When COVID-19 started last year, 16-year-old Jia started spending more of her time going on hikes. But during those hikes, she constantly found disposable masks littered along the trails. That’s when she decided to make and sell her own reusable, custom-made face masks — and be able to support Plan International USA’s COVID-19 response work and programming for girls’ rights.
Jia attended Plan’s Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) in 2020. The YLA is a four-day program for young people to participate in interactive workshops on social justice issues such as climate change and gender inequality, learn about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gain expertise in designing and implementing projects. After the YLA, participants like Jia implement their own project to create positive social impact, called a Leadership Development Project, which is supported with the help from a Plan mentor.
Initially, Jia wanted to focus her Leadership Development Project solely on an issue related to the environment. But because of COVID-19’s catastrophic effect on marginalized groups around the world, she decided to base her project around fighting the pandemic, while also helping people be more eco-friendly.
Jia’s Leadership Development Project unfolded into an Etsy business, “Personamask.” She sells face mask sets that include one reusable cotton mask (pre-decorated with buttons) and one fabric marker for buyers to draw on their mask.
“My aim was to allow people to be creative and safe, while being eco-friendly,” Jia says. “My hope is that people will wear masks more often if they have customized their own.”
As part of her Leadership Development Project, it was up to Jia where the proceeds from her project would go. She says that after learning about the work that Plan does for girls and children around the world at the YLA, she wanted to give back to Plan.
“It felt right to donate to Plan USA’s COVID-19 relief efforts, because my whole project was about helping to stop the spread of the virus,” Jia says. “I hope that my project will make a difference both locally and globally.”
Are you, or is someone you know, interested in the YLA and creating social impact like Jia? Plan is currently looking for determined high school students to join the 2021 virtual YLA in July.