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.