How do I connect more deeply through my messages?

Sometimes the letters from the child you sponsor might sound a little formulaic, or don’t answer the questions you’ve sent... Here’s why this could be happening, plus some handy tips to help.

Children served by our Compassion church partners often share how much the encouragement of their sponsor means to them, spiritually and emotionally. The main expression of your encouragement that the children experience comes through the messages you take the time to send, telling them about you and assuring them of your prayers.

Who can forget Lizbeth from Ecuador, who featured in our 2023 Christmas Appeal? She loves receiving letters from her sponsor so much that she memorises them!

Lizbeth, Ecuador, loves receiving letters from her sponsor so much that she memorises them.

Some sponsors find on occasion that the letters they receive in return don’t say as much as they’d hoped, and perhaps questions go unanswered. It’s helpful to understand a bit of the context around the children in our programmes writing to their sponsors, such as their culture, age and level of learning.

We also have some handy tips, which we hope will spur you in your vital role of building up the child you sponsor through your messages of encouragement…

Letter writing for learning

Compassion staff often use letter writing as an opportunity to help children improve their reading and writing skills. Every few months, teachers hold a letter writing session. During this designated time, the teachers write a list of letter prompts or have templates to help the children with a framework to give them confidence in writing.

Another reason the child you sponsor might not respond directly to your letter is they may simply have forgotten the questions you asked. They may have excitedly taken your letter home to show their friends and family, and so not have it to hand during their letter-writing session. Project staff try to take copies of letters to keep in each child’s file, but in the busyness of their time at the project, they might not have looked at all the letters again before writing their replies. This means, the children may need to rely on the suggestions of their tutor instead, and this could make some letters sound a bit formulaic.

Cultural differences mean letter writing could be a new experience

Children writing letters in a classroom in Dominican Republic

Letter writing isn’t always easy for children. In many countries, letter writing isn’t customary. You could be the first and only person your sponsored child has ever written to! In some cultures, it’s uncommon to discuss personal things like hopes, dreams and even daily life. Your sponsored child may keep their letters quite general, because they don’t think their daily life will be interesting to you.

With these factors in mind, there are practical steps you can take to improve your correspondence with the child you sponsor.

5 tips for building a rapport through letters

  1. Stick to 1-3 questions

    Getting to know the child you sponsor is exciting. There are so many questions you could ask! Who are their friends? What’s their favourite subject? What do they like doing on the weekend? The list goes on. Try and limit the questions you ask, though. Including too many in one go may overwhelm the child you sponsor, who might then ignore the questions altogether. For younger children, one to two questions is ideal, while older children can probably handle three. Over time, you’ll build a wonderful picture of their interests, hopes and daily life.
  2. Help your questions stand out!

    To ensure your questions don’t get lost, you can write each one on a separate line so that it stands out. This means they’re clearly marked for the child to notice and respond to when they reply… It’s not guaranteed to work but it should help!
  3. Theme your letters

    You could try dedicating your message to one topic you’d like to find out about. For example, if you’d like to know how the child you sponsor is doing at school, shape all your questions around this topic.

    And, why not answer the same questions about yourself? For example, “What’s your favourite subject at school? I liked art class best.” Keeping your messages focused on a single topic will direct your child’s attention to the theme and emphasise that this is something you’re interested in learning more about.
  4. Encourage them to draw pictures
    Drawings can be a helpful way for children to express themselves
    Just like some children in the UK, the children supported by our local church partners may find it difficult to express themselves using writing. If they’re not academic or have fallen behind at school, they may feel embarrassed about their writing skills and keep their letters purposefully short.

    If you think this is the case, encourage them to keep writing and tell them you’re proud of how far they’ve come. You could also encourage them to draw pictures. They may feel more confident expressing themselves in this way.
  5. Don’t underestimate the impact you’re making

    When you write a heartfelt, engaging message then receive a disappointing response, it’s natural to feel discouraged or wonder if your support is making a difference. While the letters you receive back may not always be what you’d hope for, never forget the impact your messages of encouragement are having on your sponsored child’s life.

    Over and over, the children in our programme tell us that the words of encouragement from their sponsors help them to believe in themselves, work harder at school, and understand their value and worth. Just ask Synod in Bangladesh.

    “Every time when I receive a letter from [my sponsor,] Sylvia I get so excited. She’s like my family member. I can feel her emotion, love and care for me. It’s something very special for me. She encourages me to keep up my good results at school. Her inspiration helps me to improve myself. I always wait for her letter.”

It’s easier than ever to send messages online

Sofy loves reading the letters from her sponsor

Sending messages has never been easier through our App or your MyCompassion account. You can see all the previous letters from the child you sponsor, and you can now save drafts of your messages before finally sending. It’s easy to attach photos and use our colourful letter templates.

Sending messages online saves money, paper and time! Bless the child you sponsor with a message of encouragement today.

Send a greeting online now

Discover more tips where we answer your top letter-writing questions

The original version of this post was written by Zoe Noakes for Compassion Australia

Photo by Craig Thompson

Compassion Australia

Words by Compassion Australia


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Compassion UK Christian Child Development, registered charity in England and Wales (1077216) and Scotland (SC045059). A company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales company number 03719092. Registered address: Compassion House, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2UT.