If you sponsor a child in the 3rd world, what could you send to brighten their day?
July 7, 2007 2:40 AM   Subscribe

If you were to sponsor a child in the 3rd world, what could you send to brighten their day?

Following a holiday to Thailand, my kids had questions regarding poverty. I have agreed to sponsor a child in Vietnam through Worldvision to help give my kids and understanding of the issues and our position/responsibilities in the first world.
The child we are sponsoring is a 7yro girl who speaks Vietnamese. My kids are 6yro girl, 4yro boy and 1yro boy and we all speak only English.
The charity says we can write to an address in Saigon and letters will be passed on.
I have talked with the kids about what might be nice to send and we thought maybe some picture books, a photo of our family and some drawings.
Any mefites with experience, insight and tips would be be appreciated.
I guess my concerns are to be sensitive and appropriate within the cultural differences, and help develop my kids' awareness. TIA
posted by bystander to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I lived in Indonesia teaching English last year, and while the cultural differences will be vast between Vietnam and Indonesia, I think something my very youngest students LOVED was coloring and craft stuff - public school was pretty regimented from an early age, supplies had to be purchased by students (though I imagine a school run by Worldvision might provide them) and classes were large, so the opportunities for creative art activities were limited. Your ideas are great!

Everyone I knew, even in the less-well-off areas of the city I lived in, had access to a CD/DVD/VCD player or a Playstation in little communal shops where you paid per use, so if you've got the ability, it might be cool to record your letters after you write them, perhaps including some sounds/video from your neighborhood, like your kids' classes doing activities, or some music you all like, or maybe some footage of you guys cooking/playing together.

There might be restrictions on sending school supplies or other material objects that could be stolen or sold - check with World Vision first.
posted by mdonley at 3:05 AM on July 7, 2007

If I were in her place, I'd really like it if someone sent me a really cool set of colour pencils (the foreign kind), and art books to draw on. The family picture would also be appreciated, along with whatever each individual of the family deems *special* to them that they could send a 7 yeard old girl.
posted by hadjiboy at 3:06 AM on July 7, 2007

psych, mdonley
posted by hadjiboy at 3:08 AM on July 7, 2007

Kids here get excited by sheets of stickers. Cheap to mail and they're easy for them to share. (That's what's cool about the poor kids--even if they have just a little they're ready to share it!)
posted by wallaby at 5:21 AM on July 7, 2007

All good thoughts. I like the idea of getting your kids involved to make up some collages of local postcards and photographs - I bet the sponsored child would love to see more about life in your locality. Pulling out postcards from home when I was travelling in Asia was like waving a magic wand.
posted by peacay at 7:10 AM on July 7, 2007

From what I've seen, soccer balls tend to bring way more joy than you'd expect. (My frame of reference is Africa, not Vietnam, so YMMV.)
posted by fogster at 8:13 AM on July 7, 2007

I was an international development worker in Vietnam, but I didn't interact with children much.

Mostly they seemed to attend school, play soccer, and play games/watch cartoons in the computer cafes. Of course they like candy and ice cream too. I guess, in summary they like pretty much the same things kids in North America do, except with a different bankroll and lifestyle.

I've worked in Africa too, and for African kids I would recommend soccer balls or digital watches as mentioned above (my Timex Ironman watch was a crowd pleaser) - I don't think that applies to Vietnam (they would have access to cheap Chinese ones).

The other thing to keep in mind is that you cannot trust the postal service in Vietnam, I sent a handful of cards and letters to friends and family in Canada and not one ever made it. Stickers, cute school supplies, photos, all good ideas...
posted by Deep Dish at 9:20 AM on July 7, 2007

Best answer: Oh yeah, culturally for Vietnam I don't think you have to worry about offending people much. There are a lot of protocols around face-to-face communication and public image, but a small gift you don't make a big show about about will be fine and raise a lot of smiles.
posted by Deep Dish at 9:22 AM on July 7, 2007

My parents sent an inflatable beach ball in the past to their sponsored child in Africa and it went down well (without being too expensive on postage)

You need to bear in mind that what you are sending might "get lost" in situ, so don't go overboard on expense
posted by cgfoz at 12:29 PM on July 7, 2007

Best answer: I sponsor a child through another agency, and they do not allow anything that is not flat and can't fit in a flat envelope, since it is too expensive to pay the customs fees in the other country, and it may not actually get to the child. When my sponsored child was younger, I sent pages of stickers, picture postcards, and lots of pictures of me and my family (that was the thing she really loved). When she was old enough to go to school and read, I would send a pretty bookmarks. They live in such poverty that anything you send will be appreciated.

I don't have kids, but my sister and her family sponsored a child, and the children either drew a picture or put a little note in too.

Really, I found that the best thing I could do was to write as often as I could, since it encouraged her to know that someone who had never met her cared about her and was concerned for her.
posted by la petite marie at 12:50 PM on July 8, 2007

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