Blog reader Carol commented and asked:
My husband and I sponsor a 14 year old girl in Guatemala. We always wrack our brains trying to find things to send her but the rules are so restrictive (no money, certain size package under a pound, etc, etc). It seems silly to send jewelry, which we usually resort to, when they may desperately need blankets. We ask in our letters “what do you need” but we don’t get an answer. How can you help us?
We thought that most of our sponsors are probably interested in this answer, so here it is, from Sponsor Services representative, Claudia.
Your letters and photos are the best gifts you could send
I know it sounds too easy, but we hear from our project staff time and time again that letters are really what the sponsored children and aging want the most.
Many gifts sponsors send are confusing to the families and children
Itís fun to pick out gifts, but customs are very different in the countries where CFCA works. We have heard from project staff, such as Father Mathew Vettukallel in Bhagalpur, India, that the children may receive items from the sponsor that they have no idea what to do with. Even though stickers and other doodads are something we see in our everyday lives, these items are often unfamiliar to sponsored friends, so they spend time inspecting the envelope that the items arrived in to see the stamps and the handwriting of the sponsor instead.
Gifts that you send could be at risk for being stolen
Mail is at a constant threat of being tampered with, especially once it leaves the United States. Packages sent internationally attract attention from thieves not only in transit within the local post offices, but also while being delivered by project staff. Some staff members have put their lives on the line during robberies to save precious letters they were delivering to the subproject offices. Although it is not a pleasant thought, receiving something that even just gives the appearance of value could put your friend at risk of having the item stolen by force.
Gift items can be difficult for the project staff to handle
Postal services are different all over the world. Picking up packages from the post office can be quite a challenge for our project staff.
In Kenya, the staff has reported that sometimes it can take three to four hours to clear one parcel through customs. Imagine how much time would be spent at the post office if they had to pick up one package for every sponsored person in Kenya. There are more than 15,000 children and aging individuals sponsored there right now!
This season, try sending a special letter to your friend instead of a gift
It seems clichÈ, but truly, it is the thought that counts. When our staff visit sponsored friendsí homes, the first things they are shown by those sponsored are pictures and letters from their sponsors. When I visited the Dominican Republic on a mission awareness trip in 2007, I had the same experience. Many homes were adorned with pictures and letters sent by the sponsor.
Sending a letter has the best chance of arriving safely and is less draining on the limited project staff than packages. You donít have to worry about finding an item that will fit into the right sized package, or choosing a shirt that is the right size. You canít go wrong with a letter, even if you just say, ìIím praying for you and your family this Christmas!† With love, Your Sponsor.î (Or in Spanish: Les rezo para ti y tu familia esta Navidad. Con cariÒo, Su Padrino/a.) Read helpful writing tips.
You also always have the option of donating to the CFCA Christmas fund. The children enjoy the gifts and parties that are made possible by donations to this fund. One hundred percent of the donation goes to CFCA projects, which use this fund to provide gifts and a celebration for the entire community of sponsored members.
Thank you for all you do as a sponsor! Your support and encouragement is a great gift in your sponsored friend’s life!