A Real Friend

By: Elsy Alicia

Mail boxes are not common in Mexico, but my husband and I installed one outside our home in Yucatán for our 8-year-old son, Esdras Alberto. His biggest wish was to receive letters just like they do on his favorite television show, Blue’s Clues.  Almost at the end of every episode, the show host and his animated cartoon dog, Blue, sing a song about receiving mail and head to their mailbox to read one of the many letters their friends have sent them.

Esdras Alberto hasAsperger syndrome, a developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in learning and social interaction. Because of this, my son did not have many friends, so my husband and I would place letters inside our mailbox when Esdras Alberto was not looking and tell him that a friend from another part of the country had sent them.

Much to our surprise that friend became real the day he received the first letter from his sponsor Alma Beatriz, a teacher from Mexico City. Esdras Alberto came home very excited and told us how Save the Children staff had come to his school and had given him a letter written especially for him. It even came inside an envelope, just like he had seen in Blue’s Clues!

Every day after school Esdras Alberto talks about his letter and reads it out loud for us. By now, everyone in our house knows it by heart. He also reads it every night before going to sleep and keeps it in a special place near his bed. Some days, he places the letter inside our mailbox and pretends he just got it. Esdras Alberto says he feels very happy because he finally has a real friend.

Reading his letter or books has become a big part of Esdras Alberto’s life. Because of his Asperger’s, my son can easily get over-stimulated by his environment, especially by the loud noises of a second grade classroom. So when the world around him gets to be too much, he finds a safe place in the library of his school, which Save the Children recently renovated and equipped with new supplies.

Actions like these have changed my son’s life. Knowing he has a friend and a safe place to be in, has given him new confidence and we have watched him improve in so many areas.

Esdras Alberto working on a lesson in his classroom

We are very thankful for the work Save the Children does in our community and for the impact they have had in my son’s and my family’s life. Esdras Alberto is looking forward to receiving the next letter from his sponsor. He says he is excited to open our mailbox and find a letter from his real friend.

Letter Delivery Party

Did you know there is a World Letter Writing Day? It is celebrated every September 1, and the idea behind this initiative is to encourage the practice of picking up a pen and paper to write a letter to someone special. This might sound archaic in these modern days of texting and social media, but you wouldn’t believe how meaningful receiving a hand-written letter can be for a child.

Save the Children has an initiative called Letter Writing Parties – events organized at local companies in the U.S. to provide employees with the opportunity to learn about Save the Children programs. The occasion also provides a chance to write a letter to a child who doesn’t receive letters regularly from his or her sponsor.

Katerine and her classmates working on artwork for their lettersRecently, we received dozens of these letters in our community near the impact area of Sonsonate in El Salvador, and I had the opportunity to witness a delivery “event.” We gathered two groups of around 20 boys and girls, and we told them we would be hosting a Letter Delivery Party! The children were surprised with all the colorful letters that came to us, and although some of them didn’t understand at first what was happening, they soon learned the letters contained messages of love and care for them. They were happy that someone from far away had taken a bit of his or her time to write a special letter just for them.

“I felt very happy today with the letter I received,” explains nine-year-old Katerine who has never received a letter from her sponsor. “I think if people want to say something important sometimes they write a letter, and when you get the letter they tell you that important thing. On the letters we read today, people wrote about their dogs, daughters, or that they are from Texas.”

In El Salvador, we have more than 12,000 sponsors, but only 1,500 of them write letters. That is more than 10,000 children who don’t get the chance to establish a friendship with his or her sponsor. That’s why the Letter Writing Parties initiative is so important – it gives children who do not regularly correspond with their sponsor an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sponsorship. “To the person who wrote this letter for me today (his name is Shawn), I want to thank him and tell him that I have a dog named ‘Doggie,’ and a little sister who is three years old,” says Katerine.

Katerine reading a letter from her new friend Shawn

We know it can be difficult to find the time, but we encourage you to pick up a pen and a piece of paper, and send an inspiring message to the little girl or boy you sponsor – we assure you it is worth the extra effort!

The Meeting of Two Worlds

By: Memory Mwathengere

When the news broke that an international visitor was coming to her village school, it sent shock waves through Dorothy’s small community in Malawi – they had never had a visit from a child sponsor before and they were all eagerly awaiting the big day.  You see, it’s a very special event when a sponsor is able to meet their sponsored child in person, and for Dorothy, the impending visit was no exception.  “I was very happy when I was told that my friend was coming,” she explained shyly.

Dorothy outside her school

Yet, at the same time, she was nervous that the visit would not actually happen. Sponsored children rely on their imaginations as to what their sponsor is like and the reality of a face-to-face meeting is sometimes hard to fathom, she explained.

Luckily, the big day arrived and Dorothy finally met her sponsor, Sabrina, who had come all the way from Italy with her partner. The community welcomed the pair in typical Malawi fashion — with joyful dancing and ululation.

Dorothy was surprised to see a young looking woman, “I imagined her to be light in complexion and older, and I was very happy to see her.” Sabrina went to Dorothy’s classroom to observe a lesson, and later she had the opportunity to observe program activities. “She asked me the type of sport and subjects I like; she also asked me to read a passage in an English textbook,” Dorothy recalls fondly. “Sabrina is very nice.”

Dorothy receiving gifts from her sponsor Sabrina

Dorothy was also happy with the gifts Sabrina bought her, particularly the school bag, notebooks and pencils. She indicated that her school items used to go missing, but with her new gifts, now she has somewhere safe to keep her things.  And in appreciation for her visit, Dorothy’s family presented Sabrina with some locally weaved baskets.

Encouraged by Sabrina’s visit, Dorothy’s parents now ensure that she does not miss school and Dorothy is inspired to work hard to become the doctor she is aspiring to become. “I would like for her to continue sponsoring me until I complete my education,” says Dorothy.

As for Sabrina, she was so inspired by her visit she has become a Save the Children Ambassador and plans on returning to Malawi to visit Dorothy as soon as possible!

A New Friend for Sofindja

By: Kervens Fils-Aime, Community Engagement Assistant

Sofindja is a very smart and cheerful little girl who lives in a small community in Haiti. She is the eldest of two children and has participated in sponsorship programs for three years. For the first two years, she regularly exchanged correspondence with her sponsor.  However, the sponsor was no longer able to continue the sponsorship, causing the friendship to come to an end.  Although Sofindja was disappointed, she looked forward to starting up again with someone new.

While she waited to be connected to a new sponsor, she enjoyed reading the letters her friends received from their sponsors, an activity that allowed her some connection to her old routine that she missed so much.

One day, at the end of 2018, a field agent came bearing good news. Sofindja was finally getting a new sponsor!  Even her good grades from the quarter did not make her happier than this news! The long awaited exchange was finally going to start again, and Sofindja was getting a new friend.

 I was so happy to finally be able to talk to my new friend, she exclaimed. “I sent him some information about meI told him that I have a little brother, and I made him a nice drawing of a flower. I hope we will get along well, because he is a boy and I love soccer like many boys. 

Sofindja chatting with a Save the Children field agent

Every day, sponsors make a tremendous difference in children’s lives, and exchanging letters is just one part of the program.  For example, Sofindja and her schoolmates also enjoy important life-changing benefits – from the construction and restorations of schools and play areas, to the implementation of important health and hygiene programs. Thanks to our partnership with Save the Children, this school has been totally renovated and we now have a playground that all the children can use during recess,” explains Sofindja’s school principal. The children love playing outdoors and this allows them to take a break, every day! They now also have access to a handwashing station that they can use to help them stay healthy.”

Sofindja using the new hand washing station at her school

Sponsorship offers a window to life in a different country, and can be a rewarding experience for both parties. Thank you for committing to making Sofindja — and many children around the world — smile daily!

Stumped on Letter Writing? Here’s a Few Tips!

Chester Maneno- Sponsorship Field Officer

Chester Maneno, Sponsorship Field Officer

Malawi

March 2014

 

Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 171 out of 187 nations, and 85% of the population lives in rural areas, including Zomba where we implement sponsorship programs. People in these areas have different perceptions about the Western world, which is why I’m sharing ideas on what sponsors can write to their sponsored child.

Many people in rural areas think Western people have a lot of money and everything they need in life, hence they do not struggle as people in this part of the world do to have a successful future.

Sponsors, therefore, should regard themselves as role models to these children and tell them about the advantages of working hard in school. In Zomba, the fact that there is little interest in education among both children and their parents is a big challenge, and the mention of hard work in school from sponsors can be very helpful.

Malawi Zomba, Misozi Sikula with her letter 2Sponsors should avoid asking children to write about what they would want sponsors to do for them as this poses a challenge for field staff when the child or the parents want a follow-up to what they requested. Statements like “I hope the money I send every month will help you achieve a better life,” and “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you,” are culturally sensitive and contradict our program’s community orientation.

It would be better if sponsors concentrated on encouraging the child to go to school and study hard so they can realize their dream of what they want to become. Children should also be encouraged to share information about their culture, their family and their holidays. These topics bring a smile to the child’s face, and they feel connected to the sponsor.