If you have a sponsor a child but struggle to find time to write them letters, Lillian’s story may inspire you. The letters she received, quite literally, helped saved her life.
Lillian Nakabiri, from Uganda, grew up in poverty but was sponsored through a Compassion program at age 9, by Rosemary Mahomed from Australia’s Gold Coast. It wasn’t just Rosemary’s financial support that changed Lillian’s life, but also her regular letters of encouragement.
Lillian, who now works as an ambassador for Compassion, travelled to Australia to share her story. In an interview with Hope Media’s Emma Mullings, she said that receiving Rosemary’s letters had a deep and lasting impact.
The Moment A Child Receives A Letter
When Lillian was seen as useless by those in her immediate world, an Australian family half a world away was regularly writing and telling her that she was an inspiration.
“Rosemary and her family helped me to have good self esteem because they would write and encourage me and tell me how they loved me,” she told Emma Mullings.
“When you get a letter from this person who loves you, it feels like your self esteem is being constructed.”
“On a Saturday [at the Compassion centre], if you received a letter it was special to be called out on assembly: “Lillian, I have a letter from your sponsor!” How nice that was. When all the kids were there and they read out our names, those who had letters, you would walk with pride to receive it. You feel so encouraged and feel like you have space to stand. And you hold this letter like you have met this person who has written.
“It helped me when we had a lot of problems in our family, family rejection, homelessness and hopelessness. And it was special to write back to them.
For Lillian, her sponsor family would even celebrate her birthday using her photograph, and would then send her letters telling her about their celebration. She said their correspondence and encouragement built her self-confidence.
“Life around poverty makes everything ugly,” she explained, “but when you get a letter, a note from this person who loves you, it feels like your self esteem is being constructed.”
How Rosemary’s Letters Helped Save Lillian’s Life
Close bond: Lillian Nakabiri with her sponsor ‘mother’ Rosemary.
Remarkably, the letters Lillian receieved from her sponsor “mother” were so inspirational to her that they helped her to hold onto life, when she was contemplating suicide.
“These letters for me were always special—even when I was homeless, I used to keep them in a plastic bag,” she explained. “It would rain on me but it would not rain on these letters because they were my life. I loved them.
“I was about to commit suicide when I was 16 years old and homeless but I read Rosemary’s letters again, and they helped me to think through life…”
“That happens to so many kids. They love these letters, they keep them for years, even people who have graduated out of the program. They still hang onto those letters because they are so special.
“My sponsor’s love helped me focus on God and regain hope when I was about to commit suicide when I was 16 and homeless. I read [Rosemary’s] letters again, and they helped me think through life and go back to the Compassion project and be supported more.”
Write By Pen And Paper Or Online
Watch: Lillian shares how the love of her sponsor changed her life.
Most child sponsorship organisations make letter-writing easy, providing letter-writing templates, pre-formatted envelopes, and suggestions on what to write about, as well as the option for typing a letter online, which later gets printed for the child.
For tips on what to write to your sponsor child, download Compassion’s Letter Writing Guide, featuring the story of Lillian Nakabiri and her sponsor.
Christian organisations that run child sponsorship programs include