Tuesday, 25 February 2014

55 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child about School

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 first of these lists is Questions About School.  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.  So I compiled a list of as many questions I could think of about school.

If anyone has some other questions about school, please leave them in the comments for us to add to this list!

QUESTIONS ABOUT SCHOOL

  1. What grade are you in?
  2. What is your teacher like?
  3. What is your favourite subject?
  4. What is your least favourite subject?
  5. How many children go to your school?
  6. How many kids are in your class?
  7. Is there more than one grade in your classroom?
  8. What subjects are you taking?
  9. Do you enjoy school?
  10. How do you get to school?
  11. Are you friends with your classmates?
  12. Do your siblings attend the same school as you?
  13. What time does your school start at?
  14. What time does your school day end?
  15. Is the homework hard?
  16. Do you get a break during the day to play?
  17. What games do you play at recess?
  18. How long does it take you to get to school?
  19. Do you walk (bike, etc?) to school alone, or with someone?
  20. How long do you spend on homework each day?
  21. Does your school have any sports teams?
  22. Does your school have a library?
  23. How many days a week do you go to school?
  24. When are your school holidays?
  25. What is the name of your school?
  26. When do you write your exams?
  27. Which subject is the easiest for you?
  28. Which subject is the hardest for you?
  29. What types of discipline are used in your school?
  30. How old are you when you start school?
  31. How old are you when you graduate?
  32. Are the expectations for education the same for both boys and girls?
  33. Do your parents, teachers, and you have the same expectations about your education?
  34. Is there further education, such as a university, available in your town?
  35. How many kids sit at each desk in your class?
  36. Do you sit in rows, or in a circle?
  37. Do you have a class pet?
  38. Does your school have a mascot?
  39. What was your first day of school like?
  40. Do you think you will you miss school when you graduate?
  41. Give me an example of a math question you are learning how to do.
  42. What is the most interesting fact you have learned in school?
  43. Do you use pencil, pen, chalk, or crayons the most?
  44. Is bullying a problem in your school?
  45. What do you do, if anything, if you see a classmate being bullied?
  46. If you could learn more about anything in school, what would you want to learn the most?
  47. Do you go on school field trips?
  48. Do you do science experiments in school?
  49. Do you have computers in your school?
  50. Do you wear a uniform to school, or your regular clothing?
  51. What does your school uniform look like?
  52. Does your school have a playground?
  53. Do boys and girls play together at school?
  54. Do boys and girls sit together at school?
  55. How can I pray for your school?
To see 73 more fun and random questions to ask your sponsored child, Click Here! 
Click here for 35 Questions to Ask about Family & Friends 
To Read 70 Questions to Ask Your Sponsored Child about Culture, Community & Country, Click Here 
Drawing by Genoveva, age 8, Ecuador
 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

Receiving letters

These days receiving a letter, that isn't a bill or an advert, is almost rare. We do send tons of e-mails, private messages or text messages all the time, but a letter?

In my family, (and I'm talking about my extended family: my mother, my parents-in-law, sister-in-law, nephews...), I'm the one who gets "real" letters the most. Not only from my sponsor children but also from very good friends I met through Compassion.

Receiving a letter is wonderful, because it means that someone thought of me and took the time to sit down and write me a few lines.

And while all the letters are special, there are a few letters that are a tiny bit more special. For me these are the very first letters I receive from my sponsor children.

Yesterday surely was a good mail-day. I got letters from two of my correspondance kids - Nakasumba and Sawadogo. And both letters were the first ones from these kids.



Nakasumba is eleven years old, she lives with her parents in Uganda. She attends grade 6 and is an average student.

Her list of duties is long; she runs errands, is buying/selling in the marketplace, she helps with washing clothes, making beds, carrying water. Nakasumba helps to clean up and with child care.

Her list of hobbies though is even longer:
  • Dolls
  • Group games
  • Play house
  • Walking
  • Hide-and-Seek
  • Cars
  • Running
  • Reading
  • Art/Drawing
  • Ping pong
  • Jump rope
  • Singing
  • Listening to music
  • Other ball games
  • Story telling

I was assinged to be her correspondance sponsor in August and I guess you can imagine just how much I was looking forward to receive her first letter. I mean, with all those things to do and such an impressive list of hobbies, she seems like a very busy young woman to me, who has probably a lot to tell.

Nakasumba's first letter definitly took some time to reach me. But let me tell you, it was worth the wait:


Dear Svenja,
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. How are you these days?
I hope you are fine.
I like a person telling me stories more than telling stories to others.
I have siblings and they are Pamela, Patricia and Alex. My hobbies are playing net ball, singing, dancing. I like animals so much as you like them.
I thank you for sending for me very interesting and wonderful message.
Pray for me so that I get good grades to go to senior because I finished my PLE (Primary Leaving Examination).
I learnt a verse called James 4:7 (Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.)
What is your favorite food?
I am going to spend my Christmas in the village. I help the old people and the needy people in the community.
I have helped my family through washing utensils, mopping the house, fetching water, washing clothes, at school through mopping classes and the project.
I make wise decisions through counselling.
I thank my family, God, sponsor, project so much for giving me care.
May God bless you.
From your child Nakasumba

On the back she drew the Bible and what seems to be a photo frame. Into the frame she wrote "God loves you Svenja so much".


Sawadogo is also eleven years old. He lives with his mother in Burkina Faso. His father doesn't live with them but according to Sawadogo's information, he supports him. Sawadogo is in grade six and above average.

In his family Sawadogo helps cleaning up, washing clothes and running errands. His hobbies are group games, hide-and-seek, to play football and to bicycling.

I received him as a correspondance child in November 2013, so his letter got here rather quickly. the letter was addressed to his former correpsondance sponsor, who had to give him, and a few other kids, up, due to the lack of time.

Hello,
I’m so happy to write to you. My family and I are doing well.
I hope you are fine too. We will soon have a break at Christmas.
In my country we go to school from Monday through Saturday, from 7.30 am to 12.00 in the morning and from 3:00pm to 5pm in the afternoon.
I am in grade 6 and I study Geography, Science, History and Mathematics.

Merry Christmas!
How do you celebrate Christmas?
Please pray for my schooling, that I will pass the high school entrance certificate.
From your child Abdoul

 He also drew something on the back of the letter, a wonderful flower.





When I first started sponsoring through Compassion, it was my husband who took me aside, telling me to not get my hopes up to receive letters on a regular basis from my sponsored child. He had a good reason after all Compassion points out more than once that to a lot of kids writing a letter is a new experience. And looking back, I don't know who was more relieved/happy when the first letter came.

These days Chris is used to come home and have to listen about the latest letter I received. Or the one I have just written. Because for me, writing a letter is just as much fun as receiving one. But I will leave that for another blog entry. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sponsoring Esperance: Part 2

To Read Part 1 of my Sponsorship Story Click HERE.

Esperance Age 5

I have a confession to make here; I barely recall the figure skating show that night.  I'm sure the skaters were as terrific as usual, and I did have fun watching with my mum, but my mind was wandering.  I remember trying to sneak peeks at my new little girl's packet.  It was impossible to read in the dark lights, but I tried!  I spent the show wondering what she was doing at that very moment, wondering how long it would take until she knew I had sponsored her, and mentally writing my first introduction letter to her.  

During the intermission I memorized her packet information.  Esperance (My knowledge of French was good enough to recognize that her name meant Hope), lived with her parents and would be six on August 8th of that year.  She enjoyed playing ball and her chores were fetching water and child care... Wait, what? I did a double take at that one.  Child care? She was only five herself!!!  I couldn't imagine that the neighbours' were hiring five-year-olds to babysit, so that probably meant she had younger siblings, right?  (Turns out I assumed correctly, she had two, including a newborn sister.)

Esperance Age 6


It was late at night by the time the show ended and we got home (I don't live in any of the cities that Canadian Stars on Ice performs in, so it was a bit of a drive!) so I didn't get a letter written to Esperance that night, but the next day I eagerly wrote to her and introduced myself.  Shortly after I received a letter from her in return that a project worker had helped her write.  (She was only five!)  

Esperance Age 7


I replied to that letter as well, telling her how happy I was to receive it.  And then I made a mistake. 

See, I was brand new to the sponsorship world and no one had ever told me how much the children valued letters.  I hadn't the foggiest idea!  Maybe the fact that I cherished her letters so dearly should have clued me in?

Oh I loved my girl, and I eagerly stared at her photographs and read her progress reports and I always meant to write... soon.  But I guess I expected that she would just know this?  That she'd realize how much she meant to me because I faithfully paid for her sponsorship fees each month?  That a little girl in Rwanda could read my mind?  

Esperance age 8
 
It's not like I never wrote to her, but I probably wrote two or three letters max. in a period of a couple years.  And then one day I was thinking about her and suddenly realised that my last letter to her had been an entire year ago, at least!  I don't know about you all, but when I was about eight, a year felt like a long time.  Somehow I felt that the time that had slipped by was significant, and it was like God suddenly impressed upon me just how important letters were. 
Esperance Age 9

I sat down and wrote her a long letter that day, and at the end of it I apologized to her for taking so long to write and I made a promise to her that I would write a lot more often.  That was over three years ago now and I've written once or twice a month since.  

I didn't realise how much of a difference letters could make.

Esperance age 9 (holding letters I've sent)
 
 Our relationship blossomed and I suddenly felt like sponsorship was what I was meant to do.  I sponsored a couple more kids (I'll tell you their stories another time) and joined an online sponsorship forum called Our Compassion where I admit, I bragged about my girl as if she were my own daughter.

Esperance Age 9

Note: Esperance is sponsored through World Vision, and this forum is for Compassion sponsors (which I also sponsor through), so what happened next can really only be described as a miracle. 

See, one day I posted a photograph of Esperance on the Compassion forum and another sponsor named Lea looked at it and said that she recognized that photo, not the exact one, but the background area, the child's pose, everything reminded her so much of her own little girl's photographs.  We compared notes and sure enough, our children belonged to the same World Vision project!  I fired off a letter to Esperance and received the reply shortly after, yes, she did know the girl named Lea, (Lea sponsors Lea, no name confusion intended).  They lived in the same neighbourhood and went to school together, although they were a grade apart.  
Esperance Age 10 (wearing necklaces, bracelets and a purse I'd mailed to her)
 
And then Lea announced she was going there to visit Lea.  We didn't know if it was possible, there was a very short amount of time to arrange it, in fact Lea was already IN Rwanda before she found out, but it was managed.  I literally cried with joy to find out that Lea was going to meet my Esperance...  And it's probably a good thing you can't see me just now, because the memory of it is still bringing tears to my eyes faster than I can wipe them away.  

Esperance age 10, I believe this is the photograph that Lea first recognized as being similar to one of her own child's.


Lea not only visited Esperance, but she visited Esperance's parents and siblings, all of whom I've been writing to and receiving letters from over the past couple years.  She saw their home.  She took photos, photos of my girl smiling from ear to ear, dressed in a dress I'd sent her, surrounded by siblings who were all wearing little cross necklaces I'd made them awhile back.  She took a video of my girl waving to me and for the first time I got to hear her voice as she told me hello! (in Kinyarwanda! )


video

And now here's a few more photographs of Esperance, the girl who started it all. :)


Esperance aged 11
 



Esperance age 11 with her mother Cecile and a couple goats and groceries she bought with some money I sent. 
Her green outfit was also new. 



Esperance in the pink flowered dress I sent her, holding a teddy bear from Lea.  Her parents Narcisse and Cecile are on the left in blue, her brother Habineza is in the pink track suit, sister Juliette in stripes.  The little girl with bright blue shoes is her sister Clarisse and baby Florence is in front.  I'll share more photos of Esperance and her family from Lea's visit in that post.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Choosing Citlali

When I was eight years old, my mum decided to sponsor a child through World Vision. Today I have to admit that, sadly, I don't remember much about that child: not the name, not the country, not even the gender. But what I still know is that I was happy when we first received a letter from the child and that I looked at the picture on a regular basis.
Only two years later, due to some changes in my mother's life, she had to drop the child again. I felt bad that we weren't able to continue the sponsorship, even though I can't say we had much of a relationship with the kid to begin with, (we didn't write letters back then), but could understand my mum's reasons as well.
On that day I decided that I wanted to sponsor a child on my own at some point.
At the age of ten I didn't have any idea how to do it. So years passed, I grew up, moved out, started my apprenticeship and the plan to sponsor a child faded into the background.
It wasn't until Teresa told me about Esperance at times and introduced me to Compassion when she had heard of it, that suddenly I found myself on the German Compassion website daily.
I took a closer look on my expenses and wasn't sure if I could really sponsor a child.  After all, back then I was pregnant and knew things could get a little tight once our child was been born. I talked to my husband and we discussed it over and over again. He could understand why I wanted to sponsor a child, but we agreed to wait until our baby was born to see how we would manage money wise and make a final decision then.

But I still couldn't stop checking on the kids.
And then I spotted Citlali. Her smile captured me in a heartbeat. Her colorful dress stood out to me.
I scanned through her information, even though I already knew she was the child I wanted to sponsor. Citlali was born in 2002 and lives with her family (both parents and two brothers) in Mexico. She helps her mother making the bed and running errands. Citlali loves to sing, ride her bike and play with dolls. And the information also said that she is suffering from asthma.
Reluctantly I closed the page.  After all, I had a deal with Chris. But whatever I did, I couldn't forget about her; I felt drawn to her in a way I hadn't experience before. I kept checking the website to see if she was still waiting for a sponsor and felt relieved whenever I saw she was still there.
A few days later I told my mother-in-law about Citlali, who in turn asked me to show her the picture on the website. I did and couldn't believe my ears; my mother-in-law offered me to chip in for half of the sponsorship, and right then and there I filled in the form. I just knew that this would be okay with Chris as well.
I couldn't be happier and was looking forward to get to know “my girl”. 
In the end, Chris and I had no problem affording the sponsorship alone. God surely provides! And today my parents-in-law have their own Compassion child, but that's another story!


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sponsoring Esperance: Part 1

I love figure skating.  As a teenager/young twenty-something, I was especially obsessed with the sport and it was partly due to figure skating that I sponsored my first ever sponsored child.  (It was also because of figure skating that I met Svenja!)

Let me explain.

About six years ago, I really, really wanted to sponsor a child.  It was a sort of secret desire though, mainly due to the fact that nobody else I knew did so.  Looking back on it, it seems silly to me that I didn't sponsor just because I didn't know anyone else who sponsored, but at the time it seemed important. 

Every year, for about fifteen years or so, I saved up my money so that I could attend a spectacular figure skating extravaganza show.  I wasn't rich, I only work part time (in an ice rink of course!) and tickets were somewhat expensive, but it was a yearly tradition to spend the evening watching skating superstars such as Kurt Browning, Shae-Lynn Bourne, and Victor Kraatz take to the ice in Canadian Stars on Ice

It just so happens Canadian Stars on Ice is sponsored by World Vision and year after year one of the figure skaters, the lovely Jennifer Robinson, would take to the ice and explain to us all why Child Sponsorship was such a great thing.  And oh boy did I want to sponsor a kid!

I didn't, for the reason stated above, for many years, until that time about six years ago.  Around this time I was getting excited for another Stars on Ice performance.  I had the tickets I'd bought for my mum and I (Front row!) and the show was about a month away.  And then my parents dropped a bombshell on me.

They said:  "We've decided to sponsor a couple kids through World Vision."


Well, there went that lousy excuse.  I'd never discussed it with them before, they'd never discussed it with me before, but I knew right then that if they were going to give sponsorship a try, so was I!  I responded easily, "Then I'm going to sponsor one too."

My parents chose two children off the World Vision Canada website that night, a beautiful six-year-old girl named Thineshka from Sri Lanka, and a handsome little five-year-old boy named Francois from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Unlike my parents, I didn't sponsor through the website.  See, I knew that if I just waited until that special evening of watching figure skating, there would be World Vision tables set up all around the rink.  And I knew that if I sponsored at the show, I could get some sort of neat figure skating souvenir at the same time.  They always did that, made some sort of announcement at the show saying, "And if you sponsor a child tonight, we'll give you a free autographed program" or something of the like.  

And so I waited, but I also convinced my mum to head into the show early that night.   I ran to the World Vision table as soon as we entered the rink with the intention of sponsoring right there on the spot.  I think the girl at the table was a bit surprised to see me.  The show hadn't started yet, none of the speeches had been made or anything, but I stepped through the doors, made a beeline for her table and announced, "I'll sponsor one of them."

And then came the hard part, the bit that I wasn't counting on.  See, that girl must have had thirty child packets on that table and a stack of a couple hundred more beside her.  And I was expected to choose.  I naively asked her if she knew which child needed help the most, and she said the all did.  I scanned the packets for birth dates, deciding that I wanted to sponsor a child who was at least seven years old.  

I picked up every single packet and read their information.  This child was an orphan, that one had eight siblings, this one looked sooooo skinny, that one... you get the picture.  After awhile I noticed that I was especially attached to the packets of the little girls, so I narrowed it down by saying that I wanted a girl.  My mum and the lady at the table were trying to help me, handing me packets and saying, "What about this one?"

And then the music started in the main part of the rink!  Oh no! The show! I was going to miss the first number!  And I'd spent a lot on those tickets, unfathomable!  I had to hurry!  I looked at my mum and said, "Maybe I should just close my eyes and pick one!" But she encouraged me to keep looking.  

I looked, I looked fast, and grabbed a packet of a little girl from the table, barely saw her, scanned over the text on it, and said, "She's seven! She'll do."  And this would be the part of the story where I surprise you with a plot-twist.  I never sponsored that little girl.  I don't even recall what she looked like now, or what country she was from.  See, as the lady behind the counter started to pull the sponsorship form out for me to fill in, another packet caught my eye and I caught my breath as I stared into the sad, soulful eyes of my little girl.  It was her!

She was only five-years-old, younger than I'd planned, but it didn't matter because I just knew then that she was mine, that God wanted me to sponsor her.  I felt a little guilty as I sheepishly picked up her packet and informed the lady, "I changed my mind, if it's not too late.  This one is the girl I'm going to sponsor."

to be continued....(Click Here to Read Part 2 of this story)
Esperance, Age 5.  This was the first photograph I ever saw of my little girl.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Time to blog? - Not really!

Now, you might wonder why I'm blogging after all?!

Well, that is easy.

Firstly I'm not doing it alone. 

When I first had the idea to start a blog, I knew that there was no possibility of doing it alone. With a soon-to-be-two-year-old-whirlwind, a husband, a job, two horses, a dog and a few hobbies my days are packed already.

It's simple, I know that I don't have the time to blog on a regular basis alone, but doing it with someone else seemed possible for me.

From the beginning on there was never the question of how I'd like to blog with: Teresa was my first choice. We have written together before - stories to be exact, the miles between Germany and Canada have never been a problem. And to top it off, she's my best friend, so what could be more fun than to share something special with your best friend?

But honestly, for quite a while, I wasn't sure if I should really ask her to blog with me, because I knew Teresa had "just" deleted her own blog a few months ago, due to the lack of time.

Eventually I just got too curious about her answer and the desire to blog was growing bigger. And since asking doesn't hurt or cost a thing, I finally did it. Truth to be told, I didn't expect her to agree, but hey she did, and here we are now with our shared blog.


The second reason (and for me the more important one) are the kids.

Teresa and I both sponsor children and correspond with even more, through Compassion and World Vision. We are frequent letter writers, our kids get one letter a month for sure. But there are a lot of kids who don't get letters - and I think letters are important.

Here is a quote from a letter Teresa got a few weeks ago - and that line describes the need of letters, better than I could ever do.

"My friends asked me why I always receive letters from you. I feel that I am so special because you care about me."

Shouldn't all kids feel that special?

Don't get me wrong, I don't want this blog to be a finger-pointer, something to guilt people into sitting down and writing.  Instead I want to use it to share ideas of topics we could tell our sponsor kids about, what we could send them, or what we could ask them to do in our letters. I want it to inspire people to write a letter.

So I might not have much time to blog, but I have Teresa with me, a matter that is worth to making some time for, and the hope that at least one child receives a letter because of this blog.

What else do I need? Correct, nothing!










Sunday, 16 February 2014

Why I'm Blogging... Again.

This isn't my first time around the blogging block.  In fact, it's not even the second.  I've started and ended multiple blogs in the past, for various reasons, and the last one I closed around six months or so, give or take.  

And I missed the Blogging World.  I kept telling myself that there is no point starting again, it's just one more thing "to do" and I'm already busy (who isn't?).  I semi-convinced myself many times over that I shouldn't start a new one. 

But then my best friend told me she was thinking of starting a blog too and asked if I'd like to create one with her and we could be co-bloggers and that just sounded like an amazingly fun project to work on with her, so here I am again!

And so, this blog is run by the two of us: Teresa Dawn (me) and Svenja (my best friend).  It's going to be a very international blog; I live in Canada, Svenja lives in Germany, and the sole focus of our blog will be something we are both very passionate about: writing to children who live in poverty around the world. 

Between the two of us, we sponsor/correspond with children in the following countries: Mexico, Haiti, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Honduras, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. *Disclaimer: When I say sponsor "kids/children", I'm including some young adults.  I have a few teenagers and even a 23-year-old that I write to who is sponsored through Compassion's LDP (Leadership Development Program which I'll talk about in a different post another time.)

But back to the topic of this post: Why I'm Blogging...Again.  Besides missing it, I've come up with a few other reasons, so here's my list, in point form, because I'm told that people like reading stuff in point form.  

  1. I love to write, and blogging is relaxing for me, usually.
  2. Sponsoring children has been such a blessing to me, I wish to share that with others.
  3. I want to encourage people to write to their sponsored children.  I also want to give them ideas on how to do that, what to write about, and share with them just how much the letters mean to the children.
  4.  To make memories for my children.  When my grandparents passed away, I came across letters that I'd written to them that they'd saved.  It was fun to re-read these letters that I'd written as a child, to remember things that had happened and it's my secret (not-so-secret-since-I'm-posting-it-here) hope that one day my sponsored children will discover this blog and enjoy reliving their childhood by reading quotes from some of the letters that they wrote to me.   
  5. And who knows... maybe one day after my children have graduated, I'll be able to connect with some of them still here and they'll see just how special to me they each were.  (Another not-so-secret-hope!)
And so, Blogging World, I'm back!


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