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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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