorship is about a relationship, and that is undoubtedly the most significant thing we've learned. We, like many others, get busy with life. Remembering to send letters can easily get forgotten. It's much easier for an automatic payment each month that doesn't require much of our attention. Sitting down and taking the time to write a thoughtful letter does. I can't tell you how many times I've sat down to write a letter and have no idea what to write. What questions can I ask? How can I connect with this person who lives halfway across the world and who I will probably never meet in person. How can I find more things that connect us than divide us? How can I foster a relationship, not just on our end, but on theirs as well?
After spending nearly a decade doing a pretty haphazard job of connecting and working to build a relationship, we came up with the following strategies that have helped tremendously. We still don't get it right sometimes. We fall short. But having a plan has undoubtedly helped make a difference in the efforts we put into building a relationship with our sponsored kids.
Three practices we follow to stay in touch
Every time we receive a letter, we write back right away. We keep their letter out in a visible spot, so it doesn't get missed. If the letter arrived by email, we print it out.
We keep their birthdays on a calendar and send them a letter (with a small gift) about eight weeks in advance.
We mark our calendar for the beginning of November to get Christmas letters and gifts out in time.
Not sure what to write? Here are five ideas!
Ask about their favorite subjects in school and what they want to be when they grow up. Tell them about your school experience and what you liked best.
Ask about their favorite sports. This always seems to be a popular topic. In many places across the world, soccer is very popular. Kids often have their favorite teams and players and enjoy sharing that information with you.
Ask about their local customs and tell them about yours. Learning about how people celebrate holidays or keep family traditions is a great way to understand and appreciate the differences in the places we live.
Ask about their favorite foods and tell them yours. Many children help prepare meals in their homes. Food is something that draws people together all over the world.
Telling them about our family and about us. It's always fun to hear about their parents, siblings, and extended family.