Thursday, 30 October 2014

Letter Prompts for My Kids and Myself

Haven't all of us wondered why some of our sponsor and correspondence kids answer our questions and some don't? Haven't we all thought about how we could change that?

I sure wondered about that.

Among my Compassion kids there are wonderful letter writers, who answer all my questions and tell a lot themselves. Others seem to have trouble with the writing.

But I can't change their writing, I can only change my letters. So I searched online for inspirations - how could I involve my Compassion kids into writing? How could I challenge them to respond to my letters without overwhelming them - especially the youngest ones?

Below are some of the ideas I have already used for my letters - and some of the reactions from my kids.

Hand Prints

One of the ideas that stood out to me the most and works for all ages was sending handprints of your own hand to your kids and ask them to do the same. It's such a simple idea when you think about it, but without Yvonne and her blog (Thanks for sharing your idea Yvonne!), I doubt I would have thought about it:


And let me tell you, receiving the silhouettes of your kids hands is an incredible feeling. If you haven't done this so far, I can only recommend it.  

Here's a photo of the first two I received in return. 




                            
                           Family Photos/Family Drawings


The second task I set for my kids works for all ages as well. This time I copied a question Teresa had asked her kids. 

We all love photo updates and especially extra photos from our kids, right? But have you ever asked for a photo of the family in your letter? 

Teresa did, and received one in return that seemed to be the only photo of the family they had. She scanned it and made a copy of the photo to send it back to the family. 

So I decided not to ask for family photos only. I asked for a drawing or a photo whatever the kids preferred.
I have only done this very recently, but yesterday I received a first letter with "an answer" to this task. 

On the photos below you see Maryuri (9-years old) - one of her alone, and on the collage together with her cousins.  Seems like they had a blast during their "photoshooting" and I just love my sweet little girl so relaxed and with a huge smile. In her offical Compassion photos she looks always very serious. 


I know that not all answers to the photo-drawing-task will look like this, but I bet they will all be just as wonderful in their own ways. 

Further I came up with a few challenges - not only for my kids but for me as well. Because how else would I get them to do the things I ask them to, if I don't set an example? 

 A Good Deed

The first one was inspired by a random woman at a shop, who let me go first in a line - because the line was very long (it was just before Christmas) and I had my son with me who was only 1 year and 9 months old back then. She sure made my day and I wanted to make someone elses day a little bit better.

But how much do we actually do for strangers to make their day a little bit better?

I used the thought to ask my kids to do the same. But instead to ask them to do something for a stranger I decided it would be easier for them to do something for a child at the project (the younger ones) or a stranger or someone they only knew by sight (the older ones apparently) to make their day a little bit better. After all I wanted them to succed in the task. 

I also told them, that I would do the same and in a month I would send them another letter, telling what I had done for a stranger. 

I ended up making me a list with my kids' names (13 at the time) and enough space to scrible down what I had done for a stranger in 'their name'. To make it even harder for me, I decided that holding a door open and equivalent things wouldn't count as my "good deed" - because for me those things should be normal for all of us. 

Honestly, it has been hard to make the day for 13 strangers a bit better, especially in only a month. At first it had been easy, possibilities presented themselves, and I had loads of ideas, but as the weeks went by it got harder. But in the end I did manage it.

One of the things, I did in the name of one of my kids, was helping a young woman unpack her trolley on the checkout. Just when it was her time to unload the items on the belt her mobile rang and she went to answer it. The stress she felt was visible, so I simply turned around and helped her unload the trolley. The expression on her face was priceless - in seconds it turned from alarm, to wonder and then to relief. 

But here are now a few comments from my kids, referring to this task:


Citlali (11years old/ME)
"I want to tell Spencer that I like what he wrote and to have faith in God so he can write better."

Pyrah (14 years old/PH)
"I received your letter and your little challenge to me."
So far she didn't tell me what she did, but I doubt she will forget about it. 

Maryuri (9 years old/CO)
"The day I got your letter, my tutor was telling me about the Good Samaritan, and she told me that we should treat people the way we want to be treated. I don't know what to do for others but I'm helping my classmates when they ask me for help."

Floridalma (17years old/GU)
"About what you told me, it got me thinkning about what I do and how I act with the rest of the people that I don't know and I promise I will meet the challenge that you set for me and I hope I do great. When I write to you again, I will tell you how it was. I hope that you do well in the challenge at the same time." 


The Envelopes

Another prompt I gave my kids, were colorful envelopes. 

The reason I came up with the idea was the knowledge that there are so many kids in the projects who are waiting for letter - endlessly with no luck. 

None of us has the chance to write to all of those kids, to constantly provide letters to them all.
BUT I do think we all can make a little difference in a few lives and we can involve our own sponsor/correspondence kids.



So when I had a lot of time I sat down and wrote short notes on cards, added a set of stickers to it and decorated the card with the help of my son.

Along with those envelopes my kids received a letter. I told them what I put in the envelope and asked them to forward it to a friend or a sibling - whoever they think could need a little bit of cheering up.  Asking them to please let me know who they decided to give it to and why. 

I send those letters off in June and so far I have heard back about it from one of my correspondence kids - Maryuri from CO.

"I gave the yellow envelope to my friend Michell, she says she would like to have a sponsor. You are so attentive."


I'd love to hear about the prompts and tasks you gave your kids in the past.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Seasons Related Form Letters

 Here is another bunch of form letters.

I don't know what else to say about them, which I haven't said before, so have fun using them -  enjoy sending them to your kids and share with them what you like best about spring, summer, fall and winter.







The form below is completely centred around your favourite holiday. I bet your kids would love to see a photo or two of you on this special day. 


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Time to Think About Christmas

When I changed my calender page from August to September I saw the big red letters that told me it was time to think about what to write to my sponsor and correspondence children.

The past few years I chose Christmas Themes: the Christmas story, advent calenders, Christmas traditions from around the world...

This year I couldn't think of anything Christmas-y to send.

But there were world maps that I've wanted to send to my kids for a while now and I remembered a half finished colouring page I had sent earlier in the year. I had asked the child to do the other half so she would have something we did together. I liked the idea so much, that I wanted to do the same with all of my kids.

 Only I had no idea under which "theme" those components could go together.

A few days of thinking and, with the help of Teresa, I found the perfect Bible verse that brought it all together.

"For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong." Colossians 2:5

All of us sponsors live miles away from "our" children, but we love them dearly and we are close to them in our hearts and prayers. Our love for them doesn't know about the miles that are between us.

And that is exactly what my theme for the Christmas Letters this year is - All the Miles Between Us.







First of all I used Pizap to make Bible verse cards for all my kids. Instead of simply printing them I let developed them like "real" photos.

To the world maps I added a photo of the child and one of my family and me, encircling the countries we live in connecting them with a white line.

For each child I searched for a colouring page that fits her/his interests and age. I glued them on card stock and wrote above the coloring page things like "Citlali, we love you."  I colored parts of the picture myself, just like I had done in the birthday letters.

In my additional letter, I explained to my kids why I chose those things to send as a Christmas gift this year; that I want them to have something we did together, no matter how many miles lie between us, that the love I feel for them doesn't care about the distance and that God made us the wonderful promise to always be there for us no matter where we are in our lives.

I personally think that this is a very special topic and I hope that my kids will enjoy them too. 
I sure know though that I am really curious about their reactions.



Thursday, 2 October 2014

Christmas for Unsponsored Children

Sometimes I like to go to the Compassion website and pray over some of the kids that still need sponsors.  I wish I could sponsor them all, but of course I can't.  I think about how hard it must be for those kids to watch their peers receive love and letters from a sponsor, when they never do.

However, there is a few ways to bless these young ones at Christmas time each year, even if you can't sponsor one:


1. By donating to the Christmas Gift Fund.  When you donate money to this fund, it is used to making sure that every registered child receives a Christmas gift, whether they are sponsored or not.  Sponsored kids are told that the gift comes from their sponsor, whereas unsponsored children are told that the gift comes from someone who cares about them and loves them. 

Click Here to donate through Compassion Canada or
Click Here to donate through Compassion USA

2. By sending Christmas Cards to unsponsored children.  You can send as many Christmas cards as you like in one package and they will be distributed to the children without sponsors.  You do not need to use envelopes, but it is helpful if you do.  However, it's best if you do not seal the envelopes.  It is best not to send any attachments with these cards and please keep text short.  You can use store bought cards, or make your own. 

For those in the USA, please send the cards by November 17th to:
Compassion International,
Attn. Suzanne Hall,
Colorado Springs, CO 80997


For those in Canada, cards should be received by November 15th at:
Compassion Canada
985 Adelaide Street South,
London, Ontario N6E 4A3

(I'm not sure about in the USA, but last year Canadians sent in 2611 Christmas Cards and this year they have a goal of 3000!)



3. Sponsor a child.  Imagine one of those precious unsponsored children finding out they now have a sponsor just in time for Christmas.  You can sponsor through the websites by clicking here to sponsor a child through Compassion Canada for $41/month or clicking here to sponsor a child through Compassion USA for $38/month. 

I am also advocating over the next few months for four specific precious children who you can see by clicking here.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

35 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child about Their Friends & Family

I've heard some sponsors say they don't write, because they aren't sure what to write about.  I've compiled some question list that might be helpful to you.  These were posted on my old blog, and I am reposting them here.  The third of these lists is 35 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child about Friends & Family. Feel free to use them in your letters, and to answer the questions for your children about yourself. 

Some of these questions will be appropriate only for older, or younger children or certain cultures, but I thought it might help some who are stuck with things to talk about.

To Read 55 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child About School, Click Here
To Read 73 Random Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child, Click Here 
To Read 70 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child about Culture, Community & Country, Click Here

QUESTIONS:
1. Who is your best friend?
2. How many siblings do you have?
3. How old are your siblings?
4. When are your sibling’s birthdates?
5. Do your siblings have sponsors?
6. Do you share a bedroom with any other family members?
7. Why do you like your best friend?
8. Are you close to any extended family?
9. How can I pray for your family?
10. Will you draw me a picture of your family? (Or send a photo)
11. What family traditions do you have?
12. What is your favourite family activity?
13. How do you help your family?
14. What are your parents’ jobs?
15. Which family member is closest to you in age?
16. Do you get along well with your family?
17. What activities do you enjoy doing with your friends?
18. Do your friends also have sponsors?
19. How old were you when you met your best friend?
20. Does your best friend go to the same school as you?
21. Do your friends have the same religious beliefs as you?
22. How often do you see your extended family?
23. Which relative do you resemble the most?
24. Which relative is your personality the most like?
25. What members of your extended family do you see the most?
26. What is your role in your family?
27. Do you spend more time with your family, or with your friends?
28. Who makes you laugh the most?
29. Do you and your siblings share your chores, or do you each have your own?
30.Do you do the same types of chores as your friends?
31. does the cooking in your family?
32. Do you have any friends or family members with the same birthday as you?
33. Do you go on family vacations?
34. How can I pray for your family?
35. How can I pray for your friends?


Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion Canada for $41/month or
Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion USA for $38/month

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Back to School

I'm a little bit late writing this Compassion Blogger assignment on the topic of Back to School, but to be fair, the schools where I live were a little late starting this year too due to a strike, and today is the first full day of school this year, so I figure the timing is rather appropriate.


The school strike here started before the kids were out of school for the summer a few months ago, ending classes abruptly and the children did not receive report cards for the year.  I'm not going to focus on the strike itself, nor get into the politics of it, but I will say that the one thing that upset people the most was the fact that children province-wide were not in class receiving the education that they had a right to.

And yet, in so many countries, an education is not a right, but a privilege.  Children living in many of the countries where Compassion works are only able to attend school if their parents are rich enough/  For some facts about the percentage of children who cannot attend school around the world, click here.

Compassion helps these kids get an education by supplying them with things such as school supplies and primary tuition fees where needed.  Many Compassion projects also help with school uniforms and the children all receive tutoring at their projects to help them get good grades, which increases their chances of furthering their education past the primary school level, something that is not common in many countries.  Getting a good education is vital to those living in poverty, as it helps them to find good jobs and finally break the ties of poverty once and for all. 

 Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion Canada for $41/month or
Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion USA for $38/month

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Showered with Love

Today I received a letter from 9-year-old Maryuri, who lives in Colombia. She writes awesome letters but the one I got today made me feel like I was showered with so much love. I simply need to share it.

But before I let you read the letter here is a little information. Yeider is Maryuri's younger cousin. In a lot of letters she mentioned him. She was obviously worried about him, she kept telling me how he didn't pay much attention in school and used to get into trouble with the teachers. I started sending him little messages through Maryuri, encouraging him, telling him that I pray for him and his studies.
Earlier this year I received the news that Yeider and his mother moved to Venezuela, which also meant I couldn't continue to send him messages the way I used to. So the news I received in this letter made me really happy.


 
"Dear sponsor Svenja,
greetings: Hi beautiful sponsor. I greet you with great love and I send you a kiss and a big hug. I wish that you and your family are fine.

I live with my mother, my grandma Maria, my aunt Leidy, my cousins Liset and Charit, my cousin Brayan and Yeider.
I have one brother but I don't live with him because he lives in another city with my father and his mother.

My mother works washing dishes in a restaurant and she also cleans that place.

The activities that I do with my family are going to the park to have an ice cream and sometimes we go to the river and have fun playing with my cousins. What I like the most about my family is that they are very close and affectionated. We also share and enjoy the time we have with the rest of the family.
I am very happy to write to you. I got the silhouette of your hand and I will send you mine. You asked me how Yeider is doing. I tell you that Yeider has improved his grades just a little.

How was the wedding of Paul?

I tell you that Yeider and his mother are back in my grandmother's house. He send you a greeting.

I am glad to hear that you are going to cook the arepas. They are delicious.

I received the picture that you sent me. Your son is beautiful.

I want to thank you for the birthday card and all those beautiful presents that you sent me.
When is your birthday?

I wish with my heart that God blesses you a lot and that you always do well.
I want to give you Psalm 28:7.

With love, Maryuri"

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A Share of Birthday-Letter Ideas

In the past two months I had another bunch of Birthday letters to get ready. My birthday kids in the next few months are Jenny, Lamayian (turning 16), Sawadogo (turning 12) and Darcy (turning 8). 

Today I want to share what I sent to them. 
Doing the birthday letters for Darcy, Jenny and Lamayian seemed to be hard at first, because they had to be send off quickly after I received them as a sponsor/correspondence children. So, I hadn't received a letter from all of them. 
But I'm quite happy with the outcomes. 

The photo below shows my birthday gift for Jenny. 
I decided to send her a Birthday Book. I added birthday greetings from friends of mine to it, Bible verses, a game of Pairs, coloring pages and a Birthday crown.

Most importantly I added a lot of encouraging words for her. I had the feeling that's what she needed the most. 
For the blue cover of the book I used a folder, for the pages in the book I used simple colourful paper. I put all the pages together with small bits of cord, not too much to make sure that it will go through but enough to give Jenny the chance to open the book no problem.
                                                                                                                                                              

The next photo shows the birthday gifts for Lamayian and Darcy.
Lamayian was the hardest one to choose a gift for. He is the first boy his age I have received as a correspondence and I had no idea what to send him. At the end I decided to send him a self made tic-tac-toe. For the board I choose green cardboard and for the meeples I used thinner paper in two different shades of blue. I cut out small stripes and added stickers to them to make them more "interesting".

I have sent the same game to one of my other boys and he told me that he loved it and that he took it to school to play it with his friends. So I hope, even though he is older, Lamayian will enjoy it too.

For Darcy, I decided to put together a birthday book as well.
Her book is a lot smaller than the one I did for Jenny, but I trusted my feelings here. I sent her paper flowers, a very thin activity book with coloring pages, a connect-the-dots-game, and a sticker page which she can decorate with zoo-related stickers. For her book I cut a cardboard folder into two pieces and put them together with a short piece of cord again. To store away the gifts I used small gift bags and glued them to the pages - making sure to change their position in each to make the book thinner. I sealed the bags with stickers and wrote on the pages what was inside the bags.

The last birthday gift I made in the past weeks, was for Sawadogo. He told me in one of his letters that he loves to play with his friends and after reading the blog entries from Hannah about the sidewalk games (Sidewalk Games - Hannah's Blog) from around the world, my mind was made up quickly.

I would send off another "book", but this time with sidewalk games from around the world.
First I started to search for various sidewalk games myself, but at the end Hannah was so kind as to send me the games she uses for her monthly game-letters. Funnily enough, one of the games I knew.   I loved to play it when I was Sawadogo's age, I used to play it endlessly at home and during recess. Of course I pointed that one out to him in the birthday card.\

Again I chose a folder for the cover, and normal paper for the pages and cord to hold it all together. 


Spending some time on Pinterest and the fact that my kids regularly tell me how much they like the photos and postcards I send them, caused me to come up with an idea for the next birthdays.

There are so many beautiful photos online which I want to share with my kids, but because there are so many, I know there isn't really the chance to send them all unless I send a letter per day. 
So I went through all my letters which I have received from my kids, searching for a hint of what kind of things they like best. 

Once I finished my list I searched on Pinterest for photos and put them together in a collage - one for each child. I saved the collages in 30x20cm sizes and will laminate them before I send them off for their birthdays.

Below you find a few of those collages.







And here is a photo of the first birthday package with one of the photo collages ready to be send of. Very special to me is the "F", the "C" and the line benath "Feliz Cumpleanos" of the birthday letter - because Finn helped me decorating it.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Tell Your Young Sponsor Child About Yourself (Form Letters Included)

 A while ago I wrote an entry about the form letters I came up with for my youngest Compassion child Teje.

I split the rest of my form letters up into groups - "Things To Tell About Myself", "The Seasons" and "A Differnt Kind of Form Letters".

Today I want share all form letters related to "Things To Tell About Myself".

For the Best Friend-form letters I made three different versions when I started to share them in this blog, so everyone can use the "right" one. To all three forms I added small colouring pictures.




The form letters below I kept pretty close to the ones we receive from our youngsters, only not as colourful to give everyone the chance to print it on the paper you like and that fits the child you want to send it to the best. 

I'd love to read what you think of them, and if you have ideas for more form letters let me know. I'd gladly like to make them - but at the moment I'm running out of ideas ;-)




Sunday, 7 September 2014

Writing - A Pleasure And Yet So Hard At Times

We all have those days when we seem to have no time for writing to our sponsored kids. Most of those times come unexpectedly - suddenly something happens that turns life upside down and we struggle with making time or with finding the energy to write something.

Sometimes our daughters and sons get sick, or want an unusual amount of attention.

Sometimes it's predictable - which is probably the best when it comes to writing to our sponsor/correspondence kids - because it gives us time to plan ahead.

I had all three happen plenty of times since I first started sponsoring with Compassion, and by now I have come up with a few "survival" tricks.

Write in advance


When I know I have a very busy time coming up in my life, I try to plan theme letters for my kids, preferably with a topic that is interesting for both boys and girls equally. I might even write them ahead of time so that I only have to hit "send" on the day I want to send it.

In 2012 when my son was born I used the days of maternity leave before his birth to write letters in advance (I only had one sponsor child back then, but I wanted to make sure) - in the end I had letters done for four months. After all, I had no idea how my life would be turned around by this little miracle in my life. I shared my favorite Bible verses, made a lapbook of Germany and Mexico, and wrote about my pets. I kept the topics timeless so I could send them whenever I felt like it.

Which happened to be a pretty good idea, because I was able to squeeze in a bit of writing every now and then and it took me about 8 or 9 months to send off all the pre-written letters.

Use the online tool


Much harder to plan are those times when life throws us into unexpected busy waters. I'm sure we all know that feeling when life seems to be so overwhelming that we can barely find time to sit down to write a letter.

Those are the times I keep my letters short and I will always use the online tool on the Compassion website, which is such a wonderful gift from my viewpoint. I only have to write the letter one time and I can send it to as many kids as I want too.  All I have to change are the child's personal details.
That sure saves time.

Be honest with your kids

 

In those letters I tell my kids that I was thinking of them, that I pray for them and that I hope they are, together with their families, in good health.
I tell them that my life is pretty busy at the moment, and that due to that fact I have to keep the letter short. It is very important for me to make sure I add that writing to them isn't a must to me but a pleasure, but that due to the circumstances I simply have to keep the letters short.

  

Use postcards 

 

Another time saving way to write to your kids is using postcards. I loved receiving postcards when I was a kid - okay who am I kidding? I still LOVE getting postcards and my sponsor and correspondence kids regularly tell me how much the love to get photos. They have beautiful pictures and the space is also very limited - so postcards are perfect.

I have sent my kids postcards this past week, because I am right in the middle of a working-marathon.  I work nearly three weeks without a complete day off (and we're only talking about two half days off in this whole time).  My work hours are up to 12 hours per day and my shifts are split into morning and evening shifts. The time I have off in the afternoon I spend with my family or I try to catch up a bit of sleep which I need to survive this crazy time.
But I was able to squeeze in a bit of writing time, spread over six afternoons.  I told my kids about the places on the front of the cards and hope that they will enjoy this little note along with the photos.



Ask your friends for help (or other sponsors)

 

So far this is only an idea that has popped into my mind a short while ago, and I haven't done it myself. But I sure would offer my help if someone approached me with this question, and I would also ask for help this way.

If things get really busy for us, why not ask a friend or another sponsor to write to our kids? Maybe even someone from another state/country/city. I'm not talking about long letters, again I think a postcard would do. Your friends can write about the things visable on the postcard or what you told them about the kid they write to.


I have sent postcards to some of Teresa's kids, but not because Teresa had no time to write herself but because I felt like it. The kids kept sending me greeting and asked questions about me, so I thought it would be fun to send them a card. They loved them. 

We can only imagine how special our kids feel when they find out that someone besides their sponsor would also takes the time to send them a postcard.

And if times are that busy, all we need to do is add a small note telling our sponsor kids that for a change, a friend of us has wrote them something. Our kids get a special letter and we barely have to do anything.


This last survival trick only works when you have time to do a little bit of crafting, but you are not in the mood to write a lot.

Be creative


Earlier this year I had to work much more shifts than usual and my little boy had been in need of a lot of mum-attention. I had to sit down beside him while he played, there was no chance to sit at the table and write. I needed to be by his side, most of the time even in physical contact with him, to watch him and comment on his playing. There simply was no chance to use his play time to write a letter, which I'm usually able to do.

I ended up preparing hearts for my kids. I got myself plenty of colourful paper and cut hearts out for all of them. I could do that easily on the floor, watching Finn play while he soent a good amount of time watching me cutting out the hearts.
I made two hearts out of one A4 format paper - which narrowed down the space for writing. I didn't write much on those hearts, not much personal information I mean, I didn't tell about the happenings in my life. I just said how proud I was of my kids, how much I loved them, and again that I was praying for them. 

Doing those hearts gave me the feeling of doing something special, and it fitted perfectly into the time I had.  I didn't feel the need for writing long letters.

It was a perfect solution for me back then.




I would love to read what you do when things get awfully busy in life and you don't have time to write to your kids the way you usually do. So please leave a comment and share your ideas.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

How I organize my letter writing - My Child Card

This is the start of a small series of blog entries in which I will tell you a bit of how I keep my letter writing organized, because I found it very helpful to read such posts myself when I hit a point where I needed to be a little more organized about my letter writing.


When I first started sponsoring Citlali, I had a list of things I wanted to send to her eventually - in my mind. I never sat down and wrote down all the things, because I thought that with only one child it would all work out some how.

But when I heard about the correspondence sponsorship program, I thought, 'Well, I sure have enough time to write to another child'. And slowly but steadily I was assigned to 11 correspondence kids. Don't get me wrong, I didn't contact Compassion monthly and asked for another child, it was a process that took over two years. Whenever I had the strong feeling that I have enough time, energy and ideas to send letters to another child I have asked for one more.

For quite a while actually I kept up my (yes, I will admit it) naive "organization" of keeping my ideas for letter writing in my mind. I did have a folder for the letters my kids sent me and I stored the kids' information away in another one, but that was all.

When I was able to call seven kids my "own", I realized that this way of keeping things organized wouldn't work anymore. Suddenly I had no idea what I had sent each child, what topics I had written about three months ago and what theme-letters I had sent off.

I knew I had to get real organisation into my letter writing.

While the child packages provide great information about a child, it's the information a child gives yourself in the letters that are very helpful when it comes to sending, for example, birthday or Christmas gifts.

But with six kids (yep I did keep my unorganized organization up that long) I wasn't able to keep track of who provided me what kind of information about her/himself; who's cousin was called Yeider, who didn't like cats but loved dogs, who loved to play soccer and who enjoyed Spanish the most at school? I didn't know without going through all the letters I had received. And that bothered me the most.
 
I sat down and created my own Child Card, I know that some Compassion offices provide similar printouts for sponsors, but I wanted to add some more information to my cards.

Of course I also included the most important information such as name, birthday and child ID but also with enough room for other topics, such as favourite animal, sibling info, career choice, and hobbies...



I put all the child cards in a separate much thinner folder and have them all at hand in seconds without needing to go through the letter if I need certain information about a child.

Of course the kids don't provide all the information themselves, but in one of my next letters I want to send each child a "personalized" (adding only the parts I don't have an answer to just yet) questionnaire asking them to please fill them out and send them back to me. In return I will send them the same questionnaire with my own answers. That sure makes an interesting letter writing topic for both sides I think.

 And here is now a link to the complete Child Card.

Child Card

Monday, 4 August 2014

Making it Real for my Son

Before I start with my actual entry, I want to recommend the following blog entry, written by Hannah Hinojosa, to those who haven't read it yet. 

Involve Your Small Children In Child Sponsorship

This post of hers got me thinking for sure. Until reading it, I hadn't really thought about how to involve my own two-year-old-son more actively in child sponsoring.

I did tell him about the kids at times and I write letters when he is around, but because of his age, I never really asked him if he'd like to help.

After reading Hannah's entry, this changed completely.

I copied her idea about a photo book and Finn loves it. I add a "soundtrack" to the book.

We have a really cute and short German song for kids about you going some place on the train, but of course going alone is boring, so you add a friend's name to the verse, which you then repeat so many times until everyone joins in on the train ride.

 The song goes like this:
"Tuff Tuff Tuff the Choo Choo train, who wants to go to the zoo with me? Don't want to go alone, so I ask ........ to come with me."

Finn loves trains and that song especially; he can sing it for hours. Now we often sit down with the photo book and go through it and sing the song over and over again, adding all our Compassion kids to the song. He's learning the names of all the kids rapidly now.


While Hannah's son loves drawing and painting,  Finn isn't much into artwork - at least not all the time, so sending coloring pages he did to our kids isn't possible at the moment. Still I found ways for him to help me: by decorating with stickers.

He helps me add stickers to the letters or chooses coloring pages to send to the kids. For July though we made something special. I got a few simple cards and asked Finn if he'd like to add his hand print to all of them. He totally loved the idea.

I spread the "work" over a couple of days to keep him interested in the artwork and that worked out just fine.

When I sent the cards off, I told all my kids just how special those cards are to me, because it was the first time that Finn actually helped with their letters.

Sadly I only took a photo of the first four we made.



To make our Compassion family a little "more real" to Finn, I had the following idea:

I used a rainy day for another artwork afternoon. I got a world map and a bigger cardboard, as well as stickers with the photos of our kids on them. Finn helped me glue the world map onto the cardboard and we spread the stickers of our sponsor and correspondence kids around the map. Finn pointed out where he wants to have the stickers and we placed them there together. While we did that, I kept pointing out where each of the kids live. Since we have "only" twelve kids in total, one side beside the world map was left free so I added the countries and the kids' names to finish the whole map off.

Once we finished our work, Finn asked me to hang the poster up in his room. So now our little piece of art is hanging on Finn's wardrobe, where he can see it from his bed.


Yesterday I started writing the first Christmas letters to our Compassion kids while Finn played on the balcony. He came over every few minutes to see what I was doing, eventually he wanted to sit down beside me and draw.

With this blog I want to thank Hannah so much for inspiring me to involve Finn more into the sponsorship and the letter writing. I will continue to ask Finn to help me more when I write to the kids, to add stickers, or to choose coloring pages or paper goodies to send. I will make sure to tell him even more about his Compassion siblings. And I hope to post more ideas how to involve young kids in the coming months.




Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Form letters for younger sponsor/correspondence kids

When I was assigned to be little Teje's correspondence sponsor I was completely baffled. I love to write letters to my kids, and most letters end up being much longer than I planned.



But with my four-year-old new addition to our family, I had the strong wish not to overwhelm her with my long letters - most of which are probably more suitable for kids above the age of seven or eight due to their length.

Slowly but steadily an idea formed in my head: if the youngest Compassion kids write form letters to us sponsors, why not do it the other way round as well?
I searched online for templates that came close to what I had in mind,but I didn't find much.

At some point I decided to make a list of things I want to share with Teje, such as:

- My Best Friend
- My Friends
- My Favorite Holiday
- My Country
- My Pets
- My Job
- My Child(ren)
- My School Days
- The Seasons
- My Wish for You

 and so on.

By now I have all 25 points from my first list turned into form letters, which was much easier than I thought at first. Once I sat down, the ideas came in waves.

I kept them in the same style as the form letters we receive from our sponsor and correspondence kids.

But despite my first thought to add colourful borders, background colours and theme fitting pictures to each template, I kept them in black and white. I only added small coloring pictures to a few of those templates but mainly only wrote down the sentences, questions and left enough space for my "answers".

Keeping them this simple also gives me the chance to decorate them individually, like printing them on colorful paper, adding age and gender appropriate stickers and pictures when I want to send them to another child or share them with other sponsors.


Which I will do now.

Here are the five samples of my templates. In\ you like them, feel free to use them to send to your kids. It would be wonderful though if you could let me know what you think of them.

This is Me
Where I Live
My Country
My Friends
Animals

 In case anyone wants to have more of them let me know as well and I will post more links in a future blog entry.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

My Letter Day - Introducing Teje and Darcy



For me, there is nothing better than receiving letters from my sponsor and correspondence kids. Each letter is a wonderful gift, but receiving the very first letter from a child is extra special - it's the first contact, the proof that the child is real, the beginning of our relationship.

Today I received four letters and two of them were first letters, from Teje and Darcy, two of my three new correspondence kids who I was assigned to after losing Genet and Naydali who both moved away from their project areas earlier this year.

At only four years old, Teje is my youngest Compassion child. She lives in Ethiopia with her mother and her two siblings.


Due to her age, I am aware that I will receive form letters from her for a while, but they sure provide loads of information.

Today I learned that Teje enjoys playing football, loves Macaroni, that her favourite animal is a goat and her favourite color is blue. She has three best friends, Gnkuan, Fanase and Kaleye, and when she is grown up, Teje wants to become a teacher.  My youngest kid asked me to pray for her education and thanked me for my "willingness to support" her.


The second first letter was from seven-year-old Darcy. She lives in Colombia and attends the second grade. Her performance in school is above average. Darcy lives with her parents and at the moment I don't know if there are more children in the family. My Colombian sweetheart loves to play with dolls, to play house and to play various ball games. We share our love for singing and listening to music.


In her letter Darcy told me about her community, La Nohora. She told me that most of the people work in sales, that taxi and motorcycles are the most common means of transportation and that the people in her community are hard workers.

To close her letter Darcy shared a wonderful Bible verse with me: "I always thank God as I remember you in my prayers." Philemon 1:4 - this Bible verse sure goes both ways.

I thank God that he brought these two wonderful young girls into my life. I am looking forward getting to know them better and I feel blessed to have the chance to accompany them for a while.



The third letter was from the writer in my Compassion family - Maryuri (also from Colombia). Receiving this letter brought some relief. I used to get letters from her every two months on the dot but this letter took almost four months. So after the losses at the beginning of the year, I was worried she might have moved away or was pulled out of the project as well.


Her letter had also information about her community in it. But I want to share her personal bit with you here.

Dear Svenja,

It is a joy for me to be able to write to you again. I would like to know if you could send us a photo of you. (Funnily enough, I just sent a recent family photo to her last month.)

A few days ago, I got your letter and you asked about my dogs Lucas and Ricky. I want to tell you that they are very playful and cute. They like it when I rub their bellies.
About your dog Aura, it is very beautiful, what does she like to eat?


I want to tell you that in the first quarter I did well, and I am now in 3rd grade. 

The day I got your letter, my tutor was telling me about the Good Samaritan, and she told me that we should treat people the way we want to be treated. I don't know what to do for others but I'm helping my classmates when they ask me for help. (This is a reply to a challenge I gave my kids and myself at the beginning of this year - I asked them all to do something small for someone else to brighten their day and I promised to do something good to someone as well - but I will make that an extra blog entry once I heard back about it from more kids)

On Holy week I went to mass every day, I am Catholic and I celebrate Palm Sunday. Everyone takes a palm to church and the priest blesses them. In Colombia we don't celebrate Easter but it seems like a beautiful tradition. I say goodbye for now with a lot of blessings and I want to dedicate the following verse Psalm 36:7 "How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings."

With Love,
Maryuri


The fourth letter today was from Nakasumba, 11 years old from Uganda. 


Here are the bits from her letter that I love too much to keep them to myself.

"I hope that you and your family are all good and  health. At my side, I am okay with my family. Even my siblings are well."

"I did well in P.L.E., I got a first grade of 12 aggregates, thank you for praying for me and my father was so excited with me."

"You've written to me that your favorite animal is a meerkat while my favorite animal is a dog."

"In Uganda we have a fruit called Jackfruit. In our country everyone wants it and at least every home had planted it. It has seeds inside. Even Mount Uganda children want it so much."

"I like to sing a song 'Baby Jesus'. I like it very much, but it is obviously for babies and I like babies."

"My family members were so happy for what you give me and do for me."

On the back of her letter she  drew me a very thoughtful drawing - a very special reminder.




And bear with me - I stop writing here now, I have letters to answer  ;-)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

My belated but oh so special Christmas gift

"What do you want for Christmas?" is probably the one question we all hear so many times in the weeks before Christmas.

Last year I couldn't think of a purchasable gift, there wasn't anything I wanted to have and all the things I needed I bought myself throughout the year.

But there was Pyrah - the sponsored child of my parents-in-law and my correspondence child - who lives in the Philippines, to be more exact in one of the areas that was affected the most by Haiyan.



When I heared about the typhoon I prayed for the safty for Pyrah and her family, I followed the news, checked the Compassion websites regularly for any news, prayed some more and wrote letters. And suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas - I wanted money, not for myself but for Pyrah and her family.

I began to spread the word, that I wanted money instead of purchased things, which in the end I wouldn't really need. To say that all my relatives understood my wish would be a lie, I even have one who tried to convince me that sending Pyrah a family gift wasn't worth it, that it wouldn't work and that the money would never get to her. I tried to explain that it works - really well actually, but said family member wouldn't listen.

But of course there were others who accepted my wish. At the end of the December I was able to send Pyrah and her family not only a family gift, but also a smaller amount for Pyrah herself.

A coupld of weeks ago, I received my best Christmas gift - Pyrah's letter in which she thanked me for the money and listed all the things they were able to purchase.

From the family gift they bought
- dresses
- slippers
- a mosquito net
- plates
- glasses
and a small chest of drawers for her younger sisters

Additionally Pyrah got school supplies like paper, ballpen and a bag from the child gift.

In her letter Pyrah ended both lists with "and more", and because the add photo is sadly very blury I can only guess what else they were able to buy from the money, but it sure was more than I would have gotten for the same amount here in Germany.

To send them the money was a great gift already, to receive the letter was so much better. Both things combined were the most wonderful Christmas gift I could have asked for.

To top it even more, Pyrah's cousin Lyd is sponsored by a friend of mine who liked my idea of sending Pyrah a family gift and decided to send the same amount to Lyd and her family. Which was incredible, it was wonderful to know that both girls, who so close, were able to receive a gift together.


And believe me, this year when I get asked what I want for Christmas, I know exactly what I ask for!


Thursday, 17 July 2014

I Lost One Today...

I received an email today asking me to call Compassion Canada.  It said they had some news regarding my sponsored child, 11-year-old Irene in Kenya.  I had a feeling even before I called that I had lost her.



I glanced at the clock and it was 4 minutes until closing time, so I wasn't sure if I'd get through.  The phone rang and rang and rang and I first thought I'd missed them, but just before I hung up, someone answered and they confirmed what I thought.

Irene is no longer registered in the Compassion program.  The lady on the phone kindly put me on hold while she went to check to find out why, even though I know they were trying to close up for the day.  When she came back, she told me that Irene's parents had pulled her out of the program.  They said that Compassion staff had sat down and met with them several times to try and convince them to let her stay, but to no avail.  She said that they didn't give a reason, but that there is a chance Irene might write me a final letter with more information.

She did say that Irene is doing well in school and wants to be a teacher.  She said that she became a Christian during her time in the project and that she lives almost next door to the church so they are hoping she'll still be allowed to attend Sunday School.

They also told me that, because they know where she lives, they will still be able to give her a gift bag that I planned on sending to her with my friend who is visiting Kenya in November.  

The timing is actually a God-send for sure, because I will soon be off work for a year on maternity leave, receiving only a portion of my normal income during that year, so having one less sponsorship during that time is a financial blessing for sure.  That being said, I'm going to miss this little girl that stole my heart nearly three years ago for sure.

I still remember seeing Irene, then eight years old, on Compassion's website.  Her contagious smile, striped socks, and bright yellow hoodie drawing me to her.  She was a "Red Heart" child, which meant she'd been waiting for longer than 6 months for a sponsor.  I kept coming back to her and praying about her for a few days, and then finally promised God that, if she was still available on Monday morning that week, I'd sponsor her.


I woke up at 6:00am on Monday and energetically jumped out of bed and ran to my laptop to see if she was there.  Until that point, I'd thought it didn't really matter to me, but on that morning I was holding my breath and tapping my foot impatiently while I waited for the computer to load up, and I knew I wanted to be her sponsor myself, wanted it badly.

Since that time I have built a wonderful relationship with Irene.  I've learned that she has two brothers and a sister, that she enjoys playing hide and seek, and that she's scared of starlight.  I pray that one day I will find a way to keep in touch with her in some other manner.

 Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion Canada for $41/month or
Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion USA for $38/month

Sunday, 22 June 2014

73 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child

I've heard some sponsors say they don't write, because they aren't sure what to write about.  I've compiled some question list that might be helpful to you.  These were posted on my old blog, and I am reposting them here.  The second of these lists is 73 Random Questions to Ask. Feel free to use them in your letters, and to answer the questions for your children about yourself, when you were in school. 

Some of these questions will be appropriate only for older, or younger children or certain cultures, but I thought it might help some who are stuck with things to talk about.

To Read 55 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child About School, Click Here
To Read 35 Questions to Ask about Family & Friends, Click Here
To Read 70 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child about Culture, Community & Country, Click Here 

QUESTIONS


  1. Do you play any musical instruments?
  2. What would you like to be when you grow up?
  3. If you could visit any country, where would you go?
  4. Do you prefer to be with a large group, or on your own?
  5. If a genie gave you one wish, what would you wish for?
  6. What cheers you up when you are sad?
  7. What are you most afraid of?
  8. What if your favourite colour?
  9. What if your favourite indoor activity?
  10. What if your favourite outdoor activity?
  11. What if your favourite sport?
  12. Name five things you are good at.
  13.  What are you the best at?
  14. What chores do you have?
  15.  What if your favourite chore?
  16. What if your favourite month?
  17. What if your favourite day of the week?
  18. What if your favourite season?
  19. What if your favourite toy?
  20. Draw me a picture of whatever you are thinking about right now.
  21. Who do you look up to and admire the most?
  22. What if your favourite book?
  23. What if your favourite bible story?
  24. What is the most fun thing you have ever done?
  25. Are you left-handed or right-handed?
  26. What is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
  27. What is the nicest thing you have done for someone else?
  28. What is the biggest animal you’ve seen in the wild?
  29. What is the smallest animal you’ve seen in the wild?
  30. If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
  31. Do you ever have funny dreams at night?
  32. Have you ever played a prank on someone?
  33. Have you ever travelled to a different city?
  34. What if your favourite song?
  35. If you met a prince/princess, what would you say?
  36. If you could make a law for your country, what would it be?
  37. What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
  38. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
  39. What would you like to change about yourself?
  40. Do you like to daydream?
  41. Draw me a self-portrait.
  42. Describe your daily routine.
  43. What would your perfect day be like?
  44. What would you like to ask me?
  45. What if your favourite animal?
  46. What if your favourite number?
  47. Do you like to read?
  48. How old were you when you learned to read?
  49. What is the most interesting thing you know?
  50. What if your favourite food?
  51. Tell me a true story about something that’s happened to you.
  52. If you could learn to play any instrument, what would you pick?
  53. Have you ever performed or spoken in front of an audience?
  54. What makes you nervous?
  55. What is your favourite flower?
  56. Have you ever ridden on a horse or any other animal?
  57. What time do you go to bed?
  58. What time do you get up?
  59. How did you find out you had a sponsor?
  60. Tell me three things you want me to know about yourself.
  61. What is something you are thankful for?
  62. If you had the chance to travel the world, would you prefer to go by boat or plane?
  63.  What are your hobbies?
  64. Do you know how to swim?
  65. Have you ever won anything?
  66. If you could be king/queen for the day, what would you do?
  67. If you could meet someone famous, who would you pick?
  68. If you could time travel to any year in the past or future, what year would you go to?
  69. What makes you unique?
  70. Do you have a nickname?
  71. What would you like me to call you?
  72. If you had your own garden and there was only room to plant one thing, what would you plant?
  73. How can I pray for you?



 Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion Canada for $41/month or
Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion USA for $38/month
 

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