WELCOME TO OUR FAMILY! THAT ALL IMPORTANT FIRST LETTER
‘Dear Estefany’… errr now what? you are thinking, as you are sitting there quietly munching on your pen. Or your keyboard. Well, hopefully, not the keyboard. After great deliberation and excitement, you have finally chosen your ONE child. If you are anything like me, you want to sponsor them all. You are anxiously waiting for your photo and packet from Compassion with all your child details. And while it is coming, you are thinking about that all important FIRST LETTER. What do you say? Or more precisely, what should you say FIRST?
A BRIEF SNAPSHOT
Give them a brief snapshot about you. Your kids. Your family. Your job. Your church. Your school. Where you live. Your hobbies. Your pets. Most important of all, your faith. Tell them about Jesus. Kids love to hear about kids. They love to hear about you. Kids also LOVE to know why you chose them. Was it their cheeky or cute smile? Gentle eyes? Beautiful dress (possibly borrowed)? Or because in their official Compassion photo they were displaying just a smidge of attitude when standing there with their hands on their hips? :)
I never wait for the packet to arrive from Compassion. I get started right away. After all, letters can take WEEKS to get to your child. Some letters may even have to go by camel and water bag across deserts or mountains. And you want them to feel absolutely LOVED as soon as possible, right?
WHAT CAN I SEND?
Maybe I should mention here that you can send your child anything – so long as it is PAPER! And FLAT! Think: straight out of the printer. Up to 8-1/2 x 11 inches (A4 size) and up to 6 sheets of paper. But we can use front and back. So if it’s paper, flat, kid friendly and you can get it into an envelope AND it passes the Compassion sponsors’ squeeze test(!) you can (pretty much) go for it. But please make sure you also get the official letter writing heads up. [Please note: the official Compassion letter writing guidelines have changed April 2016 and since this post was written, so the ‘squeeze test’ referred to is now just a fond and distant memory :) ] The forum for Compassion sponsors is also a really friendly and helpful place to learn more and swap ideas. We tend to get pretty passionate about our kids. Another tip: Remember to write your child’s name and Compassion number on EVERYTHING so it doesn’t accidentally end up going to Siberia! :o
Okay… (back to pen munching)
A GIFT PACKAGE OF LOVE
For my first letter, I like to make it a Welcome Your Family – To Our Family theme. I also make it clear in our letter that we are doing this because we love Jesus and hope that they will all come to know and love Him too.
1. Welcome Colouring Page: These welcome colouring pages are a perfect companion for your first letter, no matter what age or gender your child is. Using separate text boxes (font ‘Arial Black’ – black outline, white fill), I add our child’s name at the top; our name below the first scroll; ‘your family… to our family’ below the welcome; and ‘in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ at the bottom; then put a border around it. A girly border for the girls. Something more like this one below for the boys.
2. Family photo: Send a family photo – or two – they are just as eager and curious to see what we look like, as we are of them. Everyone LOVES photos. Maybe you may like to put it in a free printable photo frame or scrapbook page (scroll down). Everyone knows that a photo is worth a million words. I’d really love to see a photo of each of our Compassion children – with their family – outside their home… arrr… maybe not. I’d be wanting to rush for the cheque book! :)
3. Family Gift: And that reminds me… We always try to send a family gift at the same time as our first letter to give a special and more tangible welcome to the family. You never know what dire straits they have been in before being accepted into the Compassion program. If you are able to, a special financial gift may just be a lifesaver. And it’s always interesting to see how it is spent. This is done in consultation with their Compassion project, so you know the funds will be put to best use. Maybe to buy a goat, a pig or a cow for the family. Or to fix a leaking roof. This is what happened with Kefa. We thought it was pretty funny the first time it happened. Not the roof. (We were happy that he was no longer being dripped on). The cow! Our eyes opened wide as we read about it in his letter. It was such a novelty that it made us giggle. He also bought a blanket. Others have bought mattresses. Our children often also buy FOOD! Something like a huge bag of rice for their family. Imagine receiving some special money for your family and having to use it to buy food. :(
One of our other children had also lost her father. Her mother – another widow, like Kefa’s mother – was left to look after several children. She used our family gift money to start up a small business. It was a great hand UP for her family. Not just a hand OUT.
That’s one of the great things about Compassion. It works! It actually helps to eradicate poverty. Did you know that where Compassion originally started in South Korea back in the 1950s, they are now a country of SPONSORS. Those kids have grown up and are now helping other kids, in other developing countries.
Anyway… (happily pen munching as we get back to that elusive rabbit path)…
4. Postcard: Send a postcard of where you live. Featured landmarks and places to visit; native animals; native flowers; your country’s flag… etc
5. Put your heart on a Map: I haven’t done this, but loved this idea of putting a heart over a map. Make sure it’s paper. Rolled and flattened paper would do it. This might look okay shrunk down. Or a open heart shaped sticker. If all else fails, just draw it.
Or you might like to download a world map – and mark both locations – yours and your child’s. Draw a heart shape over both areas and join them together with a big red arrow or dotted line. You may like to add your photo and their photo at each end. Or maybe you might like to try this one: My very special places – on your map, mark where you grew up, where you went to college, where you live now, where other members of your family live… etc.
6. Bookmark: Make a bookmark with their name on it and a Bible verse. Or choose a ready made FREE Bible bookmark. I like personalising John 3:16 for our children, e.g. For God so loved Estefany that He gave His only Son, so that if Estefany believes in Him, she will not die but have eternal life. You may wish to consider laminating it to keep it looking nice. Make it a special ‘welcome to our family’ gift your child will treasure.
7. Send extra bookmarks to make their family and friends feel welcome too. I usually send roughly 20-25 bookmarks (also with John 3:16) for them to share around. Nothing like having something to GIVE and playing Santa Claus, to give your child a buzz and help them feel good about themselves.
8. Stickers Every child loves stickers (even the big ones). If you are able to get some stickers relating to your area or country, even better, e.g. native animals, birds, plants, or national flag. Or even generic stickers of your pets (e.g. dog, cat, birds). Or make your own Bible verse stickers with some address labels and this super easy tutorial.
9. Questionnaire Sometimes it can take a long time and many letters before you find out even basic things about your child, depending on how old they are and how well they write. Sending a fun questionnaire with your first letter is one way you may be able to get around this. You are welcome to download this one I made up for our children (page 1 – page 2) using super cute graphics from cutecolors.com. Or use the idea to make up your own. (Do you see where I added a photo of Judith to this one?! On the newspaper). Send two copies – one filled in all about you – and one blank one for them to fill in. Remind them to return it, by mentioning it in your letter and also put a sticky note on it. Hopefully they won’t forget. Hopefully. :)
Here are some other fun ideas you may like to check out:
Fun ideas to remind you to pray for your sponsored child (scroll down to end of post) put it on the fridge or on the wall, tuck it into your Bible… anywhere where it will remind you to pray for your new family.
Ephesians 1:4 – Scripture doodle (scroll down) ‘Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose YOU to be His very own.’ What a fabulous verse to let us all know – not just our kids – how special we are to God! Wow! This is one of my favourites that I make sure I send all my kids, normally a bit later though with a ‘God knew you before you were born’ theme. Available in several languages; free printable
I love you this much Trace around your hands (or your child’s / grandchild’s / student’s). Cut them out and join with a strip of paper – it folds flat – so when the hands are pulled apart, it says I love you this much. Very cute and so easy to make. Decorate if you wish. Imagine if the joining strip was long enough to wrap around them in a hug! A big paper hug from you to them… :)
Sweet little notes of love in soft pink and green tones, polka dots, hearts and flowers that our little girls will love; print one of these, cut it out and adhere to the front of a nice quality piece of folded card to make your own personal greeting card or DIY sheet of wallet cards for your child – a sweet little butterfly with hearts saying ‘I love you lots and lots’; or a cute little turtle saying ‘I love you it’s true’; a sweet pink Bambi saying ‘You’re such a dear’; free printable
Hands of love – easy paper craft trace your hand on a folded piece of paper, open it out then decorate with a large heart; or write your name on one and the name of your child on the other; free printable
Paper kids holding hands – to make a little circle of people to make; personalise it by drawing your family and adding your new sponsored child; free printable
Loving Hands Card to make for this cute and easy idea (not just for dads), trace your hand on a folded piece of paper, open it out then decorate it with doodles or stickers or watercolour or… wherever your creativity leads you.
Valentine Thaumatrope a fun paper toy – a round tag with a heart on one side and words on the other, saying I love you; a very simple but very cute idea; free printable
Jesus loves me thaumatrope (paper toy craft) or make one of your own with some of these fun ideas; free printable
Tons of ways to share your love Let’s shower our precious children with our love and make sure we tell them about God’s great love for them, too. Lots of great ideas here; free printable
(Lunch) survey in a fun doodle style adapt this fun idea to make your own ‘all about me’ questionnaire; free printable
My life so far favourite things, character qualities, challenges, memories and goals; free printable
DIY Friendship memory book in a fun doodle style or use them as colouring pages to draw, doodle or write – My friends, the book of most amazing people in my life; about you; about me; my doodles, birthday dates, signatures of friends; free printable
Another fun and free ‘about me’ sheet fill one in about you and ask your child to fill in one about them; free printable
imom.com has lots of cool printables to help you get to know your child – love my family and friends; encouragement lunch box cards, love notes; friendship quotes; my family tree; conversation starters like this one; 3 biggest dreams free printable list to fill in; 3 happiest moments another great free printable list to fill in (and you can be sure that you and Compassion will feature in one of them!); or how about a happy words colouring page; as well as lots of other fun ideas; free printable
Photocopy your own children’s favourite toys to colour make photocopies of your children’s favorite soft toys for them or for your child to colour; another fun idea
All about me pages to colour; Dover sample; family and friends; dreams; animal adventures; hobbies; favourite books; things that make me happy or sad; free printable
My Family Tree (Dover sample) sheet to fill out
You are a special gift Great thoughts from Deb, another Compassion sponsor, ‘Sometimes new sponsors wonder how to start writing their new child… when I first sponsor or receive a new child, there is always such an explosion of incredible JOY, and I feel like I’ve just received a very special gift…’
conspiracy-of-love.blogspot.com.au has great letter writing fill-in templates specifically designed by a Compassion sponsor for younger children – About Me; Where I live; My Faith; and I like to…
Distance calculator Work out the approximate distance between you and your child – measured from the nearest airports. This could be added to your map.
Time Clock Compare your time to your child’s. You may like to add that to your map too. You may like to add a time clock – with their photo – to your desktop to remind you to pray for your child each day.
More ideas for a travel related theme from when I sent Estefany to Paris! :)
80 Letter Writing Prompts from Compassion International
FREE printable stationery lots of wonderful ideas for kids to choose from; all free printable
elli.com lots of cute and elegant free printables – stationery and envelope liners, petal shaped cards, note cards. Make sure you check out the personalised travel stationery with vintage map. It might be just what you are looking for in your ‘about-me-and-where-I-am-from’ theme. Simply type in your name and print.
NOTE: Your letter is the most important thing. Shower your child with your love, hope, faith and encouragement and then watch them blossom before your eyes! And before you sign off your letter, don’t forget the most important thing…
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