Earlier this month, the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) held its annual retreat; a yearly event where all of our members are able to meet face-to-face for a weekend of productive meetings, group bonding, and some fun activities! As a group with members from all over the country, and some even studying abroad, our yearly retreat is the one of the few times during the year when the entire YAB is able to meet in-person and get down to some serious reflection and planning for the year ahead.
This year, the YAB retreat was held at Plan International USA’s office in Warwick, RI, my home-state, so luckily I had a very short distance to travel to attend. However, many of our other members had to travel much further, coming from places like Colorado, Chicago, and Florida! No matter where our members travel from, having the chance to see all our fellow YAB-ers in one room and catching up on all we accomplished as a group over the past year is always an exhilarating experience!
After everyone arrived in Rhode Island on Friday and we enjoyed a delicious group dinner on our first night together, the YAB quickly got to work tackling our first project of the retreat; recognizing the devastating impact Ebola has had on youth in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The group unanimously agreed to draft, create, and send a message of support and solidarity for those youth affected by this terrible outbreak and humanitarian crisis in West Africa. To do this, the YAB decided it would be best to make a short video using the #HandsOnHearts campaign that we would could send with Plan USA’S CEO, Tessie San Martin, during her visit to affected Plan communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Check out our video here!
The YAB also collaborated on a number of other projects during our weekend together, such as reflection activities to review and assess our accomplishments and struggles over the preceding year and to map out our priorities and goals for the next year. Topics of discussion included strengthening ties between the Youth United for Global Action network and the YAB, reaching out to other international YABs around the world, and how to best expand and improve upon the YAB network by engaging with like-minded groups and individuals.
One major goal that the YAB discussed at the retreat and prioritized for this upcoming year is the recruitment of new YAB members! Recently, the two founding members of the Youth Advisory Board, our awesome YAB-ers Marisa and Sara, have decided to begin their transition off the board while still remaining partly involved in the YAB through an aptly-named ‘Wise Elder’ role. Meanwhile, the YAB decided this is the perfect time to recruit new, inspiring youth to join in their place. As a group, we are interested in finding motivated, passionate individuals interested in acting out Plan’s mission to end child poverty around the world.
All in all, this year’s YAB retreat was a productive weekend that really invigorated and excited all of us on the board. There are so many exciting opportunities right on the horizon for our group and being able to map out all of our group goals and plans for the upcoming year is always an important exercise for any organization to undertake. More importantly, I think the YAB retreat also serves as a reminder for every one of us on the board as to why we decided to serve on the board in the first place: serving a greater purpose by helping those in need, wherever they may be in the world. This is perhaps best summed up by the YAB’s mission statement, which is reviewed and confirmed by the Board every year at our retreat. Our current mission statement reads as follows: “We are a body of young people vocalizing the needs of the entire youth population by serving as ambassadors to PLAN USA. We strive to create and nurture a network between PLAN’s international youth and its decision makers in order to reinforce PLAN’s mission of empowering and assisting children worldwide.” Every year when the YAB confirms this statement, we are committing ourselves to carry out the ideals of this message every single day in the hope of making the world a better place for tomorrow. This year was no different!