Frequently Asked Questions

Index

General

OSI and Child Protection - The security and protection of our children is of utmost importance and legal necessity.  To this end we are established as legal entities at our program sites, and only our trained liaisons are permitted direct interaction with the children.  Thus all communication (email, postal mail, and sponsor visits) with the children must be via the site liaison or OSI staff, without exception, and this is by necessity strictly enforced.  While providing this necessary protection and meeting this legal obligation, we have also gone to great lengths to make this system as transparent as possible, so that the child and sponsor can still enjoy a virtually direct relationship, which is actually augmented by the encouragement and involvement of the liaison.
OSI and Child Privacy - OSI is as open as possible with the information it provides to sponsors regarding their sponsored child.  Information, photos, and child correspondence are provided with the assumption that they are for the private knowledge of the sponsor, or to be shared very prudently.  The child knows only of their sponsor, and assumes a private relationship with them.  Out of respect for the child and the relationship, sharing of the child's information with others via email, internet, or otherwise, should be done with the same considerations one might give to sharing their own birth-child's photos, communications, or personal information.
OSI and Religion - For every child, we believe in fostering their belief in the greatest power in their lives, which is themselves.  Our mission of encouraging the child's sense of individuality does not allow us to foster any other ideology in our children.  We highly respect the existing diversity in our children's cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, and are proud to have the same diversity amongst our staff and sponsors as well.

Financial

When is my Financial Record updated?
Your Financial Record is updated every time there is either expenditure or deposit activity on your account (see next two questions).
When do my deposits appear on my Financial Record?
For the most part, deposits are recorded on a weekly basis.  Thus, your deposit will generally be posted within a week of when it is received.  Sponsors are always free to email if they are concerned about the status of their deposit.
When do expenditures appear on my Financial Record?
While the site liaisons make expenditures throughout the month, these are compiled and reported at the end of each month, and usually appear on the sponsor's Financial Record within a few days thereafter.  If there are no expenditures on your child during a particular month, no update is made to your Financial Record.
When should I send my funds?
OSI is intentionally informal, and there is thus no monthly "bill" or reminder regarding your sponsorship payment, nor is there a monthly due-date for when funds must be received.  Funds may be sent weekly, monthly, yearly, or in whatever inconsistent increments are most convenient for the sponsor!  We simply ask sponsors to keep track of their funds in their Financial Record and to ensure that the monthly amount they have pledged is provided for.  At the top of your Financial Record, you will see your monthly "budget," which is the monthly amount pledged, and upon which we budget to serve the needs of your sponsored child.  If a sponsor falls behind in funding, we will usually send a kind reminder by email, as we understand that it is easy for the sponsor to lose track, and yet it is also important for us to be able to serve the child's needs.  In cases where a sponsor is temporarily unable to send funds, we are very understanding and simply ask to be informed so we can determine an alternate method of serving the child's needs.  If a sponsor is permanently unable to send funds, please see below.
Why is my PayPal deposit slightly less than what I actually sent?
PayPal automatically deducts it's fees from the payment amount, so that the amount received by OSI is slightly less than the amount sent by the sponsor/donor.  The deposit amount posted on your Financial Record is the full amount OSI has received from PayPal (OSI does NOT deduct any fees or "admin" expenses from child sponsor funds!).
Why is my monthly budget sometimes exceeded, and sometimes under-spent?
Your monthly budget is the average of what is necessary to provide for your sponsored child's needs.  Your monthly budget will often be under-spent to save for months when there are greater needs, during which months your budget will be over-spent (for example, at the beginning of the school year when supplies, books, and uniforms might be needed all at once).  Even when funds are under-spent, we still depend on the sponsor's monthly budgeted amount to be able to budget for the child's needs over the long-term.  Over the course of a year, average monthly expenditure should be very near your monthly budgeted amount.
Are my contributions tax-deductible?
OSI is a USA registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charity.  As such, contributions made by US residents are tax-deductible.   For non-US residents, the tax deduction depends on the laws of each particular country, though many European and other countries indeed provide a tax deduction for US-registered charities.  Receipts are mailed by OSI after the end of each calendar-year to every OSI sponsor worldwide, to be filed with your tax returns, if necessary.
Will I receive a receipt for my contributions?
After the end of each calendar year, receipts for the entire year's contributions are sent to every OSI sponsor worldwide.   These may be filed with your tax returns, if necessary, or kept for your records.

Correspondence

Are children obligated to write?
As our focus is on the child's happiness and welfare, it is not obligatory for them to correspond, though we strongly encourage them to do so and give them every means!  In most cases, our children are pleased to communicate, and this in fact can have the greatest impact on their sense of individuality, which is the core of our mission.
How often may I write to my child?
Quite simply, both sponsor and child are encouraged to write to each other as frequently as they wish.  Every sponsor-child relationship is unique, as both sponsors and children have varying interest and need for communication.  As a guideline, sponsors may let the child dictate the frequency of correspondence, readily replying to the child's letters as an encouragement to the child to write more.  The sponsor can also encourage the child to write by asking questions that serve as material for the child to reply to (as children often just don't "know" what to write).
How long should my letters be?
As with the frequency of correspondence (see previous question), the best gauge for this is the child's own letters.  The child who is sharing a lot is inviting the same, and sponsors are encouraged to respond accordingly!  But common sense prevails here as well.  Accurate translation of letters is a tedious, time-consuming process, and while our liaisons are very committed to this task, prudence on the part of the sponsor is much appreciated, and can make their task much easier!
Are letters "edited" in translation?
Sponsor letters are translated as accurately and completely as possible, 100% in most cases.  Content is only edited if the liaison is certain that the child will not grasp what is written, in which case it is simplified to what the child can comprehend.  Inappropriate content is not permitted, of course (nor political or religious opinions).  Finally, any content that may be accidentally sensitive to the child's personal experience or history may be edited.  Again, most letters are translated in full, and the sponsor is informed in cases where substantial editing is required.  Related item: OSI and Child Protection
Why has correspondence from my child become less frequent?
It is quite common that there is a rush of correspondence in the early stages of the sponsor-child relationship, which wanes somewhat as novelty subsides.  This is NOT a decline in interest from the child!  Simply, they have already shared their favorite colors and favorite foods, and their remaining daily lives in their modest environments are not full of adventure.  It is frankly a maturing of the relationship, and it's now time to try to dive into their thoughts a bit and to ask questions which give them material to respond to.  They often have a strong interest to communicate, but as with most children, they don't know exactly what to communicate.  If you've written but haven't heard back from your child in a while, don't hesitate to write again to "check" on them!
Can I send postal mail and gifts to my child?
Sponsors are free to send postal mail for their child, and addressing, customs, and other information is accessible from the sponsor's personal page on the OSI web site.  We strongly recommend mailing photos! -as the children are always greatly interested in seeing into your faces, families, and lives, and photos are cheap to send and low-risk to lose if they are lost in the mail.  Sponsors are free to send gifts, though for numerous reasons this is not generally recommended.  Mail to these remote, developing locations often does not arrive, and parcels are often held by customs and can only then be retrieved by a costly, complicated, time-consuming procedure that we do not expect our liaisons to pursue.  Alternatively, material items and gifts can usually be obtained by the liaison on-site at lower cost and without the cost of mailing, and the child usually assumes the item was sent by their sponsor.  Finally, regarding gifts, our kids are wonderfully un-spoiled and un-materialistic!  They need thoughts, and these are absolutely and truly as effective, if not more so, sent in a card or with some photos than in any material item!  Expensive gifts and frequent gifts quickly destroys this virtue, and presents the problems of envy and equality amongst the kids.

Other

Can I visit my sponsored child?
Certainly!  It's an incredible experience for both the child and their long-distance sponsor to be able to meet each other at last.  We are happy to assist a visiting sponsor as best as we can and will even advise on local arrangements, accommodation, and transportation.  It is necessary for the OSI liaison or staff to be present during sponsor visits with the child (see OSI and Child Protection above) and visits are arranged around the schedule of the liaison and the child's home.  However, it is our priority to maximize the time the sponsor is able to spend visiting their child.
Is it possible that my child may leave the program?
OSI focuses on children who are most likely to be with us long-term.  However, we can never be certain in every case, and it does occasionally occur that a child leaves our program prematurely, due to family changes, migration, or other unpredictable circumstances.  In such cases, we hope that the sponsor will consider sponsoring another child who is waiting.
What if I am unable to continue my sponsorship?
While sponsorship is ideally a long-term relationship, we do understand that things can change unexpectedly.  We never want a sponsor in changed circumstances to feel burdened.  If for any reason you cannot continue your sponsorship, please simply let us know so we can find other means to accommodate the child's needs.  In cases of financial difficulty, if you have established a good communicative relationship with your child, we are happy to continue maintaining this for you! -while assigning a second sponsor to serve the child's physical needs.  Please do not be afraid to let us know in any case, so that we can accommodate both your and the child's needs.
Orphan Sponsorship International is a US-registered 501(c)(3) charity