Child hasn't responded to info sent in letters ever. All letters from child are generic. Is he even getting them?

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We have sponsored a child for years. We get the same type of letter every year regardless of the letters we have sent, the child often asks us to send pictures even though we have. They never answer questions we have asked. In my last letter I said that I was concerned our letters weren't reaching him so I wanted him to address questions and info I specifically sent. Still, we just received a general letter that had my husbands name but could have been sent to anyone. The child is older and certainly able to respond. I am close to canceling our payments since in all the years we have sponsored the child has never acknowledged our letters. Anyone else with this concern? Any way to know if the child is really getting the letters or the money?
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Cindy

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Posted 2 months ago

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Lauren Benko

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Yes, I sponsored an older child from Tanzania for four years. Throughout that time, I always received generic letters. A couple of days ago, CI informed me that my child left the program and automatically reassigned me to a new child. Long story short, I don’t trust CI and I question now whether my child’s letters were really from her.
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Jennifer

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Greetings: I am a sponsor like both of you. I am an ardent supporter of Compassion and its programs, yet can also understand how some people get frustrated. I have had the privilege of meeting several of my children as well as seeing Compassion's programs in action, and am very much impressed with the life skills given and the love the centers have for the children. Meeting the children allowed me to confirm what I've gleaned from the letters of their personalities, and see how grateful they are.

As for the letters I get, they are very hit and miss. Large chunks of lots of the letters are generic, particularly the ones from certain regions that have an oral vs written tradition. I imagine the kids sitting in their classroom on letter writing day and sometimes wanting to express gratitude and other days just wanting to get it done and copying the board. Having met them, one is very sweet but perhaps not wildly creative, so her words are simple but yet I know they have something behind them. Another is feisty and tough and probably not one to spill her emotions out on the page. Another is quiet and wasn't a big talker -- so he doesn't have much to say in the letters either.

When I was a teen, a friend and I decided that the children we babysat were going to be penpals because they had the same name. I tried to help my boy write a letter and it was like pulling teeth. This smart, funny boy full of personality was just not into it and had no idea what to say.

To summarize, the letter quality is greatly impacted by the culture and the personalities and the interests of the children themselves. From my experience, it doesn't mean that they don't hold you in high regard, and it doesn't mean that the program isn't having a massive impact on their lives. If you are able to look past that you are not getting great letters, I hope you will consider contimuing for the benefit of the kids. When I think to the future and where I'll sponsor next, I know I'll have to give up good letters in order to pick the place where I think my sponsorship will have the greatest impact.

One last thought -- on our trip we found out that the children struggle with the same thoughts. In many cases they, also, struggle with whether their sponsors are real, particularly the ones who don't write!

I hope my experience is somewhat helpful to you. Blessings!
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Sarah Heacock Schreffler

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Interesting. I have often wondered if the children wonder if we are real. IF some of the pleas to come visit are so they can confirm for themselves that we actually exist.
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Jennifer

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I suspect that applies more to the kids who don't get letters! (But who are still expected to write them!)
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Cindy

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But we have written, we have sent pictures. The child reintroduces himself and talks about football. That is it. Sometimes he says he wants to see what we look like, why hasn’t he seen the pictures we sent? He has beautiful handwriting that makes me think he is more than able to write. It’s been years, it just doesn’t make sense that the child still hasn’t seen a picture we have sent and only talks about football. For years, even the picture he drew was the same.
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Jennifer

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I saw that you mentioned you write, so I certainly wasn't speaking of you specifically. I just thought it was an interesting perspective. I get the same drawings and photos too (a flower, a leaf) and a lot of repeated verbiage. If he's asking for photos, it's not that he hasn't seen them, so perhaps he wants more. Or someone sitting near him wrote that and it seemed like something to say. I think it's pretty common for teen boys to live and breathe football, and I don't think that would be given as an example to copy, so you may have something there! Perhaps find out who the football heroes are in his country and send some pictures or comments, or send info of soccer where you are, or your other involvements in sports. He may not respond on them specifically, but you'll be speaking to his interests and make his day! This is interesting to me as none of my kids have ever mentioned sports much!
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heather o

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I'm a sponsor too and I have to say Jennifer is spot on with her assessment. We sponsor several and correspond with many more children. We have had children in every country CI serves so I can say we've had tons of experience with letters from our kiddos. I haven't had the blessings of meeting any of them, but I pray I get the chance one day. I am inclined to believe that the translation of see what you look like could be him trying to say he desires to SEE you in person. You are likely the only person your child will ever write a letter to and many of these kiddos are not as advanced in school as their US counterparts. Your boy only talks about soccer, right? That says how much he loves it. That's a pretty normal thing to expect; I am the mom of 4 kids and their conversations are dominated by what's important to them. Some kids have a hard time writing just like some have a hard time with math. I would encourage you to not give up on your boy and maybe become a correspondent to a couple of kiddos in different countries so you can see the differences kiddo to kiddo culture to culture. God bless!
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Cindy

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I appreciate the comments and perspectives but we are able to read the letters in the native language. He is asking for a picture of our family to see who is in our family. He introduces himself in his letters as if we have not corresponded with him for years. He asks who is in our family although we have answered that question in writing and photos. Each letter says the same. I am fine, I like football, I play football. I have asked if he receives our letters and there is never a response and never reference to the letters. His writing is beautiful so he is obviously not unable and must write often to have the beautiful spelling and cursive writing. He is not asking to see us in person, he is saying he would like a photo to know who is in our family other than my husband who is the official sponsor yet I am the one who has sent every letter. I am a mother and a teacher so I understand a child lead conversation. His letters are just very form written and repeated. The pictures sent are the same with only color variation. I just would like some answers what is going on from the organization. I have sponsored for years and if I feel something is amiss I feel like I should be able to reach out for answers.
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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Cindy, 

First, I sincerely apologize for the delay as we are not always available on the weekends. We get to these conversations as soon as possible during weekdays. 

Also, I am so very sorry that the letters have not been meeting your expectations and that this has caused you to lose trust in Compassion as an organization. It sounds like you are quite discouraged. :( 

I have read every letter we have on file between you and Jonas. I do see his letters improving slightly over time although you are right that he does mention roughly the same things in each letter. He mentions football quite a bit (and liking the Brazilian team, Flamengo, several times in addition to his scores in his own games :) ). Each letter has a drawing of a building, but it does vary as far as what is on and around the building. Sometimes it has flowers or trees and sometimes other symbols. I wonder if the building is his student center? Maybe that is the only thing he can think of to draw because it is nearby when he is drawing? I am super impressed that you are able to read Portuguese! That's awesome! 

Jonas writes about two letters each year which is the minimum when a sponsor is not writing. I do see a gap in our record of letters from you to Jonas between August 2015 and March 2018. Did you send letters to Jonas during that time? It could be that the letters just did not go through in the online system or we simply did not receive them in the mail. When you write a letter online, you will always receive a confirmation email and your letter will move from the Drafts to being viewable in Conversations. When you send a physical letter, we will scan it and you will be able to see the letter on your online account within two to three weeks. 

As others have mentioned, letters are often written as part of a class exercise so staff can provide adequate help and attention to individual children as they write their letters. Several weeks after Jonas receives your letters, the staff at the student center schedule a time for all the children to write letters to their sponsors. Jonas may not have your last letter with him and may not have remembered the questions you asked. This is why I typically recommend that sponsors underline or highlight questions, so that staff can clearly see them and copy down these questions to make sure that Jonas is able to answer them. My prayer is that you would see letter writing less as a proof of something and more as a mentoring relationship. Jonas is a 14 year old boy in the US equivalent of the 7th grade. He faces great challenges as an at-risk kiddo trying to escape extreme poverty. He has another sibling in the program which tells me that his family is even more needy than others even in his impoverished community and his parents do not live with him. He desperately needs a consistent positive role model in his life. As a teacher, I'm sure you are aware that multiple studies have shown the importance of consistent, positive adult role-models in the lives of at-risk children. You can help make that difference directly through your letters. Your consistent letters of encouragement communicate to your child, “I care about you and I want to be a part of your life.” 

Please do let me know by email if, after you have been highlighting or numbering your questions, Jonas continues to not respond to your questions. We may want to have a staff member pay extra attention to making sure that his letters improve, but I want to give him a chance to figure it out by being more clear in our directions first. Also, please feel free to reach out by email if you have any further questions or concerns. We greatly appreciate all the love and support you are providing for this young man and want you to be satisfied with the experience. God bless you and your family! 
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Nina Lazzeroni

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I would like to add - the more  you write, the more likely you are to get a bit of a 'conversation' going and more relevant information. Does not always happen, but not writing for long periods of time insures that it will not happen. If he has a letter from you every time letter writing day comes around, (approximately every 2 months) he is more likely to remember what you said or maybe write a bit more on his own.