This stack of letters was written by Kansas City-area middle school students to Unbound sponsored youth waiting for new sponsors.
Jul 17 2015

Sending notes of encouragement

Letter writing is an important aspect of Unbound’s sponsorship program. Not only do we require sponsored members to write at least two letters a year to their sponsors, we encourage sponsors to write back. We frequently hear from sponsored members how much getting letters from their sponsors means to them. Sometimes those letters have the ability to change lives.

But when sponsored friends are between sponsors, they don’t have anyone to write to or receive letters from. When sponsors must discontinue their support, their sponsored friends continue to participate in the program and receive assistance while Unbound tries to find new sponsors for them.

Currently, we have more than 5,000 children, youth and elders waiting for new sponsors. Some of them have only been waiting a couple of months, while others have been waiting a couple of years. They’re missing out on a huge part of the Unbound program experience.

That’s why Unbound is piloting a new initiative with our offices in Trichy, India, and Kampala, Uganda. The initiative gives visitors to the Unbound headquarters in Kansas City a chance to write notes of encouragement to sponsored members in India and Uganda who are waiting for new sponsors. Recently, some of our staff also had the opportunity to take the initiative to summer school students at a Kansas City middle school.

“What the sponsored members in our Unbound program are doing is not easy,” said Barclay Martin, a member of Unbound’s U.S. outreach team who’s helping pilot the new program. “They’re striving for a life with more opportunity, to be empowered to make their own choices and to move forward on their own terms in the face of deep challenges.”

The project gives young people in the U.S. opportunities to offer words of support through the simple act of writing a note.

“We all need encouragement in life,” Barclay said, “and for young people here, it is a beautiful opportunity to expand their own world by looking into the world of another.

“For the recipients of a note of encouragement, the simple, loving act of reaching out with a kind word helps a striving student or an elder know that someone has taken the time to know them, and to respond to the realities of their life. We all want to be understood, and this simple act can bring goodness to the lives of people on both sides.”

Some of the notes written by the middle school students revealed just how big an impact the project could have. One writer, Sarah, gained a new perspective on her own life from learning more about a young woman from India.

In her note, middle school student Sarah writes about learning to be grateful that she can "just walk into the kitchen" to get a glass of water when "you have to go fetch water from a pump."

In her note, middle school student Sarah writes about learning to be grateful that she can “just walk into the kitchen” to get a glass of water when “you have to go fetch water from a pump.”

For another student, Adela, reading the profile of someone living in poverty showed her just how much they had in common, like their love of math.

Middle school student Adela notes that the girls have so much it common it "seems like we're twins."

Middle school student Adela notes that the girls have so much it common it “seems like we’re twins.”

Jessica Leader-Kirk was one of the Unbound staff members who helped organize the letter-writing activity at the middle school. She was impressed by the depth of character she saw in the notes written by the middle school students.

“Working with these kids was a heartwarming experience,” Jessica said. “I can remember middle school being the hardest time in my life. There were so many changes happening and I was trying to find myself. For kids that age to express the beautiful sentiments that came out in their letters is amazing.”

Plans are to continue to offer visitors to our headquarters the chance to write notes of encouragement, and to possibly expand the project to other schools, youth groups and organizations.

“In practical terms, this message gets to the heart of our program,” Barclay said. “Unbound is not simply a vehicle for the distribution of benefits, but it is a movement of compassionate people who have seen the transformational power of human connection.

“Reaching out with a simple word of encouragement has the power to recognize our shared humanity. It brings forth the courage to reach beyond borders, both seen and unseen, to see ourselves as fellow travelers along this human journey.”

Send your own note of encouragement to your sponsored friend today.

Jordan Kimbrell

Jordan Kimbrell, writer/editor
Jordan joined the Unbound family in 2011, just a few weeks after completing her masters in English: Creative Writing from Kansas State University. Jordan is constantly inspired by the hope and creativity displayed by the sponsored members and their families and loves being able to share their stories with the rest of the world.

5 thoughts on “Sending notes of encouragement”

  1. I’ve written 3 times to a little girl I sponsor in Trichy and only received a reply to my 1st letter. Since we are limited to 5 or 6 letters per year,I am waiting for a response before I write again.

    1. John, thank you for taking the time to write to your sponsored friend! While your eLetter is sent by email, it still needs to be printed, translated and delivered to your sponsored friend, which can be a timely process. In addition, it can take some time for her to respond. After her letter is written, it is then translated and sent to our office in Kansas where it is processed and then mailed to you. While waiting for a response from your sponsored friend, consider sending a photo of you, your family or a postcard from your hometown through the regular mail. Letters and photos sent through the U.S. Postal Service do not count in your six eLetter limit.

      Thanks so much,
      Christina Panagakos, Sponsor Services Phone Team Manager

      1. Yes,thanks.I’m aware of all that is required for the process to work. In the past,I have found sending a postcard to India or nearly anywhere in SE Asia fruitless as they don’t often get through. I’ll be visiting her in February,so it was important to stay in touch.

  2. Is this something other people can participate in as well? I’m not in a financial spot to take on a sponsorship at the moment, but I would be happy to help out by sending encouraging notes to someone waiting to be sponsored.

    1. Kathy, thank you so much for your interest in writing to a child in need. Sending encouraging notes to children waiting to be sponsored is a new idea we are testing. We haven’t finalized our procedures for this idea yet and are unable to support this communication. Thank you, again, for your interest in our program. If you are unable to become a sponsor at this time, supporting us on social media and introducing Unbound to your friends and family are cost-free options that help support Unbound. Unbound is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and we would love to be your virtual friend.
      Thanks again,
      Thanks so much,
      Christina Panagakos, Sponsor Services Phone Team Manager

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