Letter Writing Guide
One of the benefits of sponsoring a child through our Legacy Academy program is that you are able to communicate with your sponsored child through letter writing. By logging in to your account and selecting, ‘My Sponsorships’, you can easily type out a message to send over.
The children in our program truly treasure words of support and love from their sponsors. They enjoy hearing about you and ways they can pray for you as well as you asking them questions about their life and environment.
As you write letters, we have created a guide to help you know what type of topics to write about as well as some topics to avoid in your letter writing. There are some cultural misunderstandings we experience between the U.S. and Zambia that we would like for you to be aware of and those are listed below. Lastly, you will find some frequently asked questions about the letter writing process that might give you more insight into how this all works. Enjoy writing letters to your sponsored children!
Below we have a list of example prompts you can use when writing letters to the child(ren) you sponsor. You can use these as a guide for what to write about in your letters.
- Write about your family members (immediate and extended – names, ages, etc.) and why you are grateful for them.
- Ask your sponsored child about his/her school. What is his/her favorite subject in school?
- Write about your hobbies you enjoy and why?
- Describe how you overcame a challenge or met a goal in your life.
- Ask your sponsored child about his/her church and their favorite Bible verses.
- Share how and when you came to know God as your personal savior. Talk about your faith journey, share Bible verses, etc.
- Share your favorite Bible verse and why.
- Share about your favorite Bible character and how they inspire you. Ask your sponsored child the same.
- Encourage your sponsored child to keep striving or persevering through his/her education.
- Give Bible verses and words of encouragement that your sponsored child could cling to during discouragement or trials.
- Remind your sponsored child that you are praying for him/her with any specific requests they have shared.
To view more prompts, click here.
When writing letters to your sponsored child, there are some topics we would like for you to avoid. Based on the cultural difference, some things may not get translated or received the same way we intend for them to. Please keep the following topics in mind when writing letters.
- Please do not share addresses, phone numbers, emails or any other contact information.
- Avoid suggesting that your sponsored child visit the United States.
- Telling your sponsored child that you are coming to visit or wish to come visit him/her (even if you have signed up for one of our Short Term Missions Trips).
- Please keep details about difficult circumstances you have experienced to a minimum i.e. death of a loved one, bad accidents, or health scares. Be mindful not to explain any of these in detail as it may be triggering to the children in our program who have gone through difficult circumstances.
- Refrain from discussing material possessions, the size of your home, your car, etc., as this magnifies the differences between you and your sponsored child.
- Refrain from asking your sponsored child what you can “do” or “send” to the child. This prompts the child to ask you for things when we do not allow gift giving.
- Avoid discussing anything about not seeing letters on the website or not being able to login to find the letters. If you have any trouble viewing letters, please contact us at 972.620.2020 ext.4 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*We reserve the right to remove any content we deem inappropriate.
There are some cultural misunderstands that we face when interacting with people of another country. We would like to make you aware of these cultural misunderstands between the U.S. and Zambia in order to support you in your letter writing.
- Be aware when using informal language or slang that those same words will not translate in their language and they may not understand what you are trying to communicate.
- Most holidays celebrated in the U.S. are not celebrated in Zambia. Be mindful when discussing an American holiday to also explain what the holiday means and its history.
- When talking about pets – The population of children we work with don’t typically own pets. If you mention that you have pets, it’s best to keep it short and simple. Refrain from comments about your pet telling the child “hello”, as it can confuse the child. Remember when you refer to your pet by its name, to clarify that it is your dog, cat, etc. so it doesn’t cause confusion.
- We don’t recommend saying, “Scout’s girlfriend is coming over for a playdate today and they both say ‘hi!'”
- We do recommend saying, “Our dog, Scout, loves to run around and play in the cold weather.”
- Be mindful of different places, foods, and experiences you talk about. If it is something they may not be familiar with in Zambia, explain more about what the place, food, or experience is like so they can get a better picture of what you are talking about.
- The children in our program live in Lusaka, Zambia, which is the capital city – paved roads, traffic issues, grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. They do not primarily live in areas they would refer to as the bush or village, which is a more rural area outside of town. They may travel there to visit family.
To view more cultural misunderstandings, click here.
- What should I expect when I receive a letter from my child?
- Age to grade ratio may be different in their communication ability. The children in our program may enter into our schools a little later in age so the grade to age ratio may be a little off from what we experience in the States. Be mindful that if your child is older in age, they may not be as developed in education as we would expect in the States.
- English is our students’ second language. They learn English in school but it takes them time to learn the language well enough to write it well. Be mindful that if your sponsored child isn’t writing in perfect English sentences that they may be shy about writing in their second language to a native speaker. Their letters might even be more brief or not as detailed because of this.
- Our staff may assist them with their letters. Since it takes the children in our program some time to learn how to speak English as well as write in English, we sometimes have our staff help the children write their letters. They will ask the children what they want to say and will help them put it down on paper while the child draws a picture. You may see on a letter, Assisted by _ Teacher.
- You might see the same fill-in-the-blank sentences. Sometimes the children in our program don’t know what to write about so our teachers will write example sentences on the board to help them fill-in-the-blanks. If you sponsor a few children in our program, you might receive letters with the same fill-in-the-blank sentence. This is due to our staff helping them know what types of things they might want to say in their letters. Keep in mind that for younger ones, it might be easier to copy the board rather than come up with original ideas of what to say.
- Your sponsored child might repeat themselves. We understand that at times, it feels like your sponsored child will repeat themselves in different letters. This is mostly because they are still learning how to write letters or are unsure what to write about.
- Why doesn’t my sponsored child answer my questions or write longer letters?
- Many children begin school later in their young life, age 8, 9, 10, etc. They’re having to catch up, but have missed the pivotal developmental years.
- If students started school at a later age they may not feel comfortable writing a long letter yet. Even if they have been in school for a couple of years they may still feel more comfortable drawing a picture. That is why you may see that a teacher has helped write their letter.
- Can I write directly to my sponsored child?
- Routing the letters through Family Legacy is the best and most efficient way to handle correspondence. It allows us to monitor the content and explain any cultural differences that come through. Zambia does not have a postal service like we do in the United States nor do they have an address system where the children live that would be effective to receive letters. It allows us to protect the privacy and personal boundaries of the child and the sponsor.
- Can I connect with my child through social media like Facebook, Twitter, email, Skype, etc?
- We desire for you to have a good relationship with your sponsored child, but ask that you refrain from reaching out to your child in ways other than letters through Family Legacy. If you are contacted by your child outside of Family Legacy, please do not respond, but let us know about the contact. We want to protect the child and sponsor.
- We cannot protect the child or the sponsor if the communications happen outside of the system we have in place. By us being involved in the communication process, we are able to help navigate the cultural divide and avoid something inadvertently insensitive or inappropriate being written.
- How often will I hear from my sponsored child?
- Our children have the opportunity to write 2-3 letters each year. This is based on unexpected events that may occur, (like a cholera outbreak or an election year with students being out of school more than normal). However, please note that if your child is out of school for any reason during the letter writing week at school, he or she may not have the opportunity to write the letter. Our staff do everything in their power to make sure each child writes, but this doesn’t happen 100% of the time.
- If you write a letter to your child, you will receive a response back; therefore, will receive more letters in return.
- Can I send a package to my sponsored child?
- Due to the overall fairness of the children, we do not allow sponsors to give gifts to their children. We encourage sponsors to send letters and pictures only.
- To learn more about our gift policy, click here.
To view more Frequently Asked Questions, click here.