Plan International boasts an impressive 75-year history of child-centered development work in communities throughout the world. Recently, the organization has taken important steps to reassess and enhance its strategy to create fulfilling lives for all children.
In 2008, two U.S. youth, Sara and Marisa, learned about new youth advisory groups forming throughout the Plan Federation with the goal of creating platforms through which youth could offer their perspectives and hold power in decision-making processes. Recognizing the value of this idea for an organization such as Plan, Sara and Marisa began working with youth allies within Plan’s U.S. office to eventually get approval to establish the U.S. National Office’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB).
The group first met in 2010 and has been growing and evolving in its role and influence within the organization ever since.
The Youth Advisory Board (YAB) mission is as follows:
“We are a body of young people from the United States vocalizing the needs of the entire youth population by serving as ambassadors to Plan International 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.”
The board believes that, as an organization that seeks to make effective, long-lasting, and positive changes in the lives of young people, it only makes sense that participation of youth be something that is fully integrated into Plan’s day-to-day operations.
Additionally, the innovative, impassioned, and bold perspectives and energy that youth can offer, in collaboration with experienced adult professionals, is an unbeatable combination. While our empowered network of youth activists, YUGA (Youth United for Global Action and Awareness), works within communities to bring attention to global inequalities, the YAB works within the Plan organization to play an advisory and governance role.
Today the YAB comprises 13 high school and college-aged members from across the U.S.
Luis, 19, 5th year at Northeastern University
“I initially found out about Plan through a YUGA chapter that was started in my high school. I joined YUGA my freshmen year of high school and my sophomore year I joined Plan’s YAB. I joined the board because of my passion for the many issues for which Plan advocates, such as gender equality, education, and ending the cycle of poverty through economic empowerment. My favorite part about serving on the YAB has been the networking opportunities. Through all the meetings and events that I have been able to participate in through YAB I have met so many amazing, inspiring individuals. Besides my involvement in the YAB, I am also currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Economics at Northeastern University. At the moment, I am currently working full-time as a Supply Chain Analyst for a company called Nortek through an internship I secured through Northeastern’s cooperative education network.”
Rachel, 18, Freshman at University of New Hampshire
“I first got involved with Plan when I was 9 years old, when I began to participate in the Rhode Island YUGA chapter. I was amazed by the amount of passion and drive that existed within the youth I encountered. Additionally, I quickly become aware of the plethora of social issues that are a part of our world and I wanted to help be a part of positive change. I helped start a YUGA chapter at my middle school and then went on to be a part of the YUGA chapter at my high school. It is there that I was able to engage my peers and have a substantial impact on my school community. I have also attended many YUGA camps where I have had the privilege of meeting and connecting with youth around the world who share the same passion for global issues that I do. I have always had a passion for international development and hope that it can be a part of my career in the future. I joined the YAB about two years ago because I wanted to have more of a presence within Plan. I believe that youth are an extremely important part of our society and it is our responsibility to raise our voices and work together to support what we believe in. The YAB is a way for me to voice my opinion, make change, and have an impact on the world of International Development. I am currently a Biomedical Science major at the University of New Hampshire.”
Johnnie, 15, Sophomore in high school
“I first attended the YUGA Summit in 2009 and have been involved with Plan ever since. I joined the YAB in 2013 because YUGA was such a big part of my life and being able to engage more with Plan internally seemed like an amazing opportunity. My favorite part about serving on the YAB is our annual retreat when I’m able to spend time with everyone. It is great to see faces after months of only calls and work as a productive group. I am currently the vice president of a youth-run international development non-profit and am working towards the creation of a scholarship fund in urban provinces in Pakistan.”
Brenna Robeson, 19, Sophomore at Clark University
“My relationship with Plan began in the summer of 2012 when I attended the YUGA Summit. I was immediately captivated by YUGA’s mission of youth empowerment. I realized my status as a young person, contrary to what I had been led to believe, uniquely enabled me to act as an agent of positive change. Eventually, I started a YUGA chapter at my school. Eager to become even more engaged with Plan and YUGA, I also joined the YAB. I’m so glad to have the chance to continually work alongside my fellow passionate and energized YAB members to create a culture of increased youth participation within Plan. Additionally, inspired by Plan’s model, I hope to open up more space within structures that govern and influence the lives of young people, such as schools and political institutions, for meaningful youth engagement. Aside from my involvement with Plan, I am a student at Clark University studying Geography and Political Science, and I work to promote human rights through involvement in my campus’ Amnesty International chapter.”
Clare, 18, Freshman in college
“My mother worked at Plan while I was growing up. My brother and I attended the Global Connections Youth Conference in 2004 where youth from Plan countries presented on programs in their communities. After that, I helped found YUGA. From 2005 to present day, I have been involved with leadership decisions within YUGA. I joined the YAB because I wanted to push myself to reach the next level of youth engagement and governance. After having spent such a long period of my life with YUGA, I wanted to branch out and have more involvement with Plan while gaining more leadership skills. My favorite part about being on the YAB is that I get to spend so much time with my peers and adults who are truly passionate about the topics they are working on. It's incredibly refreshing to be able to have conversations about various topics. Through this you can gain new perspectives and ideas that you can bring back to projects you are either working on together or individually. I have just starting writing for HerCampus, the No. 1 global community for college women, written entirely by the world's top college journalists. I'm very excited about this, as I am a journalism major and love being able to contribute to something so dynamic and contemporary.”
Elizabeth, 20, Sophomore at University of St Andrews, Scotland
“I first came in contact with Plan International while working for a youth-development program in Peru called Amigos de las Americas in the summer of 2013. We partnered with Plan inPeru and our high-school aged volunteers lived in Plan communities and supported Plan initiatives throughout the summer. I've been a YAB member since December 2013. I joined because I wanted to continue to support Plan's mission, and its various programs and campaigns. My favorite part about being on the YAB is the opportunity to be surrounded by other passionate and motivated individuals from around the world who are working towards a common goal. We all come from different backgrounds and bring a variety of perspectives, but the energy that we bring to each meeting and retreat is infectious!”
Nadyah, Senior in high school
“After moving from Sri Lanka to the United States in 2010, I became eager to raise awareness of many global issues and connect with diverse groups of people. In the summer of 2010, I attended Plan’s YUGA Leadership Summit. I was inspired by the intelligence, creativity, and boldness of the summit attendees and decided to continue advocating for many of Plan’s issues. I joined the YAB because I want to be more involved with Plan’s work, and because I believe that youth perspectives are essential to every organization. My favorite part of being a YAB member is working with the other passionate, inspiring members, and being able to use my voice as a youth leader. I work with many community-service organizations and founded Project LEAD (Learn Exchange And Develop), which focuses on fostering cross-cultural connections between students in different countries and provides sustainable livelihood skills training sessions to orphaned girls in Sri Lanka.”
Nick, 17, Senior in high school
“I discovered Plan when a stop motion video for “Because I am a Girl” appeared on my Tumblr, and after immediately falling in love with Plan’s work, I jumped at the opportunity to join the YAB. I believe every child has a right to thrive, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to help secure that right. Aside from the YAB, I served as a Student Ambassador for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. I also founded the first Gay-Straight Alliance in my area, and serve as a Youth Board Member for a local LGBTQ center. I love to write, and am proud to have my work on the Huffington Post and The Advocate. I’m an aspiring social worker.”
Madhavi, 19, Freshman at University of Chicago
“My family has been sponsoring and communicating with children through Plan for the past 20 years. As a child, I remember reading letters and looking at pictures, and really enjoying learning more about the children and how our contributions made a difference in their lives. In early 2015, I learned about the YAB and immediately applied because I want to continue making differences and I admire current YAB campaigns. I took a gap year after graduating from high school in Michigan to pursue a fellowship in community health from the Society of Community Health Awareness, Research, and Action in India. I got a great first-hand experience on campaign work, as well as learning about relevant public health issues and topics. I am very excited for the opportunity to work with others who share my interests and passions!”
Nadya, 17, Junior in high school
“I'm Nadya, a 17-year-old feminist living in Portland, OR. I am the oldest of three girls in a single-mother household, a situation that further cultivates my passion for gender equality. I am also the founder and executive director of Camions of Care, a nonprofit organization that strives to address the natural needs of women, primarily through the distribution of feminine hygiene product care packages. I was inspired to join the YAB after finding my passion for public service on a global scale, and love that I am able to collaborate with other youth leaders from communities all around America.”
Jackson, 18, Freshman at Washington and Lee University
“My first interaction with Plan came through collaboration with Plan Peru while working with the organization Amigos de las Americas on community development projects, and I have been a YAB member since May 2015. I saw the YAB as an opportunity to combine a passion for youth engagement with my past work in international development, as well as a way to learn more about the functioning of the organization. I joined out of a desire to continue to be a part of the discussion on youth engagement, as well as to draw others into the conversation.”
Grace, 18, Junior in High School
“My name is Grace and I’m from Rhode Island. I became involved with Plan when a member of the organization visited my school. From there, I attended the YUGA Leadership Summit and got involved with Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign. I co-founded a group called Real Girls Matter at my school and am interested in gender equality and human rights. I was drawn to apply to the YAB because of the amazing people I met at Plan’s Youth Summit. At the summit, I learned that young people have the ideas, creativity, power, and responsibility to make the world safer, healthier, and more equitable. YUGA Leadership Summit is where I gained the courage to add my voice and energy to the process.”
Kyle, 18, Senior in High School
“I first started working with Plan International as a volunteer with Amigos de las Americas, a partner organization of Plan’s, in Cajamarca, Peru in the summer of 2013. I’ve always admired the values that Plan promotes and protects when advocating for and empowering youth through many innovative media. The voices of youth around the world are bursting with innovation, passion, and leadership, and I am proud to be part of a family that makes those voices heard!”