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Norma Salot: Plan Philippines' First Sponsored Child

This report, which appeared in Plan's September 1961 newsletter, was written by Lenore Sorin, associate executive director Plan, then known as Foster Parents' Plan.

September 1961: The first child enrolled by Foster Parents' Plan in the Philippines since work there was launched recently, is wistful, orphaned 10-year-old Norma Salot. She has been assigned to the members of No. 440 "Oxford" Wing of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association, Woodstock, Ontario.

No one had ever seen Norma smile. She had never gone to school. She never had the shoes or clothing to make her feel presentable. Her extreme shabbiness kept her indoors most of the time. Always ashamed of her appearance and the absence of personal belongings, she had actually hidden from the people around her, and busied herself trying to keep clean the one-room shack where she lived with her married sister, the sister's husband and two children.

War wounds

Norma lives in the Intramuros section of Manila. Completely bombed out during the war, it has become a great, unbelievable slum with squatter shacks covering every available inch of space. Norma's shack, a makeshift wooden affair on 2-foot stilts, is fashioned from scorched boards and slats.

Everyone sleeps on the floor. The only furnishings are two wooden benches. There is one public shower for the entire community... one public toilet.

I was on a preliminary survey trip in the Philippines when Norma was enrolled. We asked her what she wanted most. She replied that she wanted a towel of her own so that she could shower, and that her big dream was to go to school. She had never had a doll. That was an unthinkable luxury.

A smile on her face

Norma found it difficult to comprehend what was happening to her. We immediately provided the precious towels, shoes, new underclothing, a new pink dress, a doll dressed in pink, pink hair ribbons, a comb, brush, tooth brush and paste, school enrollment, and even a brief case to carry her books. And then when it had all come home to her, Norma smiled. Robert Sage, Plan Director in the Philippines, and I have had years of experience and at times we feel we are "case hardened".

But I must admit that Norma's first smile brought lumps to our throats. And yet Canadian and American Foster Parents are creating a similar miracle every day in all countries in which we operate.

Conditions in these Manila slums are indeed incredible. There are no pavements, and because of the constant dripping of the spigots at the public showers and the slopping of water from the pails which everyone has to carry to their homes, the streets are nothing more than muddy pathways.

I wore rubber boots on a sunny 90-degree day and the mud came to my ankles. There is no place for the children to play so they gather under the houses which are on piles, and wallow in the mud along with the piglets many raise to try to sell for a few pesos. Thousands of boys and girls live in this hopeless squalor. To help them begin to live like human beings, thousands of Foster Parents are needed. Any takers?

Present day Plan

Since this article was written, Plan has made great strides in helping children, their families and their communities realize their rights.

Some of our most successful work includes:

  • bringing women and child protection units closer to rural communities and encouraging the reporting of abuse.
  • expanding coverage of early childhood care and development services among children aged 3 and above through supervised neighborhood play groups.
  • working with the Department of Health and various local government units to improve family planning practices, the prevention of acute respiratory infections, the control of diarrhea among children aged 0-3, and increasing immunization coverage for children and mothers.
  • promoting backyard food growing and the use of low cost and safe farming techniques. 
  • creating vocational training opportunities for out-of-school children and youth.

Find out how you can make a difference by sponsoring a child today.