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History & timeline

Plan International USA 

is more than 80 years strong. 

And we’ve been fighting for children’s rights and equality since day one.

Plan International was founded in 1937, when a journalist and a refugee worker decided they wanted to assist children affected by the Spanish Civil War.  With the help of our supporters and partners, we have grown into one of the oldest, widest-reaching, and most effective international development organizations in the world.

1937

During the Spanish Civil War, John Langdon-Davies, a British journalist, and Eric Muggeridge, an English relief volunteer, begin moving truckloads of orphaned and displaced children to safe camps in France, where they are provided medical care, food, and shelter.

1938

Plan, with 500 Spanish sponsored children, holds its first public meeting in New York City.

Appeal letter by American sponsor Thornton Wilder recounting the story of 4-year-old Manuel Garoia.

Thornton Wilder Letter

1940

With the world at war, Plan, with 1,200 children, flees bombardments in Spain, through France, to England. Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud, opens Hampstead Nurseries for Plan children. Enrollment is open to children living with families at home.

1942

Eleanor Roosevelt with her three foster children.

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1945

Ingrid Bergman is one of the celebrities involved in Plan's post-war shoe drive. Shoes are collected to be sent to people in European countries badly affected by war.  

1949

At the end of the decade, sponsors in the United States and Canada are helping 5,706 sponsored children.

1959

Plan now has programs in Belgium, England, France, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, China, Korea, Greece, Italy, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. Total enrolled children and their families: 15,004.

1960

A decade of expansion begins in the developing world as Plan modifies its program objectives and methods.

1964

Pat Boone with his foster child in Hong Kong.

1970

Australia joins the United States and Canada as a Plan donor country. Sponsorship grows. By 1969, the number of sponsored children is more than 53,000.

A dam in Bolivia is constructed with the support of Senator Edward Kennedy.

on

1980

Plan United Kingdom opens. Plan program countries are now all outside of Europe.

1987

Plan celebrates its 50th anniversary. There are now more than 300,000 sponsored children.

1997

Plan ends its 60th year, supporting 1.1 million sponsored children in 42 developing countries.

2004

Actress Marcia Cross becomes a Plan sponsor.

on

2012

The Because I am a Girl campaign launched on the first International Day of the Girl in 2012. The targets of the campaign were to:

  • Directly impact 4 million girls through programs.
  • Indirectly reach 40 million children through programs.
  • Affect 400 million children through policy changes.
  • Raise $550 million.

In 2012, Plan also released an award-winning stop-motion video that explains the importance of education. Watch it here.

2013

World premiere of the movie "Girl Rising."

“Girl Rising,” a feature film from Academy Award nominated director Richard E. Robbins, premiered in March 2013 and was previewed at the Sundance Film Festival. A portion of ticket sales supported girls’ programs around the world, including Because I am a Girl programming.

The movie spotlights the stories of nine unforgettable girls born into unforgiving circumstances. Narrated by Cate Blanchett, Priyanka Chopra, Selena Gomez, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, Chloë Grace Moretz, Liam Neeson, Freida Pinto, Meryl Streep, and Kerry Washington, the movie is the centerpiece of 10x10 — a global campaign to educate and empower girls.

2018

Plan commemorates more than 80 years of commitment to children, thanks to generous sponsors and donors. Through programs focused on various technical areas, Plan reaches 56.5 million children in more than 50 developing countries.

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