Do you know this humanitarian who helped save thousands of child refugees?

By Kerri Whelan
December 10, 2021

A childhood can be taken away forever by the inhumanity of war. Conflict leaves girls and boys navigating through the trauma of being forced to grow up too quickly. Children born into crises have to unlearn the violence that they think is the norm.

One girl named Rita who has become a refugee during South Sudan’s civil war told Plan International staff, “I want to return home one day … I want my country to have long-awaited peace and for all refugees to have the opportunity to return home.”

Rita’s hope is exactly what Plan International was founded upon: the conviction that every child in this world is worth protecting. And though we’re still fighting to make Rita’s wish come true for every girl like her, we have Eric Muggeridge to thank for all that we’ve accomplished together at Plan for children’s protection.

Eric Muggeridge, photographed in 1945.

It was the late 1930s during Spain’s brutal civil war. A military coup rebelled against Spain’s government, and when that revolt failed, the state of the country turned unbelievably violent. Children never saw their parents again and were left without protection — many were kidnapped, brought into abusive orphanages or illegally adopted and given new identities. Girls and boys lost their limbs from bombings and could not access medical care. And many others were killed.

Among the relief volunteers was Eric Muggeridge. He gave up his career in London and took on the enormous effort of going to the frontlines of war-torn Spain to help provide medical care, food and shelter for Spanish refugee children in need. Eric went on to co-create the children’s rights organization Foster Parents Plan. And that organization evolved into the modern Plan International.

Eric working in a Plan office in London.

Eric fearlessly stepped into the civil war’s mass violence and kept girls and boys protected. He helped set up safe houses for refugee children in Spain, then helped relocate the children to France in 1939, and finally to England in 1941. To meet the children’s immediate needs, Eric established sponsorship, a tradition that has continued through today. If you choose to sponsor a child with Plan, you can help them stay protected from violence, receive an education and have access to health care, nutritious food and clean water. You can also form a lifelong friendship with the child you sponsor by exchanging letters to share more about your lives.

Meet a child who is waiting to be sponsored

To bring to life what children were living through in Spain and gain more support, Eric fervently typed up appeal letters that urged people to become child sponsors or donate to Plan. The letter he sent below featured a report explaining the inhumane conditions that children were experiencing in many of the refugee camps — conditions that motivated him to set up the Plan safe houses.

Letter written by Eric asking a supporter to help refugee children in need.

“They have nowhere to turn.”

By 1941, violence from World War II started to intensify, and the refugee children in London were moved to a safer location 25 miles outside of the city. Brought to the new safe house by Eric, these girls and boys were protected, fed and provided with educational lessons by groups of volunteers.

Eric brings two new refugee children to the safe house.

Eric’s legacy is still alive today. For more than 80 years, Plan has helped millions of children who are seeking safety across the world. But the need to help children in crisis remains the same as it was in 1936.

You can make a direct impact for refugee girls, boys and families with Plan’s Gifts of Hope.

COVID-19 Response Gifts like Hygiene Kits, Newborn Kits or Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers will help care for those who are migrating across Central America. Sanitation Kits will help refugee families in Nigeria living in crowded camps stay safe from disease. And supporting our COVID-19 response will help sustain our advocacy work around vaccine equity for all people across the world.

In this season of giving, will you make a Gift of Hope to help sustain our progress toward equality and protection for all children?