JANUARY 10, 1952
PARIS, Wednesday—Saturday afternoon is one of the few times when I can count on a little spare time. So, last week, after getting injections for cholera and typhoid, which are required in order to travel in certain parts of the world, I went off with two people who are working here in the office of the Joint Distribution Committee.
We visited one of 19 homes conducted throughout France for children whose parents disappeared during World War II and who were themselves hidden by the Resistance movement. The money to maintain these houses is provided by the French government and partly by the Joint Distribution Committee. This particular house is on the outskirts of Paris. There is a garden beside it and a wooded area just beyond. It must be lovely in the summer.
The children in the main house—50 of them—are between the ages of 6 and 16. They are given opportunities to learn the arts and crafts and they sing and dance together. They are a happy group—well fed, warmly clothed, sent to school, and watched when they study so that they make the most of their capacities. Medical care also is provided, and these children without parents are really loved.
Nearby there is a smaller house that accommodates 15 children from the ages of three to six. Here they have a kindergarten teacher, and two house mothers. There also is a small infirmary.
There is no luxury in these homes, but these children are getting a good start in life and will be well prepared when they go out to earn their living. In addition, they will have friends, for many people who suffered in one way or another in the Resistance movement will never forget their comrades and still feel that these children are a sacred trust.
I was interested in one little boy and they told me this story. He is now 13. He had been away on a holiday in the country during the war and when he came back he found his parents gone and kind neighbors hid him. He remained in hiding until the end of the war when he was turned over to the authorities and went to live in this children's home.
One of the first things they do in the home is to ask children to draw or paint, as it is their easiest mode of expression. They asked this little boy to draw a picture of himself, and the result was a sketch of a rigid little boy dressed in striped clothes. When asked to draw a house, he drew one in midair with bars all around it. In the second year the little boy he drew was much more flexible and easy in pose and the clothes were normal. And his new conception of a house included a foundation. By the third year this youngster's little boy sat at a desk, with books and pencil in his hand, and appeared normal in every way. And the house he drew was on good foundation, with curtains at the windows and animals and flowers about.
Here is the slow and painful story of one young child's rehabilitation.