Guidelines for communications between sponsors and children.
This is an important area we need to clarify for the security of both sponsor and child. This is to prevent any difficult circumstances from occurring between children & sponsors through our organisation, which have already happened in others. Until now we have not written specific guidelines for this area of child – sponsor communications; instead it has been managed on a case-by-case inquiry. We now feel it’s better to have clear public guidelines that will be amended as necessary in the future.
General overview of letters writing guidelines
- Letters need to be translated and we have a wonderful team who perform this task. So they are not overloaded though we ask that you limit your letters to 300 words.
- Please keep your letters simple as this makes it easier to both translate and for the children to understand.
- Your letters should include little pieces of news about you or your family and words of encouragement for your child.
- As you encourage your child to do well in school (for instance) please don’t labour the point so the child does not feel additional pressure. Many are under enough pressure from family, friends and society in this area already.
- It’s OK to let your child know you are praying for their health (for instance) but sometimes we may need to edit letters which may be to explicit in this area.
- Please limit your letters to one every two or three months maximum so our translation team are able to keep up.
Can I write directly to my child?
Experience has shown that routing letters through the Heart For Kids system is the most efficient way to handle correspondence.
- It allows us to translate letters in the most appropriate manner for both you and your child.
- It helps us coordinate the process so letters travel in both directions as quickly as possible. Letters to children often have to be hand delivered.
- It allows us to protect your privacy.
- It allows us to protect the children.
If you do write to your child in their native language we will still forward this to our translation team so that we can be aware of the letter’s content.
Can I connect with my child through Facebook, Twitter, email, Skype, etc.?
As electronic communications become the norm in many countries they are still anything but that in other countries. Also some countries actually have bans in place preventing many social media and communication sites from being accessed. We understand your desire to avoid using “snail mail” in our ever-increasing, digitally connected world. We have installed our online child letter-writing site to help in this area.
Our greatest concern is protecting the children. In this day and age we must be firm in this area and we also have requirements and best practices to be followed by all international agencies.
If you are contacted by your sponsored child outside of Heart For Kids (e.g., by phone, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), please don’t respond. Please let us know about the contact.
It’s been surprisingly common in some organisations for someone who knows a sponsored child, even a family member like an uncle or cousin, to create an account on a social network. They then pretend to be the child, to ask for money or to claim the child’s well-being is threatened if money isn’t provided.
We cannot protect your privacy or your sponsored child if we are not involved in the correspondence. We also have a responsibility to protect the children from sponsors who don’t have the children’s best interest in mind. Sadly this happens occasionally as well.
Being involved in the correspondence process also allows us to help you navigate the ocean of cross-cultural sensitivities and avoid inadvertently writing something inappropriate or offensive to your child or to other laws or practices in your child’s country. Many of these are very different to those in our own countries.
If you are contacted by the child or youth you sponsor outside of Heart For Kids system (e.g., by phone, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat etc.), please don’t respond, even to say, “I’m sorry but I can’t talk with you in this manner.” And please let us know about the contact.
If it happens in Facebook or Twitter, please use the site’s “block” feature to block the person from asking you to be their friend. I know this may sound harsh, but please try to imagine what could happen if these guidelines weren’t in place.
Can I send photographs to my child?
We would love you to! We recommend you send a picture of yourself in the first letter and lots of pictures after that. You can send landscape photos, artistic pictures, pictures of your pets, the town you live in, your family and friends, etc.
Please remember to include your sponsor name and your sponsored child’s name and number on each photo or small gift you send.
Please avoid sending pictures that may accentuate the economic differences between you and your child (e.g., homes, cars, etc.). Be aware of what is in the photo’s background, as well.
If you happen to send a photo that our country staff considers inappropriate, we will advise you by email.
Why can’t I include my address, e-mail address or phone number in my letter?
We take information security very seriously. For this reason, we handle all child letters directly and ask that you not share your personal contact information with your child.
Your letters are sent to the Australian office and then to your child’s country. Sharing your personal contact information can put you and your child at risk.
Some sponsors in other organisations who have shared their personal contact information have received solicitations for money from people claiming to be friends or family members of their sponsored child. There have also been situations where children have been placed at risk in their communities due to their direct contact with a sponsor from the developing world.
We cannot protect you or your child unless we are able to monitor the correspondence process.
Can I send my child a parcel?
Sending a parcel to your child can be difficult. It incurs a cost that Heart for Kids is not able to bear unless someone from our office is able to carry them while traveling. This of course is dependent on weight restrictions and when someone is next traveling.
Everything we send to our country offices is declared to customs as a document. If custom officials find anything in a box of letters that isn’t a document, we will be assessed and may face hefty fine and the box will be held for weeks, possibly months.
On top of that, there is a high incidence of theft when sending packages to the developing world, and shipping items overseas can be quite costly.
Instead, we encourage you to send a monetary gift. Our local staff will purchase what they need most. This also benefits the local economy of your sponsored child by supporting local businesses.
While it may seem easier to speak with your child directly through social media (Facebook etc), and we know that writing letters the “old-fashioned” way may not be what you prefer, we appreciate your willingness to respect our communication policies which are written in the best interests of all concerned.