A global movement for change, mobilizing millions of people around the world to support social justice for children in developing countries is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Plan is one of the world’s oldest and largest international development agencies, working with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan has only one agenda: to improve the lives of children. Founded in 1937 by British author and journalist John Langdon-Davies (left) and refugee worker Eric Muggeridge, the original aim was to provide food, shelter and education to children whose lives had been disrupted by the Spanish Civil War.
Plan aims to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of children, families and communities in developing countries. It does this through a process of collaboration that unites people across cultures, adding meaning and value to their lives by: enabling children, their families and communities to meet their basic needs and to increase their ability to participate in and benefit from their societies; building relationships to increase understanding and unity among peoples of different cultures and countries; and advocating and promoting the rights and interests of the world’s children, with a special focus on girls’ rights to overcome issues of gender discrimination.
Plan’s work is linked to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), which spells out the human rights of all children, including the right to survive; develop to the fullest; be protected from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; participate fully in family, cultural and social life. By listening to what children have to say about their rights, needs and concerns, Plan encourages and helps children to take an active role in realizing their full potential.
One of Plan’s endeavours is working with communities to improve access to safe drinking water and to raise awareness of the importance of waste management. More than 2.2 million children die every year – four every minute – as a result of diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and hygiene. Every year Plan helps communities build 2,000 school latrines and in the last three years has helped families and communities build an average 100,000 toilets a year, benefiting several million people. Plan also provides water points in communities and schools, especially in rural areas, and establishes community-based organizations to ensure the ongoing management and maintenance of water.
In 1861 George Eliot published her novel Silas Marner, The Weaver of Raveloe. It explores the issues of redemptive love, community, family and religion. Eliot concerns herself with matters of ethics, which for her exist apart from religion. Although it seems like a simple moral story with a happy ending, Eliot’s text includes several pointed criticisms of the way industrialised society treats people and, especially, children. Writing of the orphaned girl Eppie, whom Silas takes in and cares for, Eliot comments:
“In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s.”
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