Unbound staff member writing a letter.
Dec 21 2016

An encouraging word

Why letters matter to sponsored friends

Unbound employee Loretta writes a letter to her sponsored friend.

Loretta Shea Kline, a sponsor and Unbound managing editor, writes a letter to her friend, Dinesh, in India.


By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor at Unbound

I write for a living and know the hardest part of writing anything— this blog post, a story for our Living Unbound magazine or a letter to my sponsored friend — is getting started.

We tell sponsors all the time that writing to their sponsored friends is easy. While tools such as mailing labels and eLetters make the process of sending a letter easier, crafting words to go on the paper or screen is never easy.

It works best for me if I sit down to write my friend immediately after receiving a letter, when the inspiration is fresh. That’s not always possible, though, and sometimes I put it off.

In a piece aimed at getting sponsors to write, it might seem like a nonstarter to say that writing letters is hard. But here’s what I hope readers will take away: Though it’s hard, it’s worth it.

My experiences as a sponsor have shown me why letters matter.

With my first sponsored child, David in Guatemala, I wrote about the importance of working hard in school.

David was 7 when I sponsored him, and he wrote to me about school, his family and friends, and things he liked to do for fun. Later he wrote me about his interest in auto mechanics.

I sponsored David until he left school and the sponsorship program at age 15 to become an apprentice in an auto repair shop. I’ll never forget what he said in his farewell letter. He wrote, “You know I love the auto mechanics.”

There was a lot in that simple statement. It was his way of telling me, I think, that while he was no longer pursuing academic education, he was learning about something he was passionate about. The implicit message was that he’d made the right choice for him, and that he hoped I was OK with it. After all, I knew he loved auto mechanics!

I realized, then, that what I thought mattered to him. And it mattered because, through the years, we’d developed a relationship through letters. I’d become a mentor of sorts, like a family friend. And that meant a lot to him, and to me.

I realized, then, that what I thought mattered to him. And it mattered because, through the years, we’d developed a relationship through letters. I’d become a mentor of sorts, like a family friend. And that meant a lot to him, and to me.

When David left the program, I began sponsoring Dinora in Guatemala. She was 17, working in a shoe factory full time and going to high school on weekends. She wrote that it was hard for her, but that her parents wanted her to stay in school.

I replied that I was proud of her for working so hard, and that I agreed with her parents about the importance of education. In one of her letters, Dinora told me she’d been ready to quit school but changed her mind after getting a letter from me. I didn’t write that often, maybe a couple of times a year, but it mattered to her.

Now I sponsor 14-year-old Dinesh in India. He wrote recently to say he’d received my letter and photo, and that he’d keep my photo in the family album.

Help with school fees and other material benefits of sponsorship are critical, but so are letters. Your words as a sponsor, mentor and family friend have the power to encourage a child to do his or her best despite significant obstacles.

Remembering that just might help the words flow a little easier next time you start a letter.

Ready to write your sponsored friend? Check out our eLetter tool.

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