A Birthday Card is Not Little

On a trip to visit sponsored children in Cambodia in 2019, Holt’s content manager had a serendipitous meeting with one special little boy — and experienced just how important sponsors’ birthday cards are for the children who receive them.

Every spring at Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon, we love seeing bundles of birthday cards arrive in the mail — signed with love by sponsors to be delivered to their sponsored children around the world. Not every child receives a card from their sponsor, though. We understand — people are busy. I think sometimes they question if their sponsored child — living in a remote village in some far-off place — will really receive the card they send. Or they wonder if their sponsored child will really understand or appreciate a birthday card, especially in countries where people don’t really celebrate birthdays.

As someone who has traveled just about everywhere Holt sponsored children live, I can assure you — children LOVE receiving birthday cards from their sponsors. They love to see photos of their sponsors that are often included in the cards, and they often keep their cards — treasured among their few possessions.

Children really do love these cards and feel special when they receive them. But we want EVERY child to feel special. That’s why, every year, Holt staff get together to sign birthday cards for children who didn’t receive a card from their sponsor.

Robin wades through ankle-deep water on a street in Cambodia
I waded through ankle-deep water to visit Holt-sponsored children in Cambodia during the rainy season in September 2019.

The last time I traveled overseas for Holt was to Cambodia in September 2019. We visited our programs across the country — interviewing children and families so that we could share their stories with the many sponsors and donors who make a difference in their lives. One day, while visiting homes in a neighborhood of Phnom Penh, we stopped by the house of a boy whose sponsor helped make it possible for him to stay in school. It was the rainy season, and I remember wading through ankle-deep water as we approached his home. His house was more like a shack, with rusted sheet metal siding for walls that framed the one room he shared with his whole family. This family lived in heartbreaking poverty, and our local team in Cambodia told me that without the support of his sponsor, this boy would have dropped out of school to help earn money for his family. He was a smart boy and an excellent student, but very serious. You could see that he understood his family’s circumstances, and that his life had not been easy.

“I asked this boy if he had received any letters or cards from his sponsors … his brother then brought out a card with a short message and a heart. I was surprised — that was my handwriting!”

At the end of the interview, I asked this boy if he had received any letters or cards from his sponsor. He went back inside his house and came out with a card. Opening it up, I saw that his card was signed by my coworker, Laura! His brother then brought out a card with a short message and a heart. I was surprised – that was my handwriting!

Two boys in Cambodia hold up birthday cards that were signed by Holt staff
I wrote “We love you” inside a birthday card, not knowing who it would be sent to. While in Cambodia later that year, I unknowingly visited the home of the boy who received it. His brother received a card signed by my coworker, Laura.

It was such a sweet moment, and I was so happy that I had taken the time during a busy workday to sign cards for children who wouldn’t otherwise receive a birthday card. Sponsorship is already such an incredible gift to children living in poverty, and I feel so thankful that there are such kind and generous people in the world who care about children they will likely never meet. A birthday card may not seem like much, especially when you’re already giving money every month to make sure your sponsored child has enough food to eat and everything they need to go to school. But I assure you — sponsored kids LOVE receiving the little things, too, like a birthday card and a picture from their sponsor. To a child who already has so little, a birthday card is not little. It’s a big, big gesture, and it makes them feel very special and loved.

group of children holding balloons and jumping into the air

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