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Return To Sender?

You spend a lot of time and effort to encourage your sponsored child, and we can read and see your heart in every sponsor letter and gift. But once the mail is received at One Child Matters' offices in Colorado, what happens next?

After each letter is opened and read, we check every item sent in the envelope. This can take a lot of time – many of you are quite effective packers, stuffing a #10 business envelope beyond what the laws of physics should bear!

If the items are okay to send on, we make sure that as many items as possible have your sponsored child’s full ID on them. That ID follows this format: AA-111-C123456 and includes the country code (AA), the project number (111) and your child’s unique ID (C123456).

That’s one way you can ensure your letter’s processing goes smoothly. You saw how many sponsor letters we receive in a daywriting your child’s full ID on any enclosures helps us keep everything together in our offices and once your letter arrives in country.

(If you have a hard time remembering your or your sponsored child’s ID, consider signing up for My Account, where you can find all of your account information — and much more — in one handy place.)

We may repackage the items (sometimes in new envelopes or in Ziploc baggies) using plenty of tape or staples to ensure everything stays together. Then each letter is sorted by country and project and readied for shipment, which occurs once a month to manage the costs.

But we receive many items we simply can’t send. (Check out the "Return To Sender" photo gallery to see some of the items we've collected over the last three months.)

Some items, such as cash or coins, are prohibited by every country in which we work. Because of quarantine and plant protection issues, packets of seeds are not allowed, either.

Most countries expressly prohibit any electronic items. Most if not all of our shipments to and from our countries are listed as paper materials, including an electronic item can cause major issues.

What qualifies as an electronic item? The best answer is anything that turns off or on, requires a battery, or makes noises. That includes calculators, watches, toys with moving parts, and musical cards.

Yes, musical cards. They are so much fun, but do you know what they look like in an x-ray machine? There's a photo in the Return To Sender photo gallery to help you understand why these are problematic.

In fact, any metal object can be picked up by a Customs’ x-ray screening. Because we declare most of our shipments as paper media, a metal object may hold up a shipment indefinitely. The same is true for magnets.

Some countries ban very interesting items. Nepal expressly forbids watches. Lebanon bans artificial butters!

The Philippines does not allow any “easily liquefiable item” via mail. On our list, this would fall under heat-sensitive items, which covers everything from crayons to candies. Remember our discussion of weather and climate? If most of our countries maintain an average temp in the mid-80s, those crayons will make an awful mess and ruin other items in the package.

We could create a long and specific list for each country, but it is easiest on our US staff and country workers if we maintain a simple list of items we can or cannot send. Sometimes we are able to remove only the problematic items and send the rest of the gift on. In other instances, we will contact you to ask your permission to donate your items to a ministry here in the United States.

Our goal is to allow you to encourage your child without driving up shipping costs. But the larger and more complicated a package is, the more likely it will be delayed. More importantly, if we send larger items, our projects will have to pay more to retrieve the shipments from their Customs office, and we'd prefer they can spend their time and resources on the children.

Some of you may read this post and think, “Oh, I feel terrible. I’ve never sent anything other than a letter to my sponsored child!” If you are discouraged in any way, please consider this: if sending a toy or trinket would require more energy than you have at the moment, focus on the letter instead.

While your sponsored child is blessed by anything they receive, it is your words that mean the most. Words do not break, cannot be stolen or smashed. They do not melt or cause problems in an x-ray machine. Your words do not spoil or fade.

Quite simply, your encouragement never grows old. Your sponsored child can read your letter again and again. A trinket can only be in one place at a time, but your words and prayers can stay with your sponsored child – and his parents and siblings and friends – for years.

That's a gift well-worth sending, don't you think?

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