Indian camps help children with letter writing
May 11, 2011
Rosi and her parents look through a
folder she made for the letters she
receives from her sponsor.
Rosi, a 13-year-old brimming with confidence, had not considered what her future career path might be until she received a letter from her sponsor, Julie Brown, asking about her plans for the future.
She decided she wants to be a doctor.
Sponsored since 2004, Rosi keeps her letters and photos from Julie in a special folder. She likes to read about Julie's children, and is thriving with Julie's support and words of encouragement. She says her sponsor is like family.
"The relationship that sponsors extend comes as a true blessing in [the children's] life," Suresh Singareddy, Hyderabad, India, project coordinator, said.
"When they receive the letters from their sponsors that encourage them with words like, 'You can do it,' because they, too, went through the same path of struggle and challenges, it builds confidence in [the children]. Children start believing in themselves and start achieving great things."
Sponsored children and aging friends are required to write at least two letters a year to their sponsor.
Letters are a requirement of the sponsorship program because they build a strong friendship between sponsored individuals and their sponsors.
With about 11,000 sponsored in Hyderabad, the project must process more than 22,000 letters annually.
To help students meet their letter-writing requirement and develop good letter-writing skills, the Hyderabad project conducts letter-writing camps.
In May and November, small groups of 20 to 30 children attend the one-day camps. Camp leaders help younger children who are still developing language skills and learning to express themselves, but they also take great care to explain the overall purpose of writing letters to their sponsors.
"We tell our children that letters are like a window through which the sponsor is able to look at their life," Singareddy said. "And, that window has to be always open. They have to write very good letters about themselves so sponsors are able to see the life of the children through the letter."
Practice makes perfect
Megana, 12, works on a letter at a camp
After years of experience, the camps have a tried-and-true method of helping each child.
The children begin by capturing their memories and thoughts on paper in a logical sequence. Social workers read the rough draft and make suggestions to improve grammar, spelling and content. The children then write their final draft on CFCA letterhead before it is sent to sponsors.
"Some children write based on the letters they got from their sponsor," Lenora Mary, a social worker in the Ramantapur neighborhood, said. "Some children who don't get letters from the sponsors will ask what to write, and then we suggest topics."
Older children and teens who have attended the camp for years have improved their letter-writing skills. They are able to write more naturally and their letters provide rich detail and emotion.
"Letter camps not only help children to write letters, they also learn how to communicate," Singareddy said. "They learn to relate to their sponsors and develop communication skills useful in other streams of their life."