Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yes, Letters Really Are That Important

Anyone who has met me in person or has spent any time reading my blog knows that my passion is reaching out to inspire sponsors to write to their sponsored children.  This passion evolved slowly throughout my journey with Compassion.  As I researched and read more, perused blogs and heard the testimony of formerly sponsored young adults, the common theme that stuck out was the importance of letters.

You see, a child in poverty has lies whispered into their spirits.  You don’t matter.  You are not important. Those lies sink in and take root and can affect lives in many negative ways.

(Photo courtesy of the Compassion Blog)
The words from a strangers in lands far away can battle these lies. The fact that someone takes the time to write and send love is actually quite miraculous to many of the children.  Conversely, for a child that sits
through Mail Call after Mail Call and never hears their name, those lies are solidified.

Last month, I asked sponsors on Our Compassion and the Compassion Facebook page if they had any experiences or observations to share from their visits to Compassion projects.
Susan M. shared: “I have the unforgettable memory of visiting a family where two sisters were each sponsored and one sister had numerous correspondence and the other sister had much, much fewer...and her facial expression definitely reflected this fact.  It was heart-breaking...not only to myself but others on the home-visit.”

Pat Bell shared this experience: “I met a little girl in Nicaragua on my first Compassion trip there who asked me why her sponsor didn't love her.  I was puzzled by the question until she went on to say that she never receives letters from her sponsor and she wondered what she did wrong.  That absolutely crushed me...especially considering I was to meet my child the next day and I had only written a couple times.  I thank God for using that little girl as a baseball bat up against my head to wake me up as to how my inaction was negatively impacting my sponsored child.  I am fortunate as I had the opportunity to apologize to him, his mother and the project worker for not writing.

Compassion makes it so easy for us, yet I think that we get so busy with our lives we just don't think about writing.  I am sure sponsors have no idea the impact not writing has on their child...I know I didn't.  A little girl taught me an important lesson.”
Beverly Antalek has this story to tell: “When I met Yaritza's project director, she thanked me for writing to Yaritza. She said many of the children never hear from their sponsors and it makes them so sad. I asked her if Yaritza receiving so MANY letters makes them sadder, and she said, "It doesn't matter. They are already sad." I think I will try harder to send extra "stuff" to Yaritza so she can share with the others who are "so sad."

Dannielle D.’s experience: “I made it a point on my trip last year, to ask kids if their sponsor writes. I saw their faces drop and demeanor change, as they answered no. I also saw the smiles, the running to grab them when the answer was yes. The question led to such a clear really happy or really sad response, that I almost wanted to stop asking. I didn't want to keep seeing the disappointment in their faces. Why did I keep asking? I wanted to come back and let other sponsors know that writing their children really is so important! They want to hear from us.”

And Cheri Duchrow said: “I once met a girl from Haiti and she had been sponsored for 13 years and never received a letter from her sponsor.  I met her after she had graduated from the program and our paths crossed here in the United States as she was finishing some schooling before going back to Haiti.  She said that every time they would call out names at the project to stay after she longed for her name to be called just once and it never was.  But she loved her sponsor and wrote her sponsor and prayed for her sponsor.  She knew that belonging to Compassion lifted her out of poverty and for that she was grateful.  After I met her we invited her to get together for our state advocate's meeting and we advocates and sponsors met with her several times before she went back.  We loved on her and before she went back to Haiti we all felt that God blessed her by bringing us together so she could meet other sponsors if not her own and we could extend to her the love her sponsor must have felt.

As for another story I have been a sponsor since 2003 and at first was not a great letter writer.  Until the day I received a report card from Firehiwot in Ethiopia indicating she had failed her grade in school in 2005.  That was a big eye-opener for me.  I felt I was responsible for not bringing her encouragement.  Since then I am happy to say I have ramped up my letter writing and aim for once a month to about 6 weeks in between letters and none of the individuals I sponsor have come close to failing!  Even if a sponsor can send the 2-3 letters a year it will make a difference.”
Cheri’s testimony brings to light a fact that I have heard many times.  In case after case, the children who receive letters, on average, do better in school than those who do not.
Jill from Compassion Family had an experience to share from a visit to Peru: “Last year in Peru - my one and only trip - we asked the kids we met if they could ask their sponsor anything, what would they ask. More than one child wanted to know why their sponsor didn't love them. We probed a little deeper to see what they meant and it turns out their sponsors don't write to them. They have translated this lack of communication into a lack of love - just heartbreaking!”
Lois is now a student at Moody Bible institute, but she wrote about her experience as a sponsored child in Uganda.
My sponsor, my hero. That she loved me, that she was praying for me, she took time off to think about me and write a letter to me. When she ask me what I want to be, that got me thinking seriously of my future and she kept bringing me back to that question as I grew older.  Because of that, I had to work harder to achieve my dreams. She told me what she was doing and that made me feel part of her life. She told me of her visit to her sisters and how they visited her, she told me about her work.  I felt that she told me everything about herself and I was part of her family.  So, I did likewise.  I love my relationship with my sponsor to this very day.  She showed me that I was precious to her.  She loved me and I loved her back.  Her love gave me a clear sight of hope for tomorrow.  I love my sponsor a lot.”
From these words, it is easy to see that your letters truly are crucial.  During the Compassion Bloggers trip to Guatemala last year, Lisa-Jo from the Gypsy Mama blog shared a post that is one of my all time favorites: Lame Sponsors of the World Unite. I highly recommend that you take the time to read it.

So, if you are thinking of getting involved with Compassion International, but you know that you simply do not have the time, energy or desire to write, I would suggest that you look into some of the other programs that are available, instead of the child sponsorship program.

The Child Survival Program is a great option.  Your support will help pregnant mothers and their babies in many different ways, but sponsors do not have the ability to send letters.

The Bite Back program provides mosquito bed nets, education to fight malaria and treatment to those infected.

You can donate to provide livestock, water filters, educational supplies and even latrines by giving a Gift of Compassion.

And there are more programs like this where you can help without writing letters!

If you are already a sponsor but you don’t write to your child, I would suggest looking to see if a family member or friend would be willing to write on your behalf. Otherwise, I would really like to urge you to contact Compassion and ask that they assign a correspondent for your child.  Just call 1-800-336-7676 and let the representative know you’re willing to let someone else write. There are many sponsors who are willing to do just that!

Please help me in spreading the word about this important message!  Share this post with sponsors! You are also always free to link to any of my posts on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or email! Together we can raise awareness for the importance of letters!  Hopefully, this will result in children happily hearing their name called on Mail Day at their project!
~Michelle