Nov 18 2009

What do I say? How to write your sponsored friend

“I feel very good when I get a letter. I feel I am being loved very much. It makes me want to write lots of letters to my sponsor.” – Sesilia, 9, Tanzania

Sesilia expresses what all sponsored friends feel about receiving letters from their sponsors. A letter from you is a symbol of love and represents the human connection in the relationship. Exchanging letters is a way for you build that relationship.

(Update: You now have the option to send an eLetter once you’re logged in to your online sponsorship account!)

If you haven’t written your friend because you don’t know what to say, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Our goal is to help you compose a letter step-by-step using as an example a letter written by a sponsor to her friend in Venezuela.

Step 1: The opening
How do you start? This is usually the toughest part of the letter. Start by greeting your friend and asking about the family. Then, follow up with something your friend mentioned in a previous letter as Sheila has done here. Did he take a test? Is a family member ill? Did she have a birthday? The opening is the place to touch base about important events your friend has talked about.

Step 2: The body
Now that you’ve opened the letter, share what’s going on in your household. Sheila mentions Halloween and the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sponsored friends love hearing about holiday customs. Or, share something about yourself. Describe a pet. Talk about your favorite sport. Tell your friend about your children, their ages and grades in school. The words will flow once you start writing about something important to you.

Step 3: The closing
In your closing paragraph, give your friend encouragement. Sheila simply closed her letter by wishing Edinson and his family a happy New Year. Tell your friend you think about him and pray for him and his family. Then, sign off.

Congratulations! The hard part is done. You can include a photo of yourself and your family with your letter. Sponsored friends love getting pictures.

Mailing your letter
Follow the instructions provided with the pre-printed mailing labels you received from Unbound. Send your letter via international airmail, unless it is sent to a U.S. mailing address. Check postage rates at the U.S. Postal Service Web site,

We have more suggestions about letter writing here.

Was this helpful? Do you have any questions for us regarding letter writing? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.

20 thoughts on “What do I say? How to write your sponsored friend”

  1. Dear Rosa: Thank you for your letter. Am glad that you are enjoying your studies. How long do you have to go before you graduare? In the past I have had dogs. A cocker spaniel and a german shephard. The apartment I live in does not allow pets of any kind except birds in a cage which I am not too fond of. To answer some of your questions : My favorite color is blue, favorite meal is pork roast, Am allergic to chicken. We are finally getting warm weather but rainey. My two sons have left for the weekend holiday Will come back in four days. I don’t do much travelling these days. I used to go up north every month. It is 250 miles to our place up north. Hope you and your family continue to have good health. Thats all for now.

  2. I just signed up for sponsoring a child tonight at Mass….My child is the second oldest of four children ~ the eldest is 11 y.o. I don’t know how it is one child of four sibs is chosen ~ ? Meaning that all the children in the family under one roof have almost identical needs ~ they are poor. It’s odd to single out my little sweetheart with letters and gifts ~ when her sisters and brothers are all a couple years younger or older ~ and equally deserving as are the parents. When I write my initial letter is it before or after receiving their first letter? Do I ask how her siblings are doing by name? Are edible candy-gum type gifts ever appropriate? When I send her a special small gift ~ do I also include in the package gifts or treats for the others in the home? Just curious how to handle a brood of four so that when gifting my ‘one’ child – sibling rivalry doesn’t get spurred …. Also don’t wish to forget the mom and dad! I want her to feel special and chosen (she is and was…) but also care for each family members feelings…I’ve sponsored before but this wasn’t an issue in that household makeup….thx!

    1. Hi Susan,
      congrats on your new sponsored friend!…I also signed up for spondorship at Mass. the hard part was picking one, because there were so many in need of help, but a little girls face from Guatemaula jumped out at me and that must have been a sign.
      Like your child, mine also have many siblings.
      I worte my first letter before I received my childs letter, intorducing myself, where I live, what kind of work I do, my family and hobbies.
      As far as gifts go…I don’t typically send them for the whole family.
      And I keep them very simple…art supplies, small childrends books ( in Spanish) Barnes and Noble have these. I have sent light clothing like t-shirts or summer dresses. I never send parishable things like candy or food…because i never know if her parents want her to have it. Although no gifts are necessary because they will feel like your letters are gifts, just knowing that someone loves them and feels proud to sponsor them is a gift in itself.
      Good luck and God Bless you for helping.
      Nancy Maria

      1. Thank you Nancy Maria! It just dawned on me another reason why letters are so important ~ and that is that it keeps both of you on the same page….Meaning that the only gift the sponsored child will be able to give ~ is a letter ~ and if I send gifts on a regular basis they could feel odd about it. If I stick to letters then we each are doing the same kind of giving. The idea of childrens books in Spanish is fantastic ~ because everyone in the household can read those ~ something that can be shared by all — so I may have to indulge myself in purchasing those for sending on. She has one sister 2 years older so I bet she gets hand me downs – a “new” item just for her like the dress or T-shirt might be a good fit too. The youngest sibs are boys. I’m so excited about this opportunity ~ I may cancel cable TV to afford another one in need!


  3. I know I would write more often if I could sit down at the computer, open my account, include my sponsored friend’s ID # and send an e-mail. I know the sub projects have computers to receive and print these letters and they would receive them in real time. This is the way of modern communication. Please consider working towards this goal.
    Thank you
    Patricia Lavender

    1. Patricia,

      Thank you for your suggestion and your honesty. We can certainly understand your frustration. In an age of instant communication, writing and receiving letters can seem archaic.

      We are in the process of addressing potential ways to shorten the amount of time it takes for mail to travel between sponsors and their sponsored friends. We are also looking at how we might facilitate online submission of letters from sponsors to their sponsored friends that would comply with our privacy and communication policies. Because of our privacy policy, we cannot facilitate direct email communication between sponsors and sponsored friends.

      Until that time, however, all correspondence between sponsors and their sponsored friends needs to travel via regular mail.

      Thank you once again for your suggestion and for your patience with us as we continue to look at ways we can better facilitate communications between sponsors and their sponsored friends.

      Sponsor Services

  4. Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions.
    I have sponsored a child for about 4 years, she is 8 years old and loves school, family events and holidays.
    One thing that I found very helpful in letters is to ask about family, activites, what they do at school, church and traditions they have during holidays, like what they bake and how they decorate and gifts they give to one another, what sports they like to watch or play.
    Just to name a few. I usually stick to one topic per letter and keep it simple. My sponsored child usually designes her own art work on her letters, so I always comment how nice they look and what a good artist she is. Also letting them know how proud you are of them for working so hard in school is a special way to show your love and consern.

  5. I have one other suggestion: check the news for the country where your sponsored child lives before sending the letter. I sponsor a child in the Phillipines and was sending off a Christmas card this morning. Immediately after sending off a cheery and upbeat Christmas card, I heard the Phillipines mentioned on the radio news. They’ve been in martial law for the last few days/weeks and they had outbreaks of violence. Hearing this news made me feel bad for writing such an upbeat letter when the people in their country are probably feeling scared and uncertain. Next time, I’ll check the news before writing my letter…..

  6. Thanks for the suggestions especially about offering masses, and reminding the children that we contribute to birthdays and Christmas.

    if we know there are siblings, or even if not, is it acceptable to mail small gifts to the other children in the familty?

    1. Hi Shirley,

      Thanks for your comment! It is fine to include extra little gifts for your sponsored friend’s siblings or family members. I recommend including a note with the items to let your friend know that it is all right to share them.

      Sponsor Services

  7. Another idea that I have found quite nice and unexpensive, specially during the holidays or a birthdays, is to send those recordable cards that you may find at any grosery store. They allow you to record a 10 second personalized message that it’s usually followed by a nice song or tune. This is a very nice way to send a piece of you to your child who will be able to hear your voice thousands of miles from here!

  8. Thanks for the helpful hints. Most of these I have gradually figured out since I have been a sponsor since 1989. I think that short letters are much better than what I use to send.
    I quit sending gifts when air mail postage sky-rocketed. I always remind my child that I contribute to the Christmas and birthday funds so they will have a gift. I also enroll my child and his family in Masses for the entire next year with his Christmas card.
    Thank you for making this service available to me and others–one of the many ways we can help take care of Jesus’ children.
    God bless.

    1. Joan,
      I agree, the cost of sending small gifts is quite high. I still like to do it whenever I can, though. I just look for small items that can fit into the 9×12 enevelopes. A little packet of lip balms and a necklace in a narrow gift box that fit perfectly into a padded envelope made a nice inexpensive gift for our sponsored child. I do like your idea of reminding your sponsored child that you contribute to the Christmas and birthday funds. I also like the idea of having Masses said for them and their families. This is a good place to share ideas!

  9. I didn’t really find the suggestions helpful. I try to write letters as is suggested, but it seems fruitless to write about current happenings or refer to something the child has written because so much time passes between when they wrote it and when we receive it and vice versa. It can be six months or more to receive a letter from Guatemala. Whatever season or event took place is now irrelevant. I always include something that will transmit my love, but honestly, I am discouraged from writing a lot because it seems we can’t stay with a topic due to the time delay.

    1. Vee,

      First, thank you for taking the time to write to your friend. We do understand that the length of time that passes between letters can sometimes make it difficult for the letters to be conversational with your sponsored friends. This is due to many factors, such as the distance between the project office and where your friend lives, translating the letters and mail volume, just to name a few of the possible reasons. We work constantly to improve the quality and timeliness of the letters.

      Even if it is difficult to keep a conversation going through your letters, we hope that you will continue writing to your sponsored friend, because your words of encouragement and support really do mean very much.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      Sponsor Services

  10. Since we have to send Christmas letters out so much earlier, this would have been more helpful in October.

    I’d like to know how far in advance you need to mail something to


    1. Dear Evelyn,

      Thanks for your feedback. That’s a great suggestion. In response to your question, for all our projects, we recommend allowing at least eight weeks for correspondence to reach your sponsored friend, although around the holiday season it can take 12 weeks or longer for the project to process the large volume of letters sponsors send. Even if your mail arrives later than you anticipate, it will always be a joy for your friend to hear from you!

      ~ Ashley
      Sponsor Services

  11. Very helpful, especially since I sponsor an elderly person. I would also appreciate suggestions for small gifts. I have sent 2 gifts that were never acknowledged and I am almost sure they were stolen before they even made it to my friend.

    1. Dear Cynthia,

      Gloves, plastic rain ponchos, hand or dish towels, canvas bags, sewing or first aid kits, and small calendars are just a few ideas of things you can send to your aging sponsored friend. Please remember that whatever you send must fit in an envelope no larger than 9 x 12 inches, no thicker than one inch and no heavier than one pound.

      You may also find some helpful information and tips about sending gifts here.

      Thanks for writing to your sponsored friend!

      ~ Ashley
      Sponsor Services

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