Our story started with a plan
Plan International is more than 80 years strong. And we’ve been fighting for girls’ rights and equality since day one.
Plan was founded on the idea that children around the world are worth protecting.
Plan’s story doesn’t have a traditional beginning…
It was Spain, 1937. The Civil War was raging on, and bombs were raining down on cities and towns. Thousands of children were being orphaned and displaced. That’s where we start Plan’s story.
It all began with John Langdon-Davies, a British war journalist, and Eric Muggeridge, a refugee worker. John and Eric couldn’t bear to see any more children suffer, so they decided to do what they could to save as many as possible. They began evacuating refugee children to safe houses outside of Spain, where they provided medical care, food, shelter and education. They recruited sponsors to help support the children, officially launching an organization called Foster Parents’ Plan in 1937. The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, but that same year a new conflict made the need even greater. World War II broke out and children from all over Europe were in grave danger. John and Eric expanded the organization and continued to do what they did best — saving children’s lives. After the war, programs were gradually moved outside of Europe, focusing instead on Asia, Africa and the Americas. With a global reach, our name became Plan International in the 1970s.
Today, Plan has a presence in more than 70 countries. And the legacy of our humanitarian founders lives on: We’re still fighting to protect children. Our focus now is on girls — because they continue to be the single most excluded group in the world. Every day, girls are facing challenges that threaten their lives and keep them from reaching their full potential. With the right resources, girls and young women can transform communities and make our world a better place. So there’s no time to waste.
Plan is a girls’ rights organization. And while we’ve got a lot of history behind us, we have even more plans for the future.
Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.
One woman, one typewriter and flying tomatoes. This is Edna Blue’s story.
In 1937, Edna Blue was a wife and mother of two children living in New York. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, she saw newspaper photos of children’s bodies lining the streets, and decided she had to do something. She heard about Eric Muggeridge, a British relief worker trying to organize support in America, and decided to join his group.
They managed to secure a hotel suite so they had a place to meet. Edna’s typewriter was the only office equipment, and she used it day and night (until it “nearly fell into pieces” according to Edna). Their first fundraising letters weren’t successful, so Edna resorted to using her own household allowance to keep things going. She knew there must be thousands of other people out there who, like her, would want to help children.
Edna joined their “street corner meetings”, where they’d stand on the sidewalk and talk to New Yorkers passing by. This was not an easy task. Edna would be harassed by men, and they’d have to dodge flying tomatoes thrown at them by young boys in the neighborhood. But Edna never gave up, and kept asking for help.
Then Edna had an idea. She wrote to radio commentator Walter Winchell, and continued writing to him every week for months. One day, Foster Parents’ Plan was finally mentioned on the radio. And after that, the checks began to pour in.
Edna knew how to be persistent with her letter writing. She also wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt for a full year, until she finally received the First Lady’s sponsorship application and check.
But Edna didn’t stop there. She continued to expand the organization, eventually becoming the Executive Chairman. Edna was relentless in her advocacy for children. And thanks to her late nights at the typewriter, and her courage on the streets of the city, Plan is still fighting for children over 80 years later.
From Spain to France to Britain: Nothing could slow Eric down.
By all accounts, Eric Muggeridge, one of the founders of Plan, was a real character. Working with him has been described as frustrating, unpredictable, unbearable — but also exhilarating and fun. He always worked at a ferocious pace. And above all else, Eric was determined to protect children from the horrors of war.
He first went to Spain in 1936 as a volunteer truck driver for a relief organization. He planned to stay for only six weeks, but was there for over a year. During that time, he delivered supplies and rescued children from war zones, covering 35,000 miles in his battered truck.
In 1939 he began to move orphaned and displaced children over the border to France. But then in 1941, the Nazi invasion of France forced Eric and his team to take the children even farther. They loaded the children onto boats headed for Britain, Eric escaping on one of the very last to leave.
Throughout WWII, Eric kept refugee children from all around Europe safe. He established Woodbury Down Sanctuary in London, where they were cared for and educated by Plan volunteers. But by 1941, air attacks put them all back in serious danger. Eric decided to evacuate the children and move them to a new home once more, this time 25 miles outside of the city. It was just in the nick of time — as just a few weeks later, Woodbury Down Sanctuary was bombed.
Today, Eric’s legacy lives on through Plan’s work. The world has changed since 1936, but there are still vulnerable children that need protection. And Plan is still here, fighting for them every day.
In Plan’s early years, we faced a tough challenge. We had to find ways to reach people and convince them to care about a faraway war — and children they didn’t know and would likely never meet. We knew caring supporters were out there, but we were starting from scratch.
Luckily, some big names came along and helped by becoming child sponsors themselves.
Sponsors came from Hollywood, like Ingrid Bergman, Tallulah Bankhead, Steve Allen, Paul Newman, Art Linkletter, Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews. Famous singers and musicians like Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, Burt Bacharach and Pat Boone joined the fight. And the legendary playwright Thornton Wilder even wrote a Plan appeal in 1938. And of course, there was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Plan has remained one of the most trusted international organizations focused on protecting and uplifting children. And today, all of our supporters and child sponsors are just as important to us as ever.
Your gift to Plan International USA will be used where needed most, to help create sustainable change and address the root causes of poverty and inequality. Donations can support programs, innovation, and infrastructure required to deliver our programs to girls and children worldwide, in areas such as protection, education, health, sanitation, disaster relief and economic empowerment.