By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist
In our age of email, blogs, instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter, letter writing is mostly a lost art. Yet for generations, people have corresponded with each other. Scholars now study the many letters written by ordinary people to formulate their social and cultural histories.
When did you last take up pen and paper to write a letter? Remember how you paused a moment to hold your loved one in your heart before your words took shape on paper? Letters are gifts. And that’s the point of National Letter Writing Day, celebrated each Dec. 7.
For the children we sponsor, letters are an extra-special gift. They’re tangible symbols of our care and concern, so treasured that, if you visit a sponsored child’s home, you’re likely to find it displayed. You might see the wall of a mud hut completely covered with a sponsor’s cards and letters, or discover years of correspondence bound up in precious silk or leather for safekeeping. Often our words transform these children’s worlds, filling young hearts with hopes and dreams. Their lives will never be the same.
Whether this is your first or 50th time corresponding with your sponsored child, consider sending a letter or postcard today. Overseas postage is $1.05, for either a postcard or a standard-sized envelope of 1 ounce or less. You can order your stamps online in blocks of four, 10 or 20.
What to write? If you’re getting ready for Christmas, describe your own traditions. In most cultures, holidays are primarily about time spent with family and friends. So if your child happens to be Christian, ask about their own celebration. (In Belarus and Ethiopia, where Christians follow the Orthodox calendar, the date for Christmas is Jan. 7.)
For Muslim children, Muhammad’s birthday — called Maouloud or Milad an’Nabi — is celebrated on Jan. 24. In many countries where ChildFund serves, this is a public holiday.
Children in Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Indonesia celebrate the Lunar New Year on Feb. 9 or 10 this coming year; 2013 is the Year of the Snake. Vietnamese call the New Year Tet; to Indonesians, it’s Imlek.
Sri Lankans celebrate harvest thanksgiving day, Tamil Thai Pongal, on Jan. 14. Thai is the name of the first month in their lunar calendar, and Pongal is a special rice pudding they eat on that day. Holi, India’s harvest festival, arrives March 27.
What can you enclose with your letter? Keep “flat and light” in mind. For younger children, stickers, origami paper or balloons are fine gifts. Older ones might enjoy a short poem or story about your culture or holiday traditions. This gives them an opportunity to respond in kind. You may find some stories in common. The B’rer Rabbit tales, for example, are based on West African folklore about a trickster hare called Leuk – Leuk, le lièvre, in French.
Anything that encourages your child’s creativity or critical thinking is a perfect complement to your letter. Send crossword puzzles in their native language, Word Search games, Sudoku charts and coloring book pages.
Most of all, have fun! Letter writing is both an art and a gift of love.
by Kate Nare, ChildFund Marketing Specialist
The devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 left hundreds of thousands of families homeless, and hundreds of children orphaned.
Following this disaster, ChildFund Japan, with the help of child sponsors and other ChildFund Alliance members – including ChildFund International, was able to quickly create an emergency and reconstruction plan to help the hard-hit community of Ofunato, located in the Iwate jurisdiction.
Response included the delivery of emergency goods, psychological care and grief workshops and other community development projects. ChildFund Japan soon became a lead agency supporting children with counselling services to address the psychological effects of the tsunami and the loss of family members.
Last summer, local government officials asked ChildFund Japan to help build a sense of community in the temporary housing units where many displaced families were living in Ofunato. The goal was to create a space where residents could gather, have tea and socialize, with the key message being: We are with you! You are not alone!
Volunteers from the local university joined carpenters and community members to build colorful benches and tables to serve as a meeting place for the residents. Shortly thereafter, preparations began for a summer festival. Five months after the tsunami, residents were able to find enjoyment in socializing with their new neighbors and reconnecting with community.
Additionally, ChildFund Japan implemented a grief counseling program for teachers to deliver as they continue to interact with students who were in class on the day the tsunami hit, forcing them to flee for their lives. Today, an after-school daycare center provides children with a safe environment where they can once again laugh and play.
One child said, “Since we became victims, the after-school child center changed and became a bit quiet. But my friends are more cheerful now and that’s good.”
Although recovery and rehabilitation continue, these children are a symbol of hope and resiliency for Japan.
View a video from ChildFund Japan highlighting the emergency relief and development work following the earthquake and tsunami.