Aid for Children

The plight of children displaced by the war was drew a great deal of Australian sympathy. Estimates ranged from 800,000 to 1,500,000 child refugees. Esme Odgers was born in 1911 in Cessnock, and was 26 years old when she arrived in Spain. She became one of the driving forces of the “Foster Parents Plan,” arranging for Australians, and others across the world, to sponsor Spanish children, whether orphans, or those displaced by the war. The “foster parents” would receive letters from the child they sponsored. Many parents in cities like Madrid, under constant threat of bombing, sent their children away to children's colonies, charitable organisations that would house children orphaned or displaced by the war. Esme Odgers cared for more than 200 children at a time in a children’s colony in Catalonia, safe in the Pyrenees Mountains, away from the front lines and the bombings in the cities, while helping to establish further colonies farther away from the front lines. When Catalonia fell to pro-Franco forces in 1939, she moved more than 350 children across the border to establish another children’s colony in Biarritz, France.