Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guest Post - Deb

My name is Deb, and I live in Melbourne, Australia, with my husband, three bouncy children and a geriatric cat. Here’s a little bit about our Compassion journey and how we involve our kids – aged 3, 5 and 7.

Building a sponsor family relationship

We started sponsoring with Compassion over 2 years ago. We chose a 12 year old boy with the same birthday as our youngest son. Last year, we added two more children, a girl and a boy. Again, we chose children with the same birthdays as our own kids. Immediately, they felt a particular link with the child that had their own birthday. This really helped them to identify with the children as belonging to our family. However, the sponsorships are not in their names. We – as mum and dad - are the sponsors for our family and we are responsible for corresponding and keeping up a relationship with our sponsored children.

One of the things we’ve consciously tried to do is to integrate our sponsor children into our normal family conversations and activities whenever we can. Here some examples:

  • Their photos are in a central area of the house.
  • We pray for them whenever we are praying together as a family.
  • We always mention their birthdays on the same day as we celebrate our own family birthdays.
  • When those precious letters come, we read them aloud at the dinner table that night so that everyone gets to hear the latest news.
  • We’ve scoured the local library shelves for children’s books about Tanzania, Kenya and Ecuador.
  • We have a map of the world in the kitchen where the kids often stand and they love to see if they can find those three countries on the map.
  • We’ve headed off to the local zoo and found animals from the regions where our sponsor kids live.
  • Our computer desktop displays the time and weather for each of our kids’ countries. We talk about what our kids might be doing now – “It’s morning for you, but it would still be the middle of the night for Benard!”
  • We’ve looked on youtube for any footage of the areas our kids come from so that they can get better picture the different lifestyles and surroundings our sponsored children might have.

My children are not up to writing letters at this stage. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t join in the fun of corresponding. They help with choosing stickers or birthday cards. If we go somewhere unusual, they might each choose a postcard of that place for us to send with our next batch of letters. Occasionally, they will do a drawing to be included with a letter, but I’ve found they are somewhat reluctant artists so I try not to have too many expectations in this area. If I insisted that they sit down and do a drawing every month, I would quickly kill off any natural desire they had to be involved. My youngest child loves to walk with me down the street to the mail box, carrying our letters in his little hand, and then be lifted up to put the envelope in the slot. We talk about how far those letters will have to go and how many weeks might pass before they get to our friends.


I want our kids to be drawn into loving our Compassion kids as they see us love them. I’ve been surprised by how quickly they have come to feel part of the process. They have learned things about poverty – that sometimes children might not have enough food, a comfortable place to live, clothing, education or good medical care. But they are also good at making connections with our sponsor kids that have nothing to do with poverty. They get excited when they find something in common like soccer or a love of animals.

Although we want them to understand the desperate needs in the developing world, we’ve also tried to talk about the sponsored children’s countries in positive terms. We’ve marveled at the wonderful animals that can be found in Africa and South America. We joined a free African drumming workshop in the school holidays. We listened to music from the Andes and tried different international food. We recently received a photo of one of our sponsored children with her grandparents who are also her guardians. So we took photos of our kids with their grandparents to send back. They know that she is without her parents, but they can also relate well to having loving grandparents. I want to be sure our kids do not only see what our sponsored children lack but that they see beyond that to the whole person that God has made.

Recently, our eldest sponsor child had his 15th birthday. Months in advance, we wrote a birthday card. Then the kids helped me color in a simple hand-drawn poster which said, “We love Jefferson”. I took a photo of the kids holding up the poster. Then I folded the poster flat and tucked it, and the photo, inside the birthday card. I hope he enjoyed opening his card. And I hope we’ll continue to find ways to share a tangible link from our house to the homes of our sponsored children. Each time our kids get involved in something like that, they stretch their own horizons a little further. Hopefully, we are adding to relationship to the word sponsorship.


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