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 11 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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Richard Despres

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I to had my frustrations with the letters. How many times do we read here how important the letters are to the children. My first two kids both from Haiti. A boy and a girl within a couple years of each other. Ranging from 6 to 8 years old. I wasn't the most disciplined on my end but did manage to write and send pictures a couple times a year. I received the same generic letters in return. Many times asking the same questions over again. On one or two occasions there might be a sentence with a personal touch to it. When they were both in there teen years I just accepted and visioned a very orderly setting in which letters were written. Assuming the individual leading it felt it more important that a letter was written every so many months versus its content.
I received a very nice surprise after that. I don't know if there was a substitute that letter writting day or what. Both kids managed to pour there hearts there dreams and gratitude out in these letters. I was wonderfully shocked. I had to keep going over everything to make sure this was from them. It only happened once during there time in the program. Still gives me goose bumps today when I hunt the letters up and re read them.
I have to add one of them later contacted me on Facebook. He was about 2 years out of the program at that time. He was going to school for business, and learning new languages. All in all I couldn't be prouder of him. Talking to him was like speaking to my own sons. So gracious and full of hopes and dreams......so don't get discouraged. I have found every country is different in how things such as letter writting are handled. Keep those insperational and up beat letters flowing to the kids. They really do matter to them. Remember we are doing this to fulfill the Great Commission. Very easy to get lost in your own thoughts and feelings when it appears so one sided at times.
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Sierra, Employee

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This is such an awesome testimony, Richard! Thank you so much for sharing. :) Those letters absolutely make a difference in the lives of these children, whether we see the benefits of them right away or not!
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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

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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.
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Richard Despres

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That is so true Nina. Since it took a health emergency for me to realise the opportunity I have before me in helping guide these kids to our awsome Savior. I used to be lucky if I wrote twice a year to my kids. Sure I would feel guilty when looking back but never enough guilt to pull the pen out more often. I see today especially in reading about Sponsors not getting any type of personal responses back just how blessed I am. I want to get to sending letters every month. Right now six to ten weeks is were I am at. I am pretty good about responding to there letters within a week or so. On the personal side I have seen quite a bit. From a teenager going through the terrible teens, me on the recieving end. The same teenager sharing her joy for a Christian singer with me. I searched him out and listened to his songs. We were able to discuss our love for music. I thanked her for introducing me to an artist I would otherwise probably never have known about. To a beautiful young Haitian girl letting me know by her drawings she was not happy I hadn't sent her any pictures yet. She even had her one foot tapping in the drawing. I am so used to happy drawings from her it took me a little bit to decipher. Fortunately for me I had already sent pictures she just hadn't recieved them yet. In her case her cousin is helping her with her letters. The drawings are hers though. I sure got a chuckle out of it.
I have one beautiful little girl in Africa. She is only 4 years old so her letters get lots of help. She comes from a large family by US standards today. Her father went out of his way to personally thank me for a gift. He sent me some wonderful pictures of what he was able to do. I was tickled pink. But more then anything it brought it all into perspective for me. Here were two dads corresponding about life and its struggles and victories. Both wanting whats best for our kids and families. If my health should ever improve were I can make a journey with Compassion. I know which country is first on my list. I have found with many things in life it takes faith. When I started my first sponsorships it was at an Micheal W. Smith and Amy Grant Christmas concert in Dallas Texas. I knew a lot about both singers. There beliefs and did they walk the talk. So it was an easy decision to sign on. However later that week I went online and researched Compassion. We are commanded to be good stewards of what God has entrusted us with. Everything I read on Compassion was that it is very financially well run . There books are open to various agency that do nothing but rate organisations and how they handle there finances. I researched the founder who's name (oldtimers) escapes me at the moment. His story and vision are wonderful.....so I was good with my sponsorship. What I wasn't ready for were the constant form letters. I had read online a number of sponsor stories talking about there letters. I figured initially it was an age issue. Basically what it came down to I had to either accept it for what it was or move on. It took faith to keep it going knowing I may not ever get a personal response. If you read my previous post you will see were one time I recieved a personal letter from each of them. I don't know if maybe my faith was waning at that time and the Lord stepped in or not. I just know I was so glad I continued on and did not quit. Course this doesn't mean everyone will get that one personal letter. Or be contacted on Facebook a couple years after the kids grow out of the program. I just know for me I am one hundred percent behind Compassion. They make it so easy for us to do somthing so impactful on a child and possibly there family and community.
For those of you at the end of your rope and totally discouraged I am sorry it has gotten to this point. You are not asking for much. Just a simple personal response to the questions and pictures. I could write a couple chapters of the interactions I have had with some kids yet not with others. Bottom line its between you and the Lord. Do know I am praying for you all.
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Dorene Farr

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We have a 15year old boy from Uganda. When he was young he would write and the teacher translated it. For the past 3 years we only get letters from the teacher. The letters are all the same.
I have called Compassion and they say to keep writing. I have and I've even asked him to write and let the teacher translate.
When he was young he would tell me what he got with his birthday and Christmas money. Now I don't even know if he gets anything.
Any suggestions?
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Sierra, Employee

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Hi Dorene! I'm so sorry for the frustration caused by your child's lack of response to your letters. :( I would be happy to look into those letters for you. I couldn't locate an account associated with the email address you have on file; would you kindly provide us with your sponsor number, as well as the child ID number of the boy you're referring to?
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Dorene Farr

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The e-mail is dfarr@wavecable.com
Child # UG071400440
Thank you for looking into this for us.
My husband is ready to cancel.
I've sent fun things, gave extra for gifts and no thank you'd or what he's gotten.
When I called Compassion a year ago or so they gave the excuse that he could be in study when the person is doing the letter writing.
Well beings we have helped for years at over $400 per year I think a personal letter would be nice.
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Christina, Employee

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Dorene, I am deeply sorry to hear that your letter-writing experience with your sweet boy has been less than what you've hoped for. It breaks my heart to hear that you are considering ending your 9-year-long relationship with Turinayo, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help with your concerns. Honestly, I believe that your boy is indeed writing his own letters. The reason his letters are written in English is because English is the official language. Many Ugandans also speak Swahili, but English is the main language taught in school. Also, if he were not the one writing his own letters, then his letters would be signed by his tutor, and I see that Turinayo is signing his own letters. I'm so sorry if it seams like he is writing about the same topics in his letters. I see that he usually writes about his crops, the weather, and how he is doing is school. He has also talked about what he wants to be when he grows up, and I love that he shares a different Bible verse in every letter. That is so sweet! When a child is unsure of what to write about, it's common to see them write about similar subjects in their letters. I encourage you to ask lots of questions in your letters so he has plenty of things to answer and write about :). We also recommend numbering your questions to make it easy. He may simply need some ideas on what to write about since letter-writing is still very much a foreign concept. I hope this information has been helpful.

We very much appreciate your generous heart to bless your child with special gifts. For any gift of $20 or more, you should receive a thank you letter from your child within 6 months of giving the gift. If you've given multiple gifts at the same time though, your child is only required to write one thank you letter for both gifts since he received them together. Regrettably, I cannot see letters past February of 2016 since that is when we started scanning letters into our system. Did you receive a thank you letter for your birthday gift sent in September of 2015? I see that Turinayo did send a thank you letter for your gift given in November of 2016, and this letter was processed in February of 2017. If you didn't receive this letter, I would be happy to have resent to you :). He said that he purchased a goat, sweets, and biscuits with your gift! Sadly, it looks like Turinayo's thank you letter for your gifts given in December of 2017 was supposed to be his January 31st letter, but he forgot to mention it in his letter. Please rest assured that I have sent an inquiry for this to see what he purchased with your gift funds. We will be in contact with you as soon as we receive a response within 45 days. Thank you for your patience and understanding! 

I hear your heart for this ministry and your desire to have a meaningful relationship with your sweet boy. I cannot express how sorry I am to hear of the doubts you have about Compassion and whether you will continue sponsoring Turinayo. We sincerely look forward to earning your trust and proving our hearts for serving our sponsors and children with excellence. I truly hope that I was able to ease your concerns. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. God bless you! 
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Dorene Farr

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When we began writing he was learning English and writing his A, B, C's I do not believe that it is him writing the letters. English is not his first language. He used to write his letter and someone else would translate them. Then suddenly his letters stopped.
Two years ago my husband had heart surgery and cancer and I was not able to write. Life was one day at a time.
If there is any way you could find out what it going on, I would really appreciate it.
Blessings,
Dorene
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Sierra, Employee

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Hi Dorene! Thank you again for reaching out to us with your concerns. I would be happy to address them for you, and hopefully put both yours and your husband's minds at ease! Because you've been sponsoring Turinayo for eight and a half years, that means he would have been six years old when you started sponsoring him. I think most children - even American children - are just starting to learn how to write at that point, and school-age children can learn and grow a lot in eight years. I personally have been sponsoring a young man in Kenya named Wiberforce since 2013, and when I started sponsoring him, he was six years old, as well. He's eleven now, and has just now started writing his own letters. Before that, someone else would write the letters for him. I looked over your letters, as Christina did, and the letters look consistent with the growth we would expect from a child who grew from six years old to fifteen years old.

When you say his letters stopped, do you mean you're not receiving his letters anymore? From what we can see on our end, he's been writing you fairly consistently.

I'm so sorry to hear about all you and your husband have been through. :( I pray that you have felt the Lord's presence during that time.

As Christina also mentioned, she sent a note to Turinayo's project to see what was purchased with the funds that you sent! Hopefully, that also answers any questions you may have. Please let us know if there's anything else you need addressed.
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Nanette LeMonier Roberts

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I have been sponsoring a child also and have received the same generic letters each time.  Picture of her standing at some table with gym shoes and food....nevers responds to anything I ask or say in my letters.  I am cancelling my sponsorship because of this and because I don't have funds to send to an organization that does not seem at all to be quite right where kids letter responses are concerned.  I read too many same situations on here now and it confirms exactly what I have suspected all along....generic canned responses and who know where all the money we send actually goes.

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Sarah Heacock Schreffler

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I'm sorry you have not received specific letters.  Some of my kids are much better at writing good letters than others. Here's an excerpt from my last letter from my 10-year old kiddo in Guatemala "I want to thank you for the three beautiful letters that you sent me; thanks for sending me a picture; I will keep it with lots of love. Now I understand how an eclipse is formed; people say that if we see the eclipse, we could go blind. Have you heard that?  Thanks also for the five pictures; you look very well among flowers. How often do those flowers sprout?..." (I did send a letter about the eclipse last January or February and a letter about bluebonnets in Texas in March.  This letter was written in October)  OTOH, another child's letters (19 years, in Haiti) are a bit more generic. "I Say thank you for the letter that I have received in the name of Jesus, with much happy heart. It was very interesting. I love you very much."
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Sierra, Employee

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Hello, Nanette. I am so sorry that you've been having this experience. As Sarah and many of our other sponsors on this thread have mentioned, including myself, the letter-writing experience between sponsor and child can be highly varied depending on the child and the length of the sponsorship. All of us who are deeply involved with Compassion International can attest to the value of the program in the lives of real children, and we have met these children ourselves. I sincerely apologize that you are not seeing the evidence of this in your letters. Would you like me to go ahead and cancel your sponsorship?
(Edited)
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Nanette LeMonier Roberts

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It is so curious to me that after I posted this mysteriously a letter showed up and a question was asked about "Anna's baby" which just happened to be on my Facebook since he just turned 1. I don't really believe in coincidences such as this! Yes, please cancel my sponsorship. Nanette Roberts
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Sierra, Employee

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Hello, Nanette. I am so sorry to hear you have decided to cancel your sponsorship. I am sending you an email now in regards to this.

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