Should I write less often?

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I have been sponsoring a child in Ethiopia for about 10 months now. In that time I have sent 3 or 4 letters and a postcard. I understand that Compassion centres have a letter writing day once a month but I have only received one letter from my sponsor child, other than the introduction letter. Does this mean that she chooses not to write most months? I have heard that some sponsors who write regularly receive several replies each year. I ask her questions with each letter and I don't want her to feel pressured to write. What happens at the centres when it is letter writing day and the children have received a letter from their sponsor? Right now I am waiting for a reply so I can write again. Should I write less often to 'match' my sponsor child's preference or should I just go ahead and send a short letter or postcard each month even if I am not receiving regular replies?
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Philippa Dennis

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Posted 6 years ago

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KristenH, Champion

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Philippa, I am sure Compassion will give you an official response after the weekend but I would like to share with you my experience to encourage you to continue writing your child. since 2011 I have had 3 different children from Ethiopia. None of them have written more than two times a year and I have always had to do inquiries to get letters.
It can be very disheartening to pour our love, time and prayer into the sponsorship process and feel like te child is not interested in hearing from us or writing back. However I do not think this is the case with our Ethiopian children. I have talked to many people with sponsor kids in ET and they all have the same experience....infrequent and generic letters. I truly believe this is a problem at the country level office. For whatever reason they are not putting emphasis on the importance of a relationship between sponsor and child and they are not following Compassion's guidelines for writing. I think if you join the Facebook Community that Denise was talkin about on another thread you will hear from many others who have the same concerns about ET.
I hope you continue to write your child, and contact Compassion if it's been more than six months since you have received a letter. I'm not sure what it will take to turn the tide in ET when it comes to correspondence, but my hope is that it happens soon. Too many are discouraged by their sponsorship experience there.

I apologize for any typos, I am on my phone and it is still early here :)
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Teresa Dawn

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Yes, I find the same trouble with Ethiopia!  Compassion Canada is currently looking into it for me as I sent in an inquiry since it'd been 6 months and no first letter.  They said they'd ask about the frequency of how often they are told to write at the same time, so hopefully they find something at the National level.  2x per year is the required amount if you aren't writing, but if you are, you should be hearing more often, once every 60 days provided they receive a letter from you in that 60 day period.  (That being said, some of my kids that write frequently, I can go 3-4 months without a letter, but then I get two close together, and it still averages 6/year, so I think they get held up at translations or something at times.)
I would continue to write if I were you though...Hopefully the situation in ET will be looked at and fixed soon, and if you are writing less, than you'll hear back less when it is :) Plus I'm sure your child cherishes each of your letters, even if she/he isn't allowed to write back more often at the moment. 
Definitely report it though :) People asking about ET have been told that Compassion hasn't heard there is a problem with this country.
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Philippa Dennis

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Yes, thank you I will keep writing. The funny thing is when I decided to sponsor through Compassion my main concern was that I wouldn't find the time to write regularly enough. I never expected my sponsor child to take the place in my thoughts that she has. It sounds as though you have both sponsored several children. Do you know which countries are the 'best' when it comes to correspondence? I would like to sponsor another child in the future and I think I will take this in to account.
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Teresa Dawn

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There's certainly no guarantee with any country, as you might get a child that struggles with it, but I find that, for the most part, the countries with the best letter writers are Philippines, Uganda, Honduras, Colombia and Bolivia.  I've also had a TERRIFIC experience with letters from Haiti, but from what others have told me, it can be hit and miss there, and depends on the child more.  Of those countries, my Filipino and Ugandan girls both write in English which is nice, and their letters are often two pages long, filled with details.  India is another country that people have great results from, four of my kids are from there and I find that one of the four is an exceptional letter writer, the others write often and enough to get to know them for sure, but my experiences with the other countries above is that the letters are usually more personal and answer more questions etc.  Kenya's not bad too and another country that tends to write in English, same with Rwanda.

One thing to note, children 8 and under use form letters to fill out and are often helped by a project worker/family member more in their letters.  Once they turn 9 they graduate from the forms (though a couple countries, Ghana for example, turns to "older kid forms.)  These are themed letters such as "My hobbies and pets" or "My Community" where the child fills in blanks, checkboxes etc.  Some countries, such as Honduras, are terrific for allowing a lot of extra writing space on these forms too so that there is also a personal letter answering your questions.  Other countries, like Ghana, do not have much extra space on these forms at all, so other than the checkboxes, you don't get much of a letter until the children are older.  The forms, in most countries, are actually quite great as you get a lot of information that you might not have otherwise while the child is still too young to think of what to write, and I really enjoy getting them, but it's a definite bonus when there's room for them to write their own letter too :)
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KristenH, Champion

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My favorite country to sponsor in is Kenya. My child there writes regularly (about every 60 days) and he writes in English. I also enjoy sponsoring in Both India and East India.
My kids in Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda write (or wrote) frequently. Uganda is another one where they write in English after a certain age if that's important to you. Personally I like sponsoring in a country where they are learning English because it's so much easier to find things to send.
All of the countries I sponsor(ed) in have been great about the frequency of letters except Ethiopia quite honestly. I'm not sure if it's a cultural issue or what with ET.
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Emily

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Official Response
Hi Philippa! I'm so sorry for the disappointment you're feeling with your child's letters so far. It can be tough to feel like you are investing into your child and pouring into her through letters and not receive much back. Because it takes 2-3 months for letters to be delivered both ways, a relationship with your child can take a little while to build. When I first began sponsoring my little girl in Indonesia, during the first year, I wrote her each month and I only received about 3 letters from her outside of the first introduction letter. I have continued to write frequently to her and the past two years, she has opened up so much to me and I have received more frequent letters from her now that we have a consistent flow of letters going back and forth to one another.

Regrettably, I was unable to locate your account by your name or email address. Please post your child's reference number in this forum and I would love check and see if you have a letter on its way to you! If it has been more than 6 months since your last letter, we can send an inquiry to our field office to request a letter and make sure your girl is okay. I would encourage you to continue writing as often as you are able to your child. Ethiopia has the same correspondence process as all of our countries and she receives every letter, sticker, and card that you send to her :). She will be prompted to respond to the letters you send and you can receive up to 6 letters per year from your child. Our staff care deeply for these children and are trained on how to assist the children in improving their letters each time and on the importance of letter writing. We value your relationship with your child and I certainly pray that your relationship with your girl improves the longer you sponsor her. We take these situations case by case and contact our projects individually if we feel that further training is needed to place a bigger emphasis on letter writing or if you are not receiving responses to your letters. I would recommend underlining or highlighting your questions so that they stand out to your child. If you see the same content in your letters overtime or she does not answer your questions, please send us a letter sample. We can ask her tutors to work more closely with her to help improve her letters. Thank you for investing time and love into your sweet girl. Please know that you are making a dramatic difference in her life! 
(Edited)
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Deb Blickenstaff

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I have only received one letter from my girl in ET this year.  I had to put in an inquiry for that letter.  It has been 5 months sense I received the letter.  I definitely continue to send her letters often.  Even thought I do not receive letters, I am hoping that she is getting my letters and know that I care about her.
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Emily

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Deb, I see that you and your husband are wonderful letter writers to all of your children. Please accept my personal thanks for investing so much time into their lives. We appreciate your commitment to writing Birtukan despite her lack of communicating her appreciation to you for your letters. I assure you that she receives everything you send to her and it is making a difference! We are grateful that you take the time to feed love into her life. We are praying that once we update our database in the coming years, we will have more electronic capabilities to enhance and improve our letter writing system even further. 

I am hoping that there is a letter in process and you receive it soon but if you do not receive another letter from Birtukan in September, please let us know. At that point, we will contact our staff in that particular project and ask them to work with the children and tutors to improve their letters. We can research further if there is any particular reason for the lack of correspondence and make sure Birtukan specifically, is doing alright. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we try to improve our letter process and make it easier and a blessing on both ends of the letter!
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Philippa Dennis

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Hi Emily, my child's ID number is ET1560014. It is not so much the content that concerns me as the frequency. I had thought that perhaps she just didn't like to write too much, but it seems as though there is an issue with Ethiopia overall. Is there any way this can be addressed? I know that the letters are for the child's benefit not the sponsors, but I am sure the children would also benefit from a more fluid letter writing process. Even with the initial delay, if letters are being sent regularly, they should start arriving regularly as has been other peoples' experience- except in Ethiopia it seems. I would love to get to know my sponsor child a bit better! Right now I am waiting for a response as I sent a family gift in April, but a letter sent before the gift was received would be great too. Thanks for help, I think that you can't find my account because I am on the Australian site - I can't log in from the 'our compassion' part either.
Philippa
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Emily

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Philippa, thank you so much for clarifying that you are sponsoring through our Australia office. That definitely makes sense now why I was unable to locate your account. I understand that the time between letters is frustrating and we are working to improve this process as we value the relationship between you and your child. We are extremely grateful that our sponsor's care so deeply for the children in our projects and want to get to know them personally and intimately, as this is the type of relationship that builds a child's self worth and gives them hope. We know it seems as if sponsor's supporting children from Ethiopia in particular are having a difficult time with letters, but I want to assure you that they have the same processes for writing letters as children in our other countries. Because of this, we have to respond to these situations case by case as we have different staff in each project and provide further training for projects and tutors, individually. 

I want to encourage you that if you sent a gift in April, that means she would have received it at the end of June - beginning of July, depending on the date you sent it. She would then have about a month to use the gift and then write her thank you letter to you. This letter may be in processing and I hope that you receive it very soon! :) If you do not receive it by October, Our Compassion Australia office would be happy to send an inquiry for you to our field staff in your child's project to ensure she received it. Because you sponsor your girl through Compassion Australia, I regrettably do not have access to your sponsorship and you will need to communicate this situation directly to them as they handle your sponsorship through their system and processes. You may email them at compassion@compassion.com.au and I know they will be happy to assist you. You may also visit their website at www.compassion.com.au. We appreciate and value your feedback and for communicating these situations to us! Thank you for your grace and patience with us as we work to improve these processes and update our systems. 
(Edited)
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hawkeye

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"We know it seems as if sponsor's supporting children from Ethiopia in particular are having a difficult time with letters, but I want to assure you that they have the same processes for writing letters as children in our other countries. "

While I fully believe that this is Compassion's goal, and probably is true on paper, this isn't the reality that most sponsors experience when sponsoring from ET. Of all the people who I know that sponsor from ET (including my sister), I've seen only one person satisfied. My sister hears from her child less than once per year. Repeated inquiries and phone calls from her have only resulted in "oh, that's just how the children write." She's since quit asking. She's lucky if she hears from him every 8 months and when she does, they are form letters with one word answers. Several letters have been exact duplicates, and no gifts have ever been acknowledged. 

The thing is, this isn't an isolated incident. My experience has been that new sponsors who sponsor from ET will soon drop the child and stop sponsoring altogether. This puts the advocate in a really tough position. If I encourage new sponsors to take kids from ET, the chances are they will drop the children and not sponsor again. Thus Compassion loses potentially faithful sponsors for other children in the future. But, kids in ET really need loving sponsors. I've said this previously, and I'll continue to say it, Compassion really needs to address this issue with ET as a country. The bottom line is, it's hurting the children.
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Shelley

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I'm about to put in an inquiry for my child in Ethiopia because next month marks another six months with no letter. I had to put in an inquiry to get a letter in February, too. I emailed CI about this a couple of months ago, with screenshots of a conversation between a group of sponsors who have all had the same experience, and it's heartbreaking to hear that nothing can be done about this. I've been corresponding with my girl from ET for 2 and a half years, and I know next to nothing about her. The response I got was to write to her and ask her to write more, but it seems that her project won't facilitate this. Out of love, and out of a desire to get to know these kids, we ask of you to please look into this.
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Philippa Dennis

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Emily, thanks for your response but while I understand that you cannot address my situation specifically as I am with another office I have to agree with the comments above. What Hawkeye has said is true - as a new sponsor I thought that it was the norm to not recieve replies. I think that this could result in some people dropping their sponsorship as it was not what they expected from Compassion. As for me, I have made a commitment to Zebiba so I will continue with my sponsorship, but I have to admit I do feel a little like I have 'missed out' on the opportunity to develop a relationship with my sponsor child.
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KristenH, Champion

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Hawkeye brings up a really good point from the advocate view as well. I have been going back and forth about becoming an advocate for the past couple of years (yes I'm indecisive lol) and I always come back to this problem in ET.  If Compassion said children only need to write 2 times a year regardless of how often you write I would expect only 2 letters a year. But I would expect those two letters. The problem is that we have a letter writing system and ET does not even meet the bare minimum of the two letters a year, let alone the up to six reciprocal letters a year. That is where I have a problem, and where it makes it hard to advocate.

It saddens me that in the three years I've been sponsoring there has been no improvement with the letter writing side of things in ET. My correspondent that I received in 2011 was from ET and when his sponsor dropped him not too long ago I did not pick up the sponsorship. This is the first time I've not picked up a sponsorship when I've lost a correspondence child. This issue we're discussing here was a major deciding factor when discussing with my husband whether or not to add another sponsorship or not to our already stretched budget.

It was a non decision for me with my other correspondent kids. Why? Because I had developed a relationship with them. For instance, I know my boy in Kenya lives alone with his grandma and feels alone in this world because his parents abandoned him. I know he fears being abandoned again. I know he is intelligent and has big dreams and with someone to cheer him on he may one day realize those dreams.
I know his best friends name, his favorite food, his favorite class and even his goats names.
I know what he did on his birthday last year and what he is studying in school. And I know all these things through the letters he sends. 
Letting him go when his financial sponsor dropped him would have been like letting go of one of my own children. It was not an option.

When my ET child lost his sponsor 2.5 years after I started corresponding with him I sat down and tried to think of ONE thing I knew about him and I couldn't think of anything. In my opinion, that's sad.
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tkc4419

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I write faithfully each month to my child in ET, and I get two letters per year.  I have called Compassion and questioned this, and no changes have occurred.  One young lady told me she would look into it, but I am still not getting regular letters despite my consistent writing.  I have had this child for 4 years and still feel like I don't know him at all.  I honestly don't know why Compassion won't back up their promise to get us letters every two months and refuses to address this problem.  Compassion is wonderful in many ways, and I love sponsoring with them, but they are completely failing in the letters from ET.  My child attends ET152.
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Emily

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Hello everyone! I want to bring as much clarification as possible to this situation because we value your insight as sponsors who have such a strong desire to build relationships with your sponsored children. Letter writing is very near and dear to our hearts at Compassion because we know the impact it has on each child. 

Hawkeye is absolutely right. A process can be written on paper but if it is not implemented and followed in reality, we may have some integrity concerns. 

As you already know, our policy says that each child is required to write twice a year if they do not receive consistent letters but their a sponsor writes frequently (as I know you all do), the child is required to reply to each letter for up to six letters per
year. 

After we received your feedback on OurCompassion about lack of correspondence from Ethiopia last November, we contacted our department that communicates with our centers directly and oversees our centers in various parts of the world, including Ethiopia. We wanted to see if this was an issue that needed to be addressed to the country as a whole, but we found that this issue is only related to specific projects. Because of this we have decided to address these issues as they come up, and not on a widespread global scale. As sponsor’s, you are on the front lines in communication with your child and have the opportunity to reach out to us when things seem to be off or not going as they should be.

We certainly do not want this situation be ignored nor are we not keeping Ethiopia accountable in regards to communication and letter writing, which is why I want to make sure we are all on the same page with how these circumstances are being handled and addressed.

I understand how frustrating it is to have to send an inquiry once much less, multiple times for the same child with concerns about letter writing. But because this is not a country wide issue and is only with specific projects, we unfortunately cannot address it as such and need to take it on a case by case basis. We are happy to take your inquiries personally through this web page or you are welcome to email us at socialmedia@compassion.com whenever a concern comes up with your child’s letters. This will reduce the amount of hands that touch your account so that we can ensure you are receiving clear, accurate, and efficient information about your child in a timely manner.

TKC4419, I am so sorry that you feel your situation has not been taken seriously by us or feel that it is being avoided. After reviewing your account, I cannot express to you how grateful I am for the time you take to write each child as often as you do and the energy you put into making each one feel loved and special. I see that you have a couple children in Ethiopia but it looks like Yeabsira may be the specific child you are mentioning (please correct me if I am wrong). I definitely agree that you have been more than patient for four years in waiting for things to improve in your child’s letters and this needs to be addressed. I want to handle this personally for you so that this communication gets through the correct channels and we resolve this at the project level. I will contact our field staff and make sure your child is doing okay, but more importantly I want to inquire further about how this specific project has been handling letters with your child and if there is a reason that your child is not writing you more frequently.
(Edited)
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tkc4419

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Thank you Emily.  I'm glad you realize I truly do cherish each one of my Compassion kids.  I sincerely WANT to know Yeabsira and have a relationship with him. Please contact me directly when you figure out what's been going on.  I appreciate your help!
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JanC

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I have had 4 separate correspondents in Ethiopia - 4 different centers - and have written them at least once/month, often more, and never gotten more than 2 letters during the years I have had them (started in 2010), except one child sent photos of herself with a gift and I received a thank you.  (She wasn't the only one receiving a gift, but the only one from whom I received a special letter/photo.)  So, there seem to be more than just a few projects with problems...  My project numbers are ET204, ET207, ET 325, and ET534.  Please check on these things for us.  I also am an advocate and really don't recommend ET children for the people who want relationships with their kids... BUT I know the kids ache for such and deserve such!
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Susan

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Hello everyone,

I understand that when you all hear from each other, and you are all having issues with Ethiopia in regards to lack of correspondence, it sounds like there is quite a large problem in Ethiopia. However, just to give a little perspective, Compassion has 970 centers in Ethiopia alone. Each of those centers serves hundreds of very needy children. In this conversation, we are talking about less than 100 children who are struggling with correspondence. I'm not saying that there is not a problem with particular children, staff, and centers in Ethiopia, but it is important to keep things in perspective. Quite frankly, it breaks my heart as an advocate for children (this is my number one job title) when I hear you all say that you will not advocate for children from Ethiopia because a few of you have had trouble with correspondence there. 

That said, I know that it can be frustrating and disappointing to continue writing to a child when you feel that you are not getting much back and I am happy to address each of your issues individually. Just to be clear, I am currently sending inquiries for sponsors who:
  • write their children regularly (six or more letters a year)
  • receive only two letters a year from their child or a letter every six months
  • have sponsored/corresponded with that particular child for at least two years (to give the child a chance to catch up to your frequency of writing and respond to everything you have written)
If you feel that you have a child who matches this criteria, please email me at socialmedia@compassion.com. Also, please note that this is something special that Emily and I have gotten special approval to do. If this sounds different from our usual procedures in regards to inquiries that would be why. We don't normally do this.  

JanC, I noticed that only one of the four children you sponsor in Ethiopia has been sponsored for more than a year. I would kindly ask that you please give your children a chance to catch up to writing more frequently. If this continues for another year or so, please contact Emily or I and we will address it at that time. I am sending an inquiry now for Lidya since you have had her for two years. 
(Edited)
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JanC

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Susan, thank you very much for checking into this. This past week-end I worked at a very large event, and I also had several people come up to me over the 2 days to ask about why their child from ET had not been writing.  They had become quite discouraged.  The problem does seem to extend beyond the notes that you see on here. So, yes, it is quite difficult to advocate for ET, especially among friends or those who you will see often and you want a high success for the relationship.  I don't discourage people from choosing an ET packet, by any means.  Those children need sponsors just like any other child.  But if the new sponsor indicates that they plan to write often and asks my advice on a country, I do not direct them toward a country whose letters come seldom despite a sustained effort by the writer.  There are other equally needy children whose country office, by my experience and those I know, is making certain that they send sufficient letters. I think that we are losing sponsors along the way and the ones we are losing would be the ones dedicated enough to probably sponsor more than one child...  I will have the frustrated ones I know and meet contact you via email.

I am thankful that you are checking on this.  One of my 4 children has now graduated after my corresponding with him for over 3 years, so he wouldn't have shown as being for over a year.  Part of that was prior to the conversion to the "up to 6 times/year".  Only one of the others, Lidya, has been on my "roll" for over 2 years, as you mentioned, but the other 2 were on my account since March 2013 and August 2013.  I will be glad to be patient and will pray that your efforts are successful!  :)  We really would like to know these children or we wouldn't be so frustrated. 
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Philippa Dennis

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I have been reading other people's comments about their sponsorship experiences with interest. It seems that most people do enjoy developing a relationship with their sponsor child through regular correspondence. While that may not happen for me with Zebiba ( I will, of course, keep trying) I would like to become a correspondence sponsor for a child who does not receive letters. Is is possible for me to be added to the waiting list at the American office? I have emailed the Australian office and asked to be put on the list there too.
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Emily

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Good morning Philippa,

Thank you for your interest in writing to another child! Please email us at socialmedia@compassion.com with your full contact information so that I am able to create a USA account for you. In your email, let me know if you have any specific preferences for gender, country, or age of a child you wish to write and I will be happy to place you on the waiting list at that time. 
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Philippa Dennis

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Thanks Emily. I have sent you an email.
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Karen

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I'm wondering if there are any issues on the other side of this problem.  Is Compassion sure the letters are being translated and delivered to the children in a timely and efficient manner?  Is there a way to check the other side of this to make sure the kids are really getting all of the letters sent to them?  I think just knowing that would put my mind at ease somewhat if I were sponsoring a child from one of these projects.  
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Susan

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Hi Karen! We so appreciate your feedback on this issue! I know that you don't necessarily sponsor in Ethiopia but we appreciate your two cents anyway! ;) 

Each letter goes through an intricate process on its way to and from your child. We are aware that there can be some improvements to our current system and we are working to implement them. For example, it currently takes two to three months for the letters to be delivered. This time frame will be cut down dramatically when our systems are upgraded over the next few years. 

Regrettably, since we have over 1.4 million children, thousands of student centers, and thousands of letters that are processed in our USA office each day, it is not possible to do a widespread investigation into all the letters and translations. We can definitely look into specific issues though. If you have a specific concern about your child's letters and translations, please let us know and we would be happy to investigate for you.

Our translators are located on the ground in your child's country and they know English as a foreign language. This means that while overall the translation is exemplary, sometimes there are challenges in translating thoroughly and correctly. We do track all of the letters that are sent back and forth and we can tell you for certain that your child received each one. If you have a concern about a particular letter, please let us know as we would be happy to look into it.  

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