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

 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,

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