Everyone has their own approach to building a relationship with their sponsored kids. Here are a few tips that have helped me be the best sponsor I can be!
1) WRITE TO YOUR CHILD: I write once every 6-8 weeks. But I would say writing 3-4 times a year is great. With Compassion, you can e-mail your child through their website -- how easy is that? A birthday card, a Christmas card, a postcard and an e-mail and you've corresponded four times right there -- totally doable!
2) SEND FUN THINGS FROM TIME TO TIME: Photos, postcards, stickers, bookmarks. Anything paper and flat. Whenever we go someplace new, I enjoy scouting out the giftshops for cool cards or postcards to send. (Greeting cards that play music were a particular hit!)
3) KEEP YOUR LETTERS AGE-APPROPRIATE AND REASONABLE IN LENGTH: I read a post from a woman talking about the 7-page letter she sent to her sponsored child. My personal opinion is that's too long and taxes the resource of the organization - specifically the translators. One to two pages in length is appropriate.
4) UNDERSTAND THAT THE INITIAL LETTERS FROM YOUR CHILD MAY BE SHORT AND GENERIC: All relationships take time to build -- and your child is likely young and still learning the skill of correspondence.
5) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ADDITIONAL GIVING OPPORTUNITIES: Birthdays, family gifts, etc. With Compassion, these gifts go directly to the family, maximizing what your money is doing for your sponsored child.
6) LEARN ABOUT YOUR CHILD'S COUNTRY AND CULTURE: I knew nothing about Ethiopia when I started as a sponsor. Well, nothing other than the usual stereotypes -- I doubt I need to elaborate on those. What a difference two years has made. I know a ton about the Ethiopian government, current events, tourist spots, national parks, landscape, wildlife, national holidays. What a wonderful place it is! Having my horizons expanded was an unexpected benefit for me.