I have recently changed up the way that I am writing to my kids. I don't think that there's one perfect method that will work for every sponsor, but since I have made these changes, I feel like they're working pretty well for me and mean that my mailings go out in a more timely manner- and I'm saving some money, too. Before, I would write to all the kids about every two weeks online, plus doing response letters as soon as I received a letter (so I wouldn't forget what it said.) Then about every 4-6 weeks, I would do handwritten letters on a given topic (or sometimes "hand typed and then printed out at work") and throw in presents for everyone. I feel like that method wasn't exactly perfect because I'd end up hanging on to the package too long trying to get all the letters together, and I wasn't super satisfied with the gifts that I was sending to some of the kids, like lots of postcards for the older boys (and then running out of new postcards and turning to my stash of old ones from long ago vacations, and trying to remember what I had already sent to each kid!) It just didn't seem fair to me to send a stack of postcards to some of the kids because of their age and gender (or language barriers) while others were getting notebooks, coloring books, etc. Anyway, to make a long story short, here are the changes I have made:
- Alternating letter-writing days. I usually have free time on Wednesday mornings because of my work schedule. I opened the calendar on my phone, picked the first Wednesday that was coming up, and marked that "Boys' Letters." I set it up to repeat every other week. Then I went to the following Wednesday, marked that "Girls' Letters," and applied the same setting. So the kids are all getting letters every other week for sure, but I'm not doing 24 letters at a time, and I can pick a theme for the week and work off of that. Last week's theme was service because my Bible study group and I did a service project, so I wrote to the girls about that, asked them what ways they can serve others, and even provided examples from really simple things for the littles (helping your parents with chores) or more complicated things for the older girls (helping a classmate with their homework.)
- Only sending packages for birthdays and special occasions. This allows me to prepare better ahead of time. I loved Hannah's procedure for birthday gifts and sort of adapted that- I have been purchasing lots of folders for the kids, and they will each get a folder filled with goodies for their birthday. Another kind of special occasion would be an introductory gift for a new child, or maybe a gift if they've been sick or had a family tragedy. Or aced their exams!
This week I needed to mail the folder I have been putting together for Elisha, whose birthday is in September. I also wanted to do something special for Kajal, our newest sponsor child. I have just had a real burden on my heart for her- the Lord has been telling me over and over again that she needs some extra love from us, particularly here in the beginning of our sponsorship journey. I also made cards for the rest of the kids.
I am an avid collector of cards. I have an entire drawer full of them- I have mentioned before that I am a card person. Birthdays, sympathy, new baby, adoption, wedding, praying for you, friendship, congratulations.....all organized in bags, labeled, and tucked away in this drawer in my room. I have waaaaay too many blank cards, too, which I use for general correspondence (including my sort of pen pal relationship with my cousin Melissa- we mail each other cards but also email frequently, so we have all these conversations going on at once!) I selected a blank card for each child and then wrote a message inside. The message was basically the same for the boys and girls- most of my cards look pretty feminine, so the girls got this message:
Hello (name)! I thought it would be fun to send you a pretty card! I love sending cards to my family and friends- and you are both to me! I just wanted to remind you that I love you and I am praying for you every day. Today I prayed that you would have a good day at school!
Lots of love,
For the boys, I sent cards with animals on them- I found some really nice National Geographic notecards at Michael's (the craft store) a few years back and bought a ton of them. Some of the boys got pandas, and some got zebras. I tried to send the pandas to my African boys since I learned while in Tanzania that no one there seems to know what bears are. The inscription on their cards was almost identical to the girls', except I added a note about the animal being called a panda bear, they live in China, and I think they are cute. Same with zebras- they live in Africa, and I saw several on my trip to Tanzania earlier this year. Then at the bottom of all the cards, I wrote the first, more popular bit of Proverbs 17:17: "A friend loves at all times."
Now onto the gifts! I have been gathering materials for Elisha's folder for a few weeks now. Can I just say that it's a little challenging to find folders for boys? I have seen so many feminine patterns and colors for folders, but a lot of the boy stuff is licensed characters, licensed musical acts, and cars- not generic cars, but very specific kinds with the makes and models written all over the place. It's been challenging. I did find some really neat wildlife folders at Walmart, and picked up a couple for a dollar each. This one is going to Elisha. They also had some with a polar animal theme, and a farm animal theme!
Inside the folder I placed a birthday card, a picture drawn by me (since I like to draw and the kids are always sending me pictures, I thought it would only be fair if I started returning the favor), a few coloring pages (astronauts, pirate ships, and an ocean scene), a Hot Wheels sticker book, and a few sheets of car stickers. Everything has been labeled with his name and number in case something gets misplaced.
Then we have Kajal. I put together a folder for her as well- princess themed, since I call her our princess. She got all my princess stickers (three big sheets) and a book that I made for her. I had already written her a quick introduction letter, but Kim over at Three Little Larks shared something really neat recently- a booklet her family made for a new sponsor child. I had been toying with the idea of making something like this for our last few new additions to our far away family, but her facebook post and subsequent blog post helped me put it together! My booklet only has a few pages, but if you wanted to make your own, you could make it as long or short as you want!
I started with some pink copy paper and stapled it into a booklet. On the front, I glued and taped Kajal's picture and added her name to the top. I also wrote her full name and number on the back and the side of the front, in small print.
On the first pages, I wrote that I had received a booklet telling me about Kajal, so I thought it would be fun to make her a booklet about myself! I wrote this on a plain index card, trimmed to look better on the page, and included another one for translation. Then I added another sheet of stickers on the second page (princess themed yet again!)
The next pages were about me. I put my picture, along with my name, on one side, and filled out an index card with information about myself on the other. I put my age, birth date, my favorite colors, favorite Bible stories, favorite activities, and the names and ages of my parents and my brother. I repeated the process for my husband on the next two pages.
Then I did two pages about where we live. I printed out a tiny world map, a tiny map of the United States, and then some clip art featuring my state (I think it might have been printed on a t-shirt!) I drew hearts on my country and on Kajal's on the world map, and then went on to explain my country's name, then my state's name. I asked her if she could find my state on the map- the map was labeled, but having the separate shape was nice, too. And the print is really cute! Then I made another index card with a few facts about where I live, like my state is well known for horses and a famous horse race takes place here every year. I told her we have mountains, lakes, and rivers, and a river runs through part of my city. Translation space was included here as well.
At the end of the booklet, I added in a photo of our pet rabbit, Gimli, and on the last page I wrote a note saying that if she wanted to, Kajal could use the blank space to write down the things she learns about us from our letters! The whole thing turned out pretty cute for a first-time try. Especially since I finished it up late at night!
I think I will continue making booklets like these for our new kids as we get them.There are so many fun possibilities for putting them together- you could include postcards, use scrapbook paper, include notes from family members, and many other things! I added some washi tape at the last minute to brighten things up- I found some on clearance at Cracker Barrel, of all places, and was anxious to start using it! And I hope the folders are a hit!