What can I say in my letters to my sponsored child?
We recommend you keep your letters brief, simple and friendly.
In many cases, your letter will need to be translated when they reach our field offices so please write clearly.
Remember that writing letters may be unusual in the community where your sponsored child lives, so asking questions in your letter may make it easier for them to write back.
You could ask about their school, their favourite subjects and games, their family or what they want to be when they grow up. They will also be keen to hear about your life, family and daily routines. But where letter writing is a new experience, they may not initially understand that they are being asked to respond. So, if you don’t get answers to your questions, please be patient.
The reports and communications that you get throughout the year from Plan International UK provide other subjects to talk about: the climate, food, markets, festivals, projects, and events in their lives or yours. And as 'a picture says a thousand words', sending a photograph, postcard or even something as simple as an interesting stamp is always well received, particularly if your sponsored child can’t read or write.
Is there anything I should avoid?
Discovering cultural differences can be very enjoyable for both you and your sponsored child, however it’s easy to inadvertently cause offence, so we ask sponsors to avoid the following areas:
Politics (theirs or ours): This is likely to be sensitive (and difficult to translate), and in more extreme situations where local politics are unstable your comments could actually put the family at risk.
Religion: Again, it is likely to be a sensitive subject where offence is easily caused.
Avoid being too familiar: What’s acceptable here may be inappropriate in the sponsored child's culture or community. It is a very fine line, but parents might be offended or concerned by open expressions of affection made towards their children.
So we always advise sponsors to err on the side of caution, no matter how close they feel to the child. This helps us to do our best for children and for sponsors who may inadvertently cause offence or concern through actions that could be misconstrued.
If you are sending pictures or photographs, please be careful which ones you choose. For example, images of people in bathing costumes or cuddling pets can cause offence.
When will I hear from my sponsored child?
You should receive a welcome letter from your sponsored child within two-three months after you start sponsoring them. But feel free to write before then as your sponsored child and family will be happy to hear from you.
It can take up to six months for you to receive a reply from your sponsored child. All letters have to pass through customs, be translated, and finally be delivered to sponsored children. Reaching some remote communities involves a long journey – by boat, bike or even donkey!
It might seem like a long time to wait, but the joy and encouragement brought to children by many sponsors' letters makes it well worth it.
Where do I send my letter?
If you’d prefer to post your letter, postcard, or photo, you need to:
- Ensure that all pages are secured together so that pages won’t get separated.
- Write your sponsor number and sponsored child's number clearly. This helps us get it to them as quickly as possible.
- Remember NOT to include your address. Letters can be seen by a large number of people during the delivery process. This measure protects you from any unwanted requests for money or assistance.
- Please don’t seal your letters or cards in envelopes. This reduces the weight and therefore our postage costs and means it’s easier for us to check all the letters (which we do to make sure no children are potentially at risk).
- Simply enclose your letter or card in an outer envelope and send it to our usual address: Plan International UK , Finsgate, 5-7 Cranwood Street, London, EC1V 9LH.
Why are letters important?
Sponsored children look forward to receiving a letter from their friend overseas, and they are often shown proudly to family and school friends. A letter brings support and encouragement, motivates them so they work hard at school, gives them practice at reading and writing, and they can learn about your country and culture from your news. Your letters will be treasured possessions.
Can I send a gift?
To promote fairness, we respectfully ask you to follow these guidelines. Your package should not weigh more than 150g, and must fit into an A4 envelope that is no more than 5cm thick (we are sorry but multiple gifts can’t be divided into more packages). A deck of cards is an example of an item that weighs 150g.
You can send:
- Writing and drawing tools (e.g. pens, pencils, colouring pencils, crayons, paper, small notebooks pencil case, small colouring books, stationery sets, erasers, sharpeners, etc.)
- Tokens of friendship (e.g. photos, postcards, stickers, balloons, hair accessories, ribbons, inexpensive bracelets and necklaces, bookmarks, etc.)
- Educational items for learning and exploration (e.g. books in your sponsored child’s language, small puzzles, travel size board games, etc.)
- Sporting and outdoor equipment (e.g. inflatable balls, skipping rope, etc.)
Due to international guidelines, it is not possible to send the following items:
- Money or expensive items (e.g. coins, notes, obsolete currency, precious (or expensive-looking) metals, wristwatches, jewellery, etc.)
- Sharp, dangerous or fragile objects (e.g. scissors, thermometers, compasses, needles, brooches, pins, badges, photo frames, glass objects, etc.)
- Skin or hair care products (e.g. soap, cosmetics, face paint, hand cream, toothpaste, shampoo, perfume, etc.)
- Liquids and anything that could leak if punctured (such as paint, bubbles, nail polish, etc.)
- Food or drink (e.g. sweets, chocolates, biscuits, tea bags, etc.)
- Plants (e.g. seeds, pressed flowers, leaves, etc.)
- Clothes (e.g. T-shirts, shorts, dresses, caps, hats, scarves, socks, underwear, etc.)
- Battery operated items (e.g. torch, calculators (including dual power), etc.)
If your package is bigger or heavier than is allowed, we will be unable to deliver it to your sponsored child. Remember to keep your package light!
How long do I sponsor a child for?
Children normally continue to be sponsored until they are 18. Sometimes, if a family decides to relocate to another area or if our work in their community reaches completion, the sponsorship will end earlier. When you finish sponsoring a child, you will receive a farewell letter from your sponsored child and we’ll let you know the difference that your sponsorship has made.
Can I visit my sponsored child?
Are there steps I should take to keep my sponsored child safe?
Safeguarding children and young people is at the heart of what we do – and our child sponsors have a unique role to play in keeping the children we work with safe.
That's why we ask all our sponsors to follow some key principles when they write to, visit, or share information about their sponsored child. Read our guidelines for keeping children safe here >
I have more questions – who can I speak to?
Our Supporter Engagement team are happy to answer any questions you may have about your sponsorship and our work. You can call them on 0300 777 9779 or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.