Few projects in my life have brought me as much satisfaction as PLAN USA, the one under which I personally help – at present – to support six children in five countries: Guinea, India, Senegal, Sudan, and Tanzania. Over the years, many of my kids have matured to “graduate” from the PLAN USA support as they’ve passed the age limit – see the link ahead – and a couple of them still stay in touch, because I chose to share my address with them. I just don’t know how many kids have been supported through my donations, since they all get to be eventually replaced by others who show up in the list, and I only know of six at this moment. My standing instruction to PLAN, when a child is replaced, is just to select the neediest. It’s tempting to look at a set of photos and choose an attractive candidate, but I want those who might have been passed up, and who are just as much in need as the “cuter” ones, to learn to smile again.
Just look at this photo of the six I currently help. Yes, some of the kids look unhappy; they’re being processed by a bureaucratic system they can’t understand, and that sort of a process often proves to be a useless and/or a negative element in their lives. But I assure you, when the powdered milk, the clean sheets, the sanitary supplies, and the TLC arrive, those faces really light up…
Unlike most subscribers to PLAN USA – which used to be called Foster Parents Plan – I’ve actually been able to visit one of my kids – in Ecuador – and I’ve seen first-hand just what my small monthly gift was providing that family – and the entire community. That’s one of the very satisfying aspects of PLAN, that the entire area receives the benefits: medicine, school books & teachers, nutrition, hygiene, recreation, community activities and projects, clean water, irrigation… the list just goes on and on.
When I first signed on, the operation took place in a tiny office near the Bowery in NYC, working out of cardboard boxes as filing cabinets and with a single-line phone, a stapler, a trash bin, some pens, a few rubber stamps, and a couple of sheets of postage stamps attesting to the existence of the organization. Things have changed, but I’m proud to have been on board there from the beginning.
What gratifies me very much is something about which I know my readers will not be surprised: PLAN does not proselytize the beneficiaries of this help – in any way. No religious, political, or cultural preaching is done, the native ethnic convictions and lifestyles of the people are respected, and the local holidays and celebrations are entered into by PLAN workers, with enthusiasm. I know: I’ve seen it.
I do this bit of advertisement for PLAN because I’ve had inquiries from interested readers ever since I described my involvement back in December 2005. One reader – who wishes anonymity – suggested that I write a few more words about PLAN so that her own satisfaction might be shared with all our readers; she subscribed to PLAN and is delighted with the results. As for me, I make it a practice to take on another kid to mark an important moment in my life – or that of the JREF. Just last month a family in India was notified that things would be getting better for them, and I find this infection of joy so satisfying, and I feel I’m getting so much from my involvement with PLAN, I should be a bit guilty…
I’ve been a subscriber for 42 years now, and I know that my small investment in the futures of others in distant lands, has changed the often-held and very unfortunate view of the USA as only a powerful and fearsome force. For my families, my contributions to the efforts of PLAN, have made Uncle Sam much more of a kindly-though-distant relative. They really notice and appreciate the help from afar.
Will you join me in reaching out? Click in at www.planusa.org/sponsors/ and make an important move toward better understanding and sharing in the lives of people you’ll probably never get to meet, but will have reached out to, with compassion. Folks, that’s just 80 cents a day! And I’ll tell you what, if I get just six of you to sign on with PLAN, I’ll celebrate in my favorite way: I’ll take on another kid, myself. Deal?
All it takes is a bit of love…