An Uncomfortable Disconnect

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Some months ago I expressed concern that there was no apparent connection between letters I wrote to the child I sponsored and his translated responses. In letters I received I have been asked multiple times.."What is your favorite color?" Each time I answer but the next letter poses the same question.I was advised to ask specific questions which I have done and have never received a single answer. His latest letter asks..."What are you studying?" This despite the fact that I have written several times that my wife and I are retired. When Efrin asks a question I always answer. When I ask a question it is never answered. He says for example that he helps his family pick coffee. I asked ..."What kind of coffee?" I have asked other simple questions but never get a response. I do get letters supposedly written by Efrin but they are hardly in the handwriting of a child his age...particularly the signature. All of this continues to make me quite suspicious about the veracity of this whole operation. I truly wonder if I want to continue. The reassurances I have received from Compassion staff ring quite hollow now that I have tried what they suggest without positive results. Like others who have written in I have sent money specifically for the gift of a soccer ball or some item in which Efrin had expressed an interest. While I do get a thank you for funds received there is no mention of the specific item. I realize that clothing may be of greater need but I have sent enough to cover both. I loose interest in corresponding when the thread of a conversation is totally disjointed.
I feel I will discontinue my involvement if there is no better communication soon.
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David K. Hills

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  • disapponited and frustrated

Posted 5 years ago

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Sonja Weeks Oswalt

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Hi David,
I sponsor or correspond with 8 children through Compassion. I don't know how old your child is, but as the mother of a 4 year old boy, myself, I invite you to consider a few things: Young children (especially under age 10 or 11, and most especially boys) don't often know how to effectively communicate with adults. Young children may not really internalize everything you write (for example, your occupation). To give a more personal example, when I was a child (shoot, even until I was in college), I knew my own dad was "an engineer" but I really had little understanding of what that meant.  A young child in another culture where retirement is more or less unheard of may not even understand what it means "to retire".  With regards to repeated questions, young children probably struggle with what to write to an adult. Simple questions like "what is your favorite color" may be the only way they know how to safely try to connect.

What is most important, as difficult as it can be (and potentially disappointing when you really yearn for connection) when you are writing to your child is to remember that what we (sponsors) are trying to do is to convey a sense of belonging and importance to the child. It's not about us as sponsors - it's about the child.  In time, your child may finally develop the skills and desire to connect more deeply. Or, they may not. But, what YOU have done is to impart in that child a sense of what it is like to be loved from thousands of miles away by a complete stranger. That's what it's about. 

If you have specific concerns about where money went for a gift, Compassion can follow up on that. Sometimes I hear back about where my gifts went, other times I don't. Sometimes I hear back, but it's a year later!  So, try to be patient and hold to the understanding that we are doing important work in the lives of these kids, even when it's hard!
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Emily

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Hello David,

I am so sorry that you feel so disconnected with your boy Efrain. It sounds like you have tried several different ways to connect with your him and still have not been able to build conversation in the way you had hoped. I understand this can be frustrating and may become disheartening when your desire is to get to know him on a deeper level. I do want to encourage you that your boy is so blessed by your generosity.  And even if he is not able to express his gratitude to you in his letters, you are truly making a huge impact on his life. He receives every letter, sticker, and gift that you send and is most importantly, hearing about Jesus and being loved and cared for at the project he attends. I do see that you have contacted us before with this concern and have been struggling with this for some time. Our hope is that when our sponsor's highlight their questions, write more often, or respond to each letter that they are written, that the relationship will improve with their child. We can have staff work with Efrain to help improve his letters and help him answer the questions that you are asking him. In this case, it would be helpful to have a sample of these letters so that I can show staff what went wrong and the disconnect there seems to be in the questions you ask and the responses and questions he gives you in return.  You can send them in any of the following ways:

Email: Scan and attach the letters in an email to ciinfo@us.ci.org

Fax: Send the letters via fax to 719-487-4730

Mail: Send the letters via mail to:

Compassion International

Attn. Emily, SDR

Colorado Springs, CO 80997

Also, like Sonja noted, we can inquire with our field staff about a specific gift that you sent to Efrain if he did not mention what he was able to purchase.  Gifts over $60 should also include a picture of your child with the gift included in the thank you letter you receive. I see that you sent a $100 family gift last November. Is this the gift you are inquiring about? Please send us the thank you letter you received and we will research this gift further for you. 
(Edited)
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Denise Bailey

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Hi David, I have had trouble connecting with some of my ET kids over the years and for ET I thought the translations might lose something and the letters I get seem rather simple and not answering questions. But I have had a few that were older and it was a great connection.  In some countries I think it might be a bit how the project handles letter writing.  It has occurred to me from hearing from other sponsors on the Facebook forum that some centers might use sample letters that are supposed to help the kids write to their sponsors but end up being used over and over again and instead of stimulating creativity in writing they actually help the kids to just take the easy road and almost copy the letter.  David, I would encourage you to join the Facebook group for sponsors.  It is helpful, encouraging and you get a lot of ideas of things to send your kids, and some sponsors even post some of their letters they write that get the best response from their kids!  I have recently tried some and am looking forward to seeing if it helps me(lol).  Anyway, if you are interested in joining the forum (and there are quite a few men on it to, btw) you have to send and email to ask because it is closed to protect the children.  The email is:

socialmedia@compassion.com    and you will hear from Emily or Susan with an invite!  Hope to see you on the forum.


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