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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Letter from Sunita

I arrived home on Thursday to find I'd got post. The second letter I'd received from Sunita in a month. She wrote on December 19th to thank me for her Christmas gift and this letter is dated the January 21st and thanks me for her birthday gift. She bought herself a sweater, blanket, chocolate and cake with the money.

I took it into work today and discovered that Sunita write in Gujarati. Several of the staff at work speak or write Gujarati, so if I get any problems with translation at any point I've got some helpers in reserve. It's also nice to know Sunita's language as I'll hopefully be able to send paper gifts in Gujarati in the future.

I don't know what language Roses writes in as I haven't received any letter from him yet. I'm hoping someone at work can read his letters too. Compassion does translate them for me, but it's always nice to be able to check on things without bothering them.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Live 58: and Compassion evening at church

Every Tuesday evening a group of people in their 20s and 30s from my church get together. Sometimes we study books of the Bible, we just finished a DVD Christian listening course, othertimes we just meet up for a social.

This week I get chance to share the Live 58: DVD I got sent through Compassion:
This is the inspiring true story of the global Church in action. Witness bravery and determined faith in a journey from the slums of Kenya to the streets of New York. Confront the brutality of extreme poverty and meet those who live out the True Fast of Isaiah 58 and create stunning new possibilities for the future.
Travel from the sun-scorched plains of rural Ethiopia to British shopping centres, from Brazilian ganglands and the enslaving quarries of India to western churches, businesses and conferences.
58: invites audiences to discover the incredible work of God through his people in our hurting world. Meet ordinary people, hear their stories, and see their struggles and their victories as 58: shows the relentlessly loving God at work through his Church bringing hope to the darkest challenges of our day. Experience eye-opening reasons to lift our expectations of the future.
Woven with Biblical truth, this film draws audiences into life-changing examples of the True Fast of Isaiah 58 - a young British woman overcoming the pressures of consumer society, Ethiopian Christians working to restore their environment, an American business owner promoting Fair Trade coffee and connecting his local community with the work of ending poverty, a local pastor in India working to be a Good Samaritan to those enslaved by bonded labor, and the sacrificial generosity of New York youth giving up their own food for the sake of those with even less. These impatient revolutionaries and ordinary prophets present viewers with an empowering vision of the Church rising up to its remarkable potential to end extreme poverty, by bringing God's words through Isaiah to life in our time, in our day.
At the end of the film during the discussion time I had chance to show my Compassion folder with my sponsored kids photos, details and letters in it. It gave me an opportunity to introduce others to Compassion. No-one immediately rushed off to sponsor a child I don't think, but a couple of people did say they want to think about it and talk to me at a later date.

Successful visit to Poundland

I popped into Poundland today to pick up some willow fencing to pull to bits and use to make model cars at work.

Whilst I was in there I ended up browsing the stationary section and found more press out and make books. There's 6 different designs - house, jungle, park, circus, firefighters and farm. I bought a set each for Ladan and Sunita.

I'm not sure whether to send each book as two chunks of pages, over two separate letter packages, along with a photocopy of the assembly instructions on the inside cover. Or whether to press out all the pieces and send them in an envelope.

I also found 3 colouring activity sets for Beatriz. Two of them were Winnie the Pooh and included stickers and one is Tatty Teddy.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Roses first package sent

Roses appeared on my MyCompassion page yesterday. So I was able to send his birthday gift money and a personalised e-card. Hopefully it will reach him in time. His birthday is the end of May, so it has nearly 10 weeks to get there.

I've sent him a similar first package to the one I sent Ladan earlier this month. He's got an introductory letter, an about your sponsor booklet and a sheet of Cars 2 stickers. I also ordered him a personalised birthday card from Moonpig, so he'll have an actual paper card as well as the e-card.

I've also pre-printed the letter I'm sending all my sponsored kids later this month. I've packaged it up all ready to go out in a couple of weeks, along with a set of animal stickers.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Been Amazon Shopping

Having found out about the wonderful paper gifts other sponsors have blogged about, I went in search for some craft activities to send to my kids. A few days ago I found fantastic "Press Out and Make" books in Tesco. I've already ripped out the first activity to send to three of my kids. I considered buying one for Roses, but I thought he might be too old. Tesco only have the one design of book, so I thought I'd see if Amazon had some. The press out and make books are great as the kids don't need scissors and they can probably make them without being able to read the instructions. I may need to invest in some double sided tape to pre-stick onto the tabs though, so they just have to peel and stick. I find it harder to think up paper gift ideas for Roses. He's too old for colouring sheets and stickers every time I think. So I bought more making vehicle books for him.

I managed to order:

Press-out model Nativity scenes for all the kids.

Press out Fairy Castle and Characters for Sunita and Beatriz.

Make Your Own Football Stadium for Ladan. (Hopefully someone will be able to help him make it)

Extreme Machines with 8 press out models to make for Roses.

Fold ' Fly paper airplane kit. With photo instruction book, paper and stickers for Roses.

Space with 8 press out models to make for Roses.

Welcome Roses

I wasn't looking to sponsor another child. I'd just sponsored Ladan and was trying to work out the budget to get him a birthday gift. However I went onto the CompassionUK website to see the mothers and babies that had been added as part of the Child Survival program, a face popped out at me from the sea of new children awaiting sponsorship.

I don't know how long Roses has been waiting for a sponsor. But there were only 2 children still on there from when I'd previously been looking through the photos. He's 10, so I don't know if he had a previous sponsor who had to stop their sponsorship or whether he's just been waiting a while to be sponsored.

God does move in mysterous way though. Less than 12 hours after I sponsored Roses, I found out that the cost of Spring Harvest had gone down nearly £100 as our group has now gained an extra person and costs can be shared out. Enough extra money to pay for nearly half a year's sponsorship.

I sponsored him Wednesday and it took until Friday night for him to show up on my OurCompassion profile. He's still not listed on the MyCompassion section of CompassionUK, so I can't check his reference number, or send a birthday gift for next month yet. The message I got said it could take a few days for him to show up on my account. The details and picture below I have her I rescued out of my internet browsing history.

Roses is 10 and lives in Vespery in Chennai, India. Roses lives with his parents. His home duties include carrying water and buying or selling in the market. He has two brothers or sisters. Roses likes playing with friends and playing house. He attends Sunday school and church regularly. He also attends school.

Roses lives in the coastal community of Vepery, home to approximately 205,000 residents. Typical houses are constructed of dirt floors, cement walls and thatched roofs. The primary ethnic group and language is Dravidian. The regional diet consists of rice, beef, fish and vegetables. Common health problems in this area include measles, chicken pox, respiratory illnesses, fevers, worms and skin allergies. Most of the adults in Vepery work as day laborers and earn the equivalent of £46 per month. This community needs clothing, shoes, recreational facilities and alcohol abuse prevention programs. Sponsorship allows the staff of Balar Kalvi Nilayam Child Development Centre to provide your sponsored child with Bible teaching, medical and dental checkups, vaccinations, personal hygiene supplies, sports, talent competition, tutoring, tuition, school supplies, uniforms and computer classes. The centre staff will also provide tailoring and hand work classes and health education for the parents or guardians of the sponsored children.

You are special!

I've been playing around at getting prepared in advance and prewriting some more letters.

You are special!
God knit you together in your mother's womb! (Psalm 139:13)
God watch you while you were being formed in utter seclusion! (Psalm 139:15)
God thinks that you are precious. He thinks about you a lot! (Psalm 139:17)
His thoughts about you outnumber the grains of sand! (Psalm 139:18)
Every morning you wake up, He is still with you! (Psalm 139:18)
God loves you so very much, so do I!
I hope all is well with both yourself and your family. Everything is fine where I am. I hope you never forget that you are special, that you are loved and that you are important to me.
The words of Psalm 139 remind us that each of is also important to God, that he knew us before we were born, thinks of us constantly and will always be with us.
I continue to pray for you, your family and your project. Your loving sponsor,

The inspiration for this letter came from the tiny booklet one of the OurCompassion members June posted as a gallery. I've used her quotes and general design for each 'section'. However, being better at getting things done on my laptop, rather than paper, I've condensed the booklet into a 1 page letter. The images came from Google image searches. If you search for scrapbooking resources there's a wealth of images out there.

This may be the letter I send out around 7th April. I will have met up with family before then though, so I'm not sure if I'll have something more personal to write for that letter. Also there's the chance one of my children may have written to me before then, prompting me to send something different in response to their questions.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

New pre-prepared letter written

Jim suggested I checked out the Bicycling with God poem on his website BearCares.co. Thanks for the idea Jim. I found a picture background for the text online and had a go at turning it into a letter.

I'm not planning on printing it off and sending it right away. I will be sending out the Starfish poem soon and I don't think either my kids or the translators will want another longish poem right away. However it's nice to know I've got it all prepared and made up. When I've not got chance to sit down one fortnight and write, I'll be able to print it off then and pop it in the post.

I hope that you and your family are well. Below is a copy of the Bicycling with God poem. Sometimes we feel afraid to know God, to trust Him and let Him lead us in our lives. Remember that if you trust and follow in Him then amazing things can happen in your life. God has a plan for our lives. God has a special purpose for you, a plan for good. You are important to God and you are important to me.
At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like the President. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know Him. But later on when I recognized Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride; but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that God was in the back helping me pedal. I don't know just when it was that He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since...life with my God makes life exciting! When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at breakneck speeds. It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said "pedal." I worried and was anxious and asked, "Where are You taking me?" He laughed and didn't answer, and I started to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure; and when I'd say, "I'm scared," He'd lean back and touch my hand. He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing acceptance, and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey; our journey, God's and mine. And we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away. They're extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light. I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it. But He knew bike secrets, knew how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high places filled with rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I'm learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, my God. And when I'm sure I can't do any more, He just smiles and says, "PEDAL"!
God knows every step I take… I follow His will, not my own desires. He never changes. No one can oppose Him or stop Him from doing what He wants to do. He will fulfil what He has planned for me. Lord... lead me to do Your will; make Your way plain for me to follow.                                                                                      Job 23:10-14
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed  of.                                                                                                                         John 10:10
I continue to pray for you, your family and your project. Your loving sponsor

Monday, 5 March 2012

One more letter written

One more letter written... to be sent at some unknown point in the future when I've run out of time or ideas to write something to my Compassion kids.

It's the Footprints poem, printed on a beach scene background. It includes an introduction, the Footprints poem, and a mismash of Bible verses. Feel free to copy the idea or text for your letters if you need inspiration.

I hope that you and your family are well. Below is a copy of the footprints poem. Sometimes we feel that we are alone and that no-one cares for us or supports us when we need it most. Remember that Jesus is always with you. He always cares for you.
One night I had a dream--I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord and across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints, one belonged to me and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life. This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. "I don't understand why in times when I needed you most, you should leave me." The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering."When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
The Lord your God is supreme over all gods and over all powers. He is great and mighty and He is to be feared. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.
Deuteronomy 10: 17, Deuteronomy 31:8 and Joshua 1:9
I continue to pray for you, your family and your project. Your loving sponsor,

Letters sent 24th March 2012

More time travel. I thought while I was already in the mood and writing one set of letters, I could get the next set ready. That way I only have to stick them in the post box on the correct date and I have no excuse not to have written to my Compassion kids. In fact I'm manged better than that and have written them another letter that I can just print and send at a later date too.

Each child got basically the same letter. The background is a picture of a starfish on a beach. The letter included an introduction, the starfish poem, an explanation and a mismash of Bible verses. Feel free to copy the idea or text for any of your sponsored kids' letters if you are short of inspiration.

"I hope that you and your family are well. Below is a copy of the starfish poem. Sometimes we feel that we are powerless and unimportant. Always remember that you are a unique and special individual and that you have the power and the ability to make a difference in the world.
One day an old man was walking down the beach just before dawn. In the distance he saw a young man picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea. As the old man approached the young man, he asked, "Why do you spend so much energy doing what seems to be a waste of time?" The young man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. The old man exclaimed, "But there must be thousands of starfish. How can your efforts make any difference?" The young man looked down at the starfish in his hand and as he threw it to safety in the sea, he said," It makes a difference to this one!"
At times in our lives, we are all the old man, the young man, or the starfish. Sometimes, as the old man, we don't see the purpose to actions. Sometimes, as the young man, we persevere and make a difference. And sometimes, we are the starfish who just need a little help.
So then, my dear brothers, stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless. Whatever you do, do it with kindness and love. For whatever you did to the least of these… you did to me
1 Corinthians 15:58, 1 Corinthians 16:14 and Matthew 25:40
I continue to pray for you, your family and your project. Your loving sponsor,"

I'm hopeful the girls will understand the message behind it, if the translation is good enough, it's a story that one of the local primary schools have adopted as their school motto. I'm not sure Ladan will fully get it yet, but if not, he may find more inspiration if he keeps the letter and re-reads it in the future.

I also included some pages from an excellent book I found in the shops this week (Tesco stock it if you are in the UK - Press out and make out and about). Its a stand up background scene made of very thin card for the children to colour and some pictures they can pop out, fold and turn into insects to move around on the background. The book includes another two scenes as well, so I've saved them for future packages to the kids.

Packages sent 10th March 2012

No, not more time travel. I'm just ahead of myself. I'm trying to write every two weeks now and the next few days are going to be too hetic to write if I didn't do it this weekend.

I found the under the sea background for the writing paper through a Google image search. I was looking for some clipart to modify another design I had and came across this one instead, which I thought looked better. I've learnt how to make the picture better for typing on. I couldn't make it transparent, so I increased the brightness (make it a positive number) and decreased the contrast (make it a negative number). When printed, the writing is showing up much clearer. I had to add a extra text box behind Ladan's text though, as the writing was too long and still was hard to see over the coral and turtle.

I made booklets for the girls using the template I had made for Ladan's first package. I had never sent pictures of my family to them before. I assumed I didn't actually have any to send, but I found an old email my Dad had sent me of my parents' 40th wedding anniversary and used them. They are a couple of years out of date, but they are better than nothing. On the back of the booklet I included a copy of the most recent photo I had received of them. Apparently not all the Compassion kids have a copy of their photo as not all the projects can print one off for them. Ladan got a thin colouring booklet made out of magazine pages and a poster of Monsters Inc, as that's what one of the colouring pages was of.

In the letter for the girls I appologised for not writing as much previously when I first started sponsoring them. I told them that they were important to me, that I thought of them often and that I treasured the letters that they sent to me. I was unsure what to write to Ladan. I'd already sent him a booklet introducing myself, but I wanted to write a first letter that told him that I was pleased to be his sponsor and was thinking of him. So I turned to Google and found Emily's blog, Elephant Grace and her example post on - now what do I write? She's included the first letter she sent to her Compassion child on that post and told people they could copy it if they needed to. I used her text to help me and altered it with my details.

Wecome Ladan! Ladan's first package sent.

Sent on 2nd March 2012. My new child's information arrived from Compassion in the morning. I finally had a picture of all of him and not just his head. He seems to be wearing pyjamas that are staying on more by luck than anything else. Hopefully I'll be able to send him a gift next month. I have to pay for Spring Harvest first though, but I am due a tax refund that should come through in the next few weeks. His birthday is in July, so I'll need to send money for that before the end of April anyway.

I made him a booklet with some photos in to help introduce myself to him. I also enclosed a bookmark, I hope it goes through OK. I sent a similar one to the girls last month and had no contact from CompassionUK to say it was unsuitable. It's very thin card with a plastic coating on top. As you move it, the picture changes to show different underwater scenes. On another blog I saw that someone else had sent something similar and had no message to say it didn't reach their child, so hopefully Ladan will get it. I also sent him two colouring pages. One of mice, as I told him about my pet hamsters and one of dinosaurs, as I told him the class I teach were studying dinosaurs.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Letters sent 28th February 2012

I think CompassionUK may think that these letters have travelled through time. I got the date wrong when I wrote them (I assumed I wouldn't make it to the post box) and they should have arrived at the CompassionUK office before the date I claimed I wrote them!

These are the first letters I have sent since seeing some of the beautiful examples of letter writing on other peoples' blogs. I didn't use bought preprinted paper like some suggested for printing on top. Instead I inserted a picture as a background in Word and wrote on the top. I did put a semi-transparent text box on top to make the text easier to read, but it printed out darker than I was expecting, so I will have to play around with that a bit for future mailings.

These letters amazingly were finished just a week after I sent my last handwritten ones (on the supplied Compassion letter writing paper). However I had just received a letter from Sunita and she asked me what the weather was like in England. Since we were just recovering from an unusally high amount of snow I thought I'd write about that while I remembered. The background photo was meant to be for an Easter mailing, but I didn't think it'd arrive on time, so I just used it for the snow letter instead.

I included some stickers and a thin booklet I made out of magazine pages. There's one colouring page and two background scenes to put the stickers on. Not sure if the girls will understand the concept of the background scenes and stickers, but I hope they'll enjoy them regardless.

Why some sponsors do not write

The simple answer for some of them - they don't know how important it is to write regularly.

What I hear you cry, of course they do: Compassion tells them, OurCompassion tells them, their sponsored kids write to them, they probably have a build-up of Compassion letter writing paper, the get sponsored kids birthday reminder emails, they get emailed about the Christmas fund, they get letters posted to them including blank Christmas cards....

I wrote regularly:
  • I regularly wrote every Christmas. I made a donation to the Christmas fund. I sent an e-card with a personalised greeting. I search around to find some pictures of me or my pets and attached them to the front of the card.
  • I regularly wrote every year in time for their birthday's. I sent a financial gift. Again I send an e-card with a picture.
Of course my sponsored children wrote 3 times a year to me. Occasionally I even filled in some the included Compassion writing paper and popped it in the post.

I was receiving 3 letters a year, my sponsored child was getting 2 regular letters a year, plus any extras occasionally. No problem right?

I'd even made more of an effort over the past 6 months. I wrote in October on the Compassion writing paper, I sent out Christmas cards and Birthday cards to each child and I wrote them another letter in February and even managed to work out how to include a bookmark for them. 4 letters to each of them in half a year, I must have been doing good.

These were the two posts that changed my mind:
GypsyMama - Lame sponsors of the world unite
BloggingFromTheBoonies - The delivery

I was Googling for the answer to a question I had regarding sponsoring my third child through Compassion. I didn't find the answer online, I phoned the CompassionUK office and got my answer there. I did find out however that I was being a lame sponsor.

Oh I knew I needed to encourage my sponsored children, I knew they would like the letters and probably keep them...
... The point I was missing though, was my children were turning up at their projects' mail day each month, fortnight or week and being disappointed most of the time. Their projects' were getting mail more regularly than I thought, and they were being shown that I didn't care, I couldn't be bothered to write to them. No-one had told me just how often I should be writing and how important it was to my kids. It's the only way they know for definite that I'm thinking of them.

It didn't matter that my friends and co-workers know their names, it didn't matter that I show people their pictures, it didn't matter that I've fundraised for Compassion...
... None of that mattered, because my sponsored kids didn't know about any of it. They just knew I only wrote a handful of letters to them.

My sponsored kids didn't need me to write occasionally throughout the year. They need me to write once or twice a month  and remind them that they are important.

I've learnt some surprising things over the last few weeks, mainly through reading other sponsors blogs:
  • Most importantly how regularly the projects get mail.
  • How to send a letter without using the Compassion letter writing paper.
  • How to include a paper gift with my item.
  • What fantastic things I can actually send my kids, even though it's all paper.
  • That the US and Canadian MyCompassion sites are much better than the CompassionUK one, they have more details on their sponsored kids online and a fantastic online email facility with a bunch of different templates.
  • That OurCompassion has really grown since it was set up and there's some fantastic stuff on their now.
  • That some people write to their sponsored kids several times a month.
None of those points I knew before. I knew the very basics of letter writing before. Well actually Compassion had written that I could use my own stationary and send gifts, but I didn't really get quite how creative I could be with it.

It does however worry me that I didn't know those facts, and that means there's probably a whole lot of sponsors that don't know those facts. I only found out when I was sponsoring my third child through Compassion...
... How many kids are missing out just because their sponsors don't know.

Recently I sponsored Ladan. I was quite excited to get his pack. All I knew was that he'd be a young boy from Uganda, I let CompassionUK pick the exact child. I'd read great things about the new sponsor info packs. I heard there was a part I could fill in imformation about myself and mail it off to my new sponsored kid...
I have to say I was impressed. I got: a very nice little cardboard folder, a photo in a stand up cardboard frame, a wallet sized photo, a USB login stick to set up MyCompassion on my account,  a booklet of info about Ladan and his project, info about Compassion, a booklet about writing to Ladan, some writing paper and nothing to fill in about me and send off to Ladan (I made my own version instead). The letter writing booklet is sparse on info, if that was all the info I'd got on writing for the last month or so, then I would have carried on being a lame sponsor.

The MyCompassion section on CompassionUK really could do with catching up with the US and Canadian MyCompassion sections. We have less info about our sponsored kids and writing to them is far more basic. Each letter I send has the same template. There's 4 templates to chose from, but only one is really suitable for my kids. It doesn't make for exciting letter writing. I'm not sure why the MyCompassion sites really are all that different, but I definitely think moving to the updated model would help encourage UK sponsors to write.

Over the past month I've learnt so much more about Compassion, I thought I was pretty clued up before, but a whole bunch of bloggers out there have opened up my eyes. That have show me how to write, how creative I can be, what fantastic paper gifts I can send and have shared their experiences and ideas. This blog is to join their efforts, to give ideas how and what to write to a sponsored child on the other side of the world, the info I wish I known nearly 3 years ago when I first started sponsoring Sunita. Hopefully Ladan will never know what it is like to have a lame sponsor. I know there are a whole group of dedicated sponsors the world over, who want to encourage others. But I've also learnt there are a lot of lame sponsors out there. Some probably know they are being lame sponsors, but what really worries me are the ones that don't and the sponsored kids who therefore miss out.

And if your and lame sponsor and you need any more convincing to write to your sponsored kids:
Compassion - The importance of letters
Compassion - 10 motivating reasons to write to your child

My Compassion Kids

These are the three children I sponsor through CompassionUK.

This is Sunita.
She is 8 years old.
She lives in India.
She attends the Spring of Life Child Development Center project.
I started sponsoring Sunita in May 2009.

This is Beatriz.
She is 9 years old.
She lives in Peru.
She attends the Getsemani Student Center project.
I started sponsoring Beatriz in February 2010.

This is Ladan.
He is 4 years old.
He lives in Uganda.
He attends the Kantare Child Development Center project.
I started sponsoring Ladan in March 2012