Tag: letter

Apr 2 2013

7 ways to increase cultural awareness through letter writing

CFCA sponsored child

Arbie, a CFCA sponsored child in the Philippines, writes a letter to her sponsor.

When you sponsor a child or aging friend, you open the door to another culture — your new friend’s culture. By writing to their friends, sponsors deepen this connection across cultural, geographic and economic divides.

These letter-writing ideas can help you on your journey to greater cultural awareness:

  • Find some news headlines from your sponsored friend’s country.

These can make great conversation starters. As you search for headlines, pay attention to the news article’s tone as well as the information. Is it lighthearted or somber? Does it focus on institutional matters or social concerns? See who is quoted — politicians, celebrities, government officials, etc.

Practical tip for your next letter: Set aside a few minutes each day for a week to scan some headlines from your sponsored friend’s country. Mention one or two of them and ask your friend for some context. What makes this news? Is it unusual or typical of the challenges the country may be facing?

  • Watch the weather and how you react to it.

If you come from a cold climate, you’re probably used to wearing gloves, scarves and winter coats. If your sponsored friend is from a tropical country, she or he may have a hard time relating to descriptions of winter and cold. Read more

Feb 19 2013

Did my sponsored friend receive the gift I mailed?

Ask Sponsor ServicesQ. I sent my sponsored child some gifts in the mail (using a CFCA-approved mailing package and everything), but I never received any thank-you letters from her or any acknowledgement of my gift. How do I know she received it?

A. Depending on when you sent the item, an acknowledgment letter may have crossed in the mail.

If much time has passed, however, and you still havenít heard from your friend, try sending a letter asking her to let you know if she received your gifts. Make sure you describe the items and when you mailed them.

It’s also important to remember that cultural expectations for correspondence vary from country to country. CFCA works in many areas where oral traditions are the main way of communicating. Your friend may not have grown up with thank-you cards or other kinds of written correspondence.

Read the answer to a related Ask Sponsor Services question: Why do my child’s letters sound so impersonal?

A good tip when sending a gift to your friend: Include a note asking her to write you and let you know if she received your gift.

And remember, by following CFCA’s mailing guidelines, you lower the risk of the item becoming lost or stolen in the mail.

For some small gift ideas, check out 18 small gift ideas to send to your sponsored friend.

Nov 27 2012

Send an online photo to your sponsored child, aging friend

Shanxi Omoniyi, CFCA online content managerBy Shanxi Omoniyi, CFCA online content manager

We keep hearing wonderful stories from those of you who have logged into your online sponsorship account and used our eLetter feature to send an online letter to your sponsored friend.

One of the most frequently asked questions we have received since launching the eLetters in 2011 is “When can we send a photo with these?”

The answer is: Right now!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to sending your next eLetter with a photo attached:

If this is your first time logging in, you’ll need to register your account first. See our step-by-step guide here.

Your†screen should look something like this (I’ve grayed out my sponsored child Victor’s middle and last names for privacy reasons):

Online photo with CFCA eLetter

If you have more than one sponsored child, you can use our dropdown menu to select the one you’ll write to first. Read more

Sep 11 2012

Why does my sponsored child send me hand-drawn pictures in letters?

Ask Sponsor ServicesQ. Why does my sponsored child send me hand-drawn pictures in letters?

A. Many of our projects hold letter-writing camps, where sponsored children and youth come together to write letters to their sponsors.

All sponsored friends must write a minimum of two letters a year. Young children who cannot yet read or write can color on letters or draw pictures. These drawings are then paired with letters to sponsors, which may be written by a parent, older sibling or staff member. Read more

Sep 5 2012

Why do my sponsored child’s letters sound so impersonal?

Ask Sponsor ServicesQ. I am a new sponsor and was excited to write my sponsored child, but I was a little disappointed when I received her letter. It sounded very impersonal and did not answer some of the questions I had asked her in my own letter. How do I even know she wrote it and not someone else?

A. Many cultural expectations that we place upon letters vary from country to country. In some cases, this may be the first letter a sponsored child has been asked to write. Your friend may not have grown up with thank-you cards or any form of written correspondence.

Letter writing can be an especially difficult concept for children who come from a strong oral tradition. In Kenya, for instance, CFCA staffers say sponsored children sometimes view letter writing as some sort of exam. Read more

Jul 21 2011

Five ways to ‘visit’ your sponsored friend, part 4

We’re in the middle of a series, “Five ways to ‘visit’ your sponsored friend” that don’t involve an actual mission awareness trip!

Cinthya, sponsored through CFCA

Cinthya, a CFCA sponsored child in Nicaragua, writes a letter to her sponsor.

So far we have three ways:

1) Cook a meal native to your friend’s ethnic cuisine,
2) Do something your friend likes doing, and
3) Research your friend’s country.

The fourth is to:

4) Write letters.

Time and time again, we hear from sponsored friends about the value and impact that your letters have in their lives.

They also love to see your pictures!

We recently featured an interview with Edras, a sponsored child in Honduras.

He said about his sponsors, “I would ask them to continue writing me because it makes me very happy, more than any gift that they would send me.”

Writers’ block? Here are some tips and tricks to help you get started:

Related links

May 18 2011

Words from your sponsored friend

By Shanxi Omoniyi, CFCA web editor and writer

There’s something magical about receiving a letter from your sponsored friends. You can see and touch the words they’ve written, providing a window into their lives as well as your own.

Sandhya and her sister, sponsored through CFCA

Sandhya, left, helps her sister write a letter to her CFCA sponsor.

We’ve collected some special quotes from those who sponsor and those who are sponsored:

  • “The reason I am writing is to thank you with all my heart for the help you sent my brother and our family for so long. It was a blessing because all that he received, thanks to your financial support, was for the benefit of our home and especially for him because your support enabled him to study medicine in the university.” (From “Brother writes letter after sponsored youth dies“)
  • “From the first time the girls ripped open an envelope from Regina, their world expanded from our small town to another place where people don’t live as we do. It was a lesson in geography, economics, philosophy, even English. Most importantly, it was a humbling lesson of humanitarianism.” (From “Regina’s gift to her sponsoring family“)
  • “The two of us have felt very proud to be able to watch you, in some sense, to grow up from a very little girl to the strong and able adult that you are now. We have been very lucky to have been able to help you in some small ways, and we would wish to have been able to do even more for someone whom we have come to love and regard as a very special granddaughter.” (From “We will meet again“)
  • “At last I’m enjoying rains in a nice house that doesn’t leak. Thanks a lot for making my life happy. Ö You are part of my life, I cherish your care.” (From “Letters + watercolors = land for a family“)
  • Finally, I couldn’t resist adding a quote from my sponsored friend, who’s too young to be writing letters yet. His mother writes for him. She told me that in Kenya, the weather was very hot. “Victor received your letter … and he was envious to hear that the weather where you are is very cold and snowing.” (Personally, I wouldn’t mind borrowing a little weather from Kenya to Kansas!)

Now it’s your turn! Can you share with us in the comments something that your sponsored friend recently wrote to you?

Apr 28 2011

Sponsor provides tips on how to write letters, part 2

Last week CFCA sponsor Cheri Duchrow shared with us some of her thoughts about writing to her five sponsored friends. She answers the rest of our questions in this blog post.

You have already met some of your friends. How does meeting them face to face enhance your correspondence?

I have met two of the children I sponsor so far and will meet Florence in August.

Meeting them can take your relationship to the next level. It is like when you watch the news and see a story that takes place where you have actually been.

Francini in Costa Rica

Francini, a child sponsored through CFCA in Costa Rica, reads a letter from her sponsor.

When you visit your child, not only do they have the affirmation that there is a real person behind the letters, but so do all of the other children. To touch and talk with a real live sponsor gives them all a gift.

One girl I sponsored had to travel on a bus for almost 24 hours one way with her mother just to meet me. Her teacher postponed a test for her whole class for three days at school so she could meet me.

Writing a letter is not even close to riding a bus one way for 24 hours. I met one of the mothers who had worked for 10 years, never taking a day of vacation until I came to meet her son.

It humbles you to see the faith and joy they have rising up out of their situations. No longer can you turn a blind eye to what really matters.

What have been the highlights of your correspondence?

Florence is one of my best letter writers. She shares the name of my mother, and that is a God story all in itself how I came to sponsor her.

But I feel she has the same spirit as my mother. At only 9 years old she wants to become a doctor so she can help others like all of the people who have helped her. She has shared scripture with me.

Two children I sponsor are being raised in a single-parent (mother only) home. I have shared with them that I raised my daughter by myself and understand what a single-parent home is like.

I have asked them to pray for me for specific situations in my life. The more often I write I am more likely to get a small gold nugget of new information and not just what they have done at Christmas or Easter!

How do you think your sponsorship experience would be if you did not write?

Read more

Apr 21 2011

Sponsor provides tips on how to write letters, part 1

CFCA sponsor Cheri Duchrow graciously shared with us some of her thoughts about writing to her five sponsored friends. She has a fascinating story, or letter-writing journey, to recount.

How difficult was it to write the first letter?

The first letter is always the easiest because you can fill it with introductory types of information.

It used to be that after the first few letters it was difficult to find new things to say. I thought I always had to have something fun and new or wait and send a photo.

But just letting them know you are thinking about them, they are beautiful creations that God loves and you are praying for them is enough.

Like so many things in my life I needed to change my view and attitude and let go of the fear. I find now that I will share ordinary things.

For instance, many places may not have grass like we do so I take a picture of my feet in the grass and then a picture of the lawn mower telling them it is not my favorite job to mow grass, but I like it better than shoveling snow. In the winter they get pictures of snow.

Then I might ask them what are some jobs that they don’t like to do and we will pray for acceptance. I know how much I long to receive one of their letters.

How often do you correspond?

I try to write the children I sponsor every month but on average I would say it is about every 6-8 weeks. To help keep track of what I have written and the questions we have shared over the years I have a little system that works.

I also find that putting my questions for them at the end of the letter helps me to get an answer more often as it is not buried in the letter.

You mentioned (see Cheri’s previous blog post) that it took a while after sponsoring before you started to write. What got you going?

Read more

Apr 14 2011

How to make CFCA letters easier to translate

Ana Carla

When it comes to letter writing, CFCA translators worldwide make an important contribution.

Translating a letter requires more than knowledge of the language. It requires an ability to convey the author’s true sentiment.

Ana Carla Agreda and Paulo Alfonso Pleitez Barrera have translated thousands of letters in El Salvador. They offer tips to make letters easier to translate and for sponsored friends to understand.

What are some challenges in translating letters from English?

Ana Carla: There are some phrases and words in some states that only the sponsors understand what they mean. I am lucky to have translators who can help me.

Paulo: Most letters arenít that difficult, but in some cases there are sponsors who use technical language or language specific to their profession such as nuclear chemistry, law and other professions.

Tips from Ana Carla and Paulo
  • Talk about the weather, your family or your daily life.
  • Encourage your friend.
  • Give context. Letters typically sent to friends and family about holidays are sometimes difficult for sponsored friends to understand, especially the events in these letters.
  • Try to avoid idiomatic phrases, such as “easy as cake” or “I died when I heard the news.”
  • Use short, simple sentences and avoid slang. Here are examples that have caused confusion: “jump the couch” as in losing control or going crazy; to “maul” someone with hugs and kisses; and using the word “kicks” to mean shoes.
  • Write legibly, print neatly or type your letter since handwriting can sometimes be difficult to read.
  • Provide a brief explanation when writing about American holidays and customs since these will likely be new ‘holidays’ for your friend. Here are some examples: “Pumpkin pie,” Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Wise Men (use “Three Kings” instead), Trick or Treat.

These words donít always translate easily to another language. Or sponsors use words that in the U.S. have another meaning.

For example, in English, the word ìvacationî is when you leave to travel, spend 15 days away. Here, it is when the children have free days and donít go to school.

Also, levels of school are difficult. The sponsors say it differently, like ìmy child is in 11th grade.î So I try to relate it to our terms so we can translate it and make it familiar.

Can you share one of the most memorable letters you have translated?

Ana Carla: There are letters so beautiful that they make you think and wish you could be part of that friendship.

Paulo: Each letter I translate is a new experience. You start to feel part of the story. The sponsors always try to transmit new knowledge and this helps the sponsored friend imagine and open their minds.

I remember one sponsor who sponsors several children in different countries of the world. There was one letter I enjoyed translating it a lot.

He described that he had gone to visit children he sponsored in Central America and Mexico. He sent photos of an amusement park in Mexico.

I will never forget it because it transported me to the place he was describing. I imagine it was the same for the child, since the child is limited to the small village, neighborhood or wherever they live.

There are children who donít have the opportunity to see things on the Internet or television to give them an idea of what these places are like. With these anecdotes, the child knows and it makes him use his or her imagination.

We appreciate your effort in writing to your sponsored friends, who treasure every letter!