In our first post of this series entitled, “Seven Steps to Sending your letter”, we discussed the schedule we personally use for writing and sending letters to our Compassion children and shared resources with topics you can write about. This is the second post in which we answer the question, “How do I write my sponsored child?” More accurately, we discuss writing our sponsored children via Compassion’s online letter writing system. Andy and I tend to use the online letter writing system for shorter reply letters, monthly update letters, and quick notes of encouragement that may be specific to one child.
Some of you may know of “One Word”, and you may even participate in this wonderful movement. While I had read about this for a few years, 2013 is the first year I’ll be participating. If you have never heard of “One Word”, check out these posts from Compassion International’s blog to see how lives are being changed by the simple act of choosing just one word to focus on for the year.
My word for 2013 is “faith”. While this stretches way beyond our sponsorship and advocacy through Compassion, Andy and I are believing for some very specific things within the context of our involvement with Compassion as well. There are things Andy and I are praying and believing God for in the lives of some of our Compassion children, we believe that our advocacy will expand this year, and we also believe that we will be in the Dominican Republic in November.
Bonus topic: Share your one word for 2013 with
your sponsored children!
If you are participating in “One Word” for 2013, why not tell your Compassion children about it? You can share your word for 2013 and how the Lord revealed this word to you. You can share Scriptures that remind you of this word and ways in which you want to grow closer to Christ in 2013. Ask your children, “If God gave you one word to live by for 2013, what would that one word be?” Another great question you can ask is, “How would you like to grow closer to the Lord in 2013?” You could even ask your children to share a Scripture that reminds them of the word the Lord would give them. Remember to ask your children to pray for you as you grow closer to Jesus through your word for the year, and be sure to tell them you are praying for them as well.
Before logging into the online letter writing system
A letter such as this is short enough to be written via Compassion’s online letter writing system. Before I ever log on to Compassion.com, I write out the letter using my Word processing program. Although I could simply write the letter online, I find it very slow and difficult with my screen reading software, because the site saves a draft frequently. This is not Compassion’s fault, as other sites work the same way. Additionally, writing out the letter on my computer first saves me time and the fear of losing my letter in cyberspace. Compassion’s website gives you a time limit of 60 minutes to write your letter before you need to log in again. While your letter should be saved as a draft, technology can be imperfect and unforgiving. For me personally, I know I’m most likely to run over the 60 minute time limit as I work to word my letter just right, look up the perfect Scriptures, read and reread my letter, ETC. I also know there is a character limit on Compassion’s website, so I tend to check my character limit as I write my letter with my word processor. Depending on the awesome template I choose to use on Compassion’s website, I can fit around 2000 characters in our online letters.
Logging into the online letter writing system
Once I have written and perfected the base letter we will send to all of our children, I go to www.compassion.com and click on “My Account”. I then click on “Write my child” and am asked to log in. If you have not yet created an online account on Compassion International’s website, simply fill out the “Create an account” page to do so. Once I am logged into our online Compassion.com account after clicking on “Write my child”, I am taken to a page where I can compose a letter, view drafts of letters I have not yet finished, see letters I’ve written online, see when we wrote each child an online letter, and view a bit of basic information about each child including their birthday, age, gender, and country.
Choosing a child to write to and choosing the letter template
Now, I can choose which child I want to write to. In this case, I plan to write to all of our children, so I will simply go down the list and start with Toface, as she is the first child I see on the site. After I have selected the child I want to write to, I am taken to a screen where I can select from a variety of wonderful templates. Compassion recommends templates for each child, but there is also a tab called “more templates” that I can choose from as well. Once I select my desired template, I click “Confirm template selection” and I’m taken to the screen where I can input the text of my letter.
Inserting the letter text
Since I have already written my letter using my word processor, all I have to do is select all of the text from my document and hit copy. I can then paste it into the textbox in Compassion’s online letter writing system. Once the text has been entered, I can review it to make sure the entire letter fits in the space provided. I am able to see a progress indicator at the end of the letter, and this indicator tells me that I have used 97% of the provided space with this particular letter.
Once the letter text is entered, I go past the progress indicator to hit a button that is *conveniently labeled* as, “Button button”. While this button could use a more useful label in my opinion, common sense would tell me this is the button I want to click. I should point out here that for those of you who are sighted; this button may indeed have a more informative label.
After I hit the “button button” as my screen reader calls it, I am taken to a screen where I can add up to 3 photos to my online letter. I have never done this step, as this requires cropping images and making sure they are aligned correctly. This requires sighted assistance for those of us who are blind, so Andy and I choose to send photos as part of our snail mail packages instead. So, I will hit “continue” to be taken to the next screen where I can preview and/or print a copy of my letter.
Previewing/printing and sending the letter
There are two tabs on this page, and they are the “front page” tab and the “back page” tab. The “front page” tab is automatically selected, and here I can see the front page of this letter. I can click the “back page” tab to view the remainder, and if need be I can always click “edit this letter” to correct any mistakes. If you are like me, you have probably already reviewed the letter while it was still in the textbox, but I tend to review it here again as an extra added percaussion. Once I have reviewed the letter, I click the link that says, “Send this letter”. I am then taken to the last screen where I confirm that I do indeed wish to send this letter by clicking “yes”. Once the next screen appears to tell me my letter was successfully submitted, I return to my document to save an offline copy of the letter.
Saving an offline copy of the letter
On my external USB thumb drive, I have a folder called “Compassion” and in this folder is another called, “Children”. This folder contains folders for all of our current Compassion children, and in each of their folders is a folder called, “Letters”. This is where I keep the letters we send and receive, and they are divided into “from” and “to” folders. The “From” and “To” folders each have year folders for the years that child has been part of our Compassion family. For instance, Toface joined our Compassion family in 2010. So, there are folders for 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 in both the “from” and “to” folders. Since this online letter was written on January 3, 2013, I will name and save this file as, “Letter to Toface 01-03-2013”, and it will be saved in her “2013” folder in her “to folder”.
Writing additional children online
Once I have saved the letter I wrote to Toface, I can go back to Compassion’s website that is still open in my internet browser. The screen that is present at this point not only tells me my letter has been successfully sent, but it also gives me the option to “duplicate” the letter or to simply write another letter to the next child. I have personally learned that if I duplicate the letter, I forget to save an external copy on the computer and only end up with the online backup. Therefore, I choose to simply write another letter, and I am taken back to the screen where I choose the child I want to write to. I open another document in my word processor and paste the text of the first letter I wrote in this new document, so I can then customize it for the next child. I repeat the process explained in this post until all of our children have letters on the way.
Writing our Compassion children online takes me around 2 hours total, and I find it to be a fun and easy process. I hope this post and the bonus topic help you enjoy writing your Compassion International children via the online letter writing system, and I would love your feedback as well. Do you have any questions about writing sponsored children online? Do you have a process for writing letters online that works well for you that you’d like to share? Would you like to share with us your word for 2013? We look forward to the discussion, and we hope you’ll join us for our next post in this series where we share about the basics of being a snail!