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These Seven People Planned to Make a Difference

Graham Casden's goal is to sponsor 1,000 children with Plan International USA.

Are you looking to make a difference in 2017? Perhaps these seven people or families can help you build a roadmap.

They made a plan over the past year and what they accomplished, witnessed, or discovered was inspiring. Through their partnerships with Plan International USA, they were able to bring about change for others and within themselves.

Graham Casden made a commitment.

He wanted to form an inspiring partnership with not just one, but 1,000 brave, determined children. Believe it or not, he’s well on his way. In 2016, Graham crossed the “50” mark with sponsored children, and his organization, “Ocean First,” teamed up with Plan to make a difference for others.

“Plan works,” he said. “I’ve had many children ‘graduate’ from the program and it’s amazing to see their development over the years.

“I feel confident where my money is going, that I’m making a positive difference in many kids’ lives, and my relationship with Plan’s regional director has been wonderful,” he added.

Mindi visits her sponsored child's community in Cambodia.

Mindi Dryer wanted to connect with her sponsored child.

During a sponsor visit last year, she was taken aback by the warm response she received.

“The highlight was definitely meeting Sreyneang and her immediate family,” she said. “They were so welcoming and friendly to us as visitors. It was also fun to meet other families and learn more about the roles that everyone has within the community.”

Mindi is thankful she decided to join the Plan movement and become part of a community that believes in the promise and potential of children like Sreyneang.

Moreover, she is glad she was able to see her contributions in person.

“It was such a rewarding experience to be welcomed by another culture and to be accepted by my sponsored child and her family,” she said. “It's very difficult to explain in words the overwhelmingly happy feeling that I felt on that day. I would encourage all sponsors to see their sponsored child in person to fully understand the impact and experience of what is happening…”

Jim and Christy’s family forged an incredible partnership.

Along with their son Jonah and their daughter Madalena, they set out for the Dominican Republic last winter. Upon arriving, they were struck by the welcoming nature of the entire village.

Getting to know their sponsored child Randy and his family was the highlight of the trip.

“Playing with Randy and other children in the village streets was a memory my children will never forget,” he said. “Randy and his brothers and cousins, as well as other neighborhood children, gathered in the streets to play games. That was a special memory. Madalena was also invited by one of Randy's cousins to paint nails together in the back yard. She said it was a day she’ll never forget.”

Jim and Christy's children visit with their sponsored child.
Anam understands what life is like for girls living in Pakistan.

Anam paid it forward – and gave a girl a chance.

After growing up in Pakistan, she was attending dental school in New York City and well aware of the opportunities that are presented to her on a daily basis. Simply receiving a higher education – or any education – is something that wasn’t guaranteed had she remained in Pakistan.

When she was approached by Plan International USA Because I am a Girl canvassers on her way to celebrate her first year of dental school, she knew she wanted to pay it forward.

“It was the perfect day to ask me to sponsor a girl’s education,” she said. “I was immediately captured by the idea of giving a young girl a chance to become someone through education, just as I had been given by my parents, my teachers, and my scholarship. I would recommend Plan to young individuals in school. It gives you a great perspective on your own education and gets you interested in what is happening in the world, how your own life compares to someone's in another country.”

Richard and Margaret built a new school for families affected by the Nepal earthquake.

Richard Higgins and Margaret Graff worked to restore normalcy for a community in Nepal.


Although they have partnered with Plan for many years, giving back to Nepal through their foundation, Mundito, this past year seemed to make sense.

At the time of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015, a Mundito board member’s husband was trekking in the country. He was missing for several days but was not injured, and he soon returned home safely. The personal connection, however, led Margaret, Richard, and the rest of the Mundito foundation to want to do something to help with earthquake recovery.

For Mundito, building a school seemed like the perfect project.

“There are several reasons but they’re all linked together,” said Richard. “Restoring normalcy is very important when a dramatic event happens. Going back to school keeps the kids occupied and keeps them learning. And, it lessens the risk of child trafficking. Trafficking in Nepal occurs far too frequently, due to the extreme poverty.”

Jane partnered with Plan to bring hope to Syrian refugees living in Egypt.

Jayne Bentzen supported Syrian refugees.

She wanted to do something to help the families in need – especially the children, who were often left vulnerable and without homes.

“The people in the [news] photos could be my neighbors and my family,” she said. “It's unimaginable this is happening. Our basic human needs are for peace, a safe place to live, enough healthy food, clean water, productive work, an education for our children… It's incredible to realize that millions of people have been robbed of the simple things most of us take for granted – things they also took for granted not long ago.”

It’s Jayne’s nature to help, so she partnered with Plan to support Syrian refugees in Egypt. Plan is ensuring access to formal education and providing remedial classes to help children overcome language and cultural barriers. It is also providing parenting education sessions.

Ellen Landes sacrificed little to make a big difference.

As an employee on a luxurious cruise ship, she bears witness to a slew of fortune and material prosperity.

Yet, the lives of the children and families where the ship ports paint a stark contrast to what she sees on board. When she sees customers on the cruise-line splurge on their vacation expenses, she can’t help but think of the villages and communities at the end of the dock.

Through Plan, a small sacrifice will help children in these countries.

“There is so much poverty and need outside in the countries where we stop,” Ellen said.

She pointed out the fact that sponsoring a child for the duration of a month “costs less than one nice dinner out.”

Ellen met her sponsored child firsthand and realized that a little goes a long way!

Plan to make a difference!

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