On the Back Of A Bicycle And Other Letter Adventures: How We Get Your Letters To Where They Need To Go

A sponsor writing to her sponsored child

It’s not every day you connect directly with a real person living in another corner of the world and make a real, meaningful difference in their life – unless, that is, you are a child sponsor. Writing letters to your child, and having them write back, can be pretty amazing for both of you.

Like all good things, writing letters and waiting for a reply by mail takes time – maybe more time than you would think!

It can take three or four months from when you mail a letter to your sponsored child to when you receive their reply. It’s quicker for sponsors who send and receive letters from their sponsored child digitally. But even then, it will still take some time.

That’s because many children in World Vision’s child sponsorship programme live in the farthest corners of the world and getting there isn’t always easy. But every day, that’s exactly what we do and thanks to technology in remote locations or the use of carer mobile phones during COVID-19 lockdowns, your letters are still reaching their destination.

Here’s how it happens…

1. You write and post your letter to the World Vision national office in your sponsored child’s country which will take two to three weeks to arrive if sent by traditional mail (even longer in COVID-19 times because of disruption to mail services around the world). Additionally, if you didn’t already know, you can also send your letters digitally through the e-letter function. This drastically minimises the time it takes for the letter to reach the office and ensures its arrival.

BUT, do note that replies from your sponsored child will still be sent through a hand-written letter.

Not sure what to write? Here are some tips.

World Vision staff sprting through the letters

2. We receive it and sort it. The World Vision national office in your sponsor child’s country receives your letter (and thousands of others, then sorts it by child and community, printing off the child’s copy if it has been received electronically). 

It’s really important that you always include your child’s name and ID on your letters – we need those details to make sure your letter reaches your sponsored child among the 2.6 million sponsored children in our programmes in 54 countries!

World Vision staff checking through the letters for safety

3. We check it for safety. Staff at the World Vision national office open and check every letter sent to children for their safety and care. We need to make sure they only receive appropriate messages and items. For example, no cash can be sent to children, but small gifts like stickers, postcards or family photos are great.

World Vision staff and volunteer working on a translating letter

4. We translate it so your sponsored child can read it. Unless English is spoken in your sponsored child’s country, our national office staff allocate your letter to a community volunteer or World Vision staff to translate it into your sponsored child’s language, so they can read it for themselves (or a friend or family member can if they can’t read yet). Getting the message just right, making sure nothing is lost in translation and being careful not to alter what you have said is a tricky job and it takes time.

One way of delivering the letters is through difficult terrains

5. We deliver it to our closest office. With the translation complete, your letter is sent to the local World Vision office closest to your sponsored child’s community. In some places, it could be a distance of a day or more – especially in the wet season, when roads in some areas get damaged or even cut off – and so the trip is made when it’s possible. When it gets there, your letter is checked again to make sure that it has arrived safe and sound.

World Vision staff hand-delivering a letter to a sponsored child

6. We deliver it to your sponsored child. From the local office, your letter is given to a World Vision community volunteer or staff member and personally delivered to your sponsored child on foot or by bike, car, horse, donkey or motorbike, across bumpy tracks, through fields, crossing rivers or mountain passes, depending on where your sponsored child lives. If the community is affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, a copy of your letter could be sent to a carer’s mobile phone, so they can read it straight away. If there’s no phone in the child’s home, we’ll get it to them as soon as it’s safe to do so.

World Vision sponsored child writing a letter to her sponsor

7. Your sponsored child writes back! Trust us, your sponsored child will be very excited to receive your letter. Depending on their age and education level, their parent, carer, or a World Vision staff or community volunteer will help them write back within about four weeks (during COVID-19 lockdowns, reply times can vary).

Then your child’s letter will make its way back to you, travelling through the same process in reverse – either electronically, by being scanned and delivered straight to your email or sponsor portal, or by traditional mail. If they are in an area affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, their carer may take a photo of the letter and send it to the World Vision office to be forwarded to you.

Whether you send and receive letters with your sponsored child electronically to speed things up, or by traditional mail to enjoy the thrill of something much better than a bill in your mailbox, we hope you’ll agree it’s worth the wait – after all, every letter has a long-distance hug wrapped up inside.

Send your sponsored child a note today! It’s easier than you think.

Written By: 
World Vision Singapore