Wednesday, February 8, 2012

See You Later, See You Soon...

Dear YUGA Members,

After several years of working with and for youth on the Youth Engagement and Action Team, the time has come to move forward in a new role at Plan International USA. While I’m excited to learn about new aspects of the organization, I will certainly miss the YEA team and working with all of you!

I will never forget the many years at YUGA Leadership Camp; traveling to the 55th Commission on the Status of Women with young women from around the world; or sitting in the General Assembly at the UN Launch of the International Year of Youth. It has been an amazing journey, for sure – and one that I surely won’t soon forget.

While my role has changed, my contact information has stayed the same – and I do hope you stay in touch. I love to learn about what you all are doing in your communities and ways that you are inspiring change. I believe wholeheartedly that you are making a difference.

I would love to catch up at YUGA Leadership Camp this summer, as I’ll still be attending for a portion of the time. It would be great to see some familiar faces and learn about some of the great work you’re doing.

I wish you all the best as you continue your work with YUGA. If you have any specific questions about YEA programs, you can contact Dounia, our Youth Outreach and Marketing Coordinator, at We’ll also be hiring for a new team member on YEA, so be on the lookout for the new manager soon!

Thank you for your passion, dedication, and inspiration. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you. Please do keep in touch!

Corrie Mook

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hello, YUGA!

Hello!  I'm Dounia Bredes, the new Youth Outreach and Marketing Coordinator for Youth Engagement and Action (YEA) programs here at Plan International USA.  I work with Corrie Mook, the wonderful YEA Coordinator, here at Plan's offices in Warwick, Rhode Island.  I'm happy to finally introduce myself to you!


My background is in education and youth mentoring, with experience in marketing and publicity.  I come from a small town in northeastern Vermont, but I've spent time in New Haven, Connecticut and in New York City, and I've also studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal.  (Psst!  You should study abroad, too!)

As Outreach and Marketing Coordinator, I get the wider world to appreciate (and participate in!) the impressive initiatives run by YEA: School-2-School Linking, Walk for Wells, and, of course, YUGA

I have quite a few goals for YEA's programming in 2012.  I want to post more, Tweet more, and rally more for YUGA's campaigns; I also want to get more mentions, more followers, and more connections for you and your YUGA chapter.  In short, I want to get the word out.  Across the country, YUGA members are taking action on world issues.  I want to support you, connect you, and cheer you on!

Another one of my goals is a "relaunch" of YUGA's look in January 2012.  The relaunch includes a new logo, an updated website, re-tooled toolkits, and much more.  Here's a sneak peek!

YUGA is still a youth-led, grassroots movement.  That means that you lead, you learn, and you decide what happens next.

What do you think of the relaunch?  Where do you want YUGA to go in 2012?  Leave a comment on this post to let me know!

Monday, September 26, 2011

YUGA's September Meeting: The Year Ahead

Last weekend, a group of YUGA members met together plan for the year ahead.

We designated a YUGA campaign for each month, according to the Days of Action and/or holidays in that month. Below is a list of activities that we came up with that your YUGA Chapter could do each month. 

Can you think of other ways of taking action? Send us your ideas in the comments section below!

September - Education
  • book drive for a local shelter or under-resourced school
  • host a book exchange at school in the cafeteria; bring in a book to share, and take one home to read!
October - Global Poverty 
  • hold a food drive for canned goods and bring them to your local homeless shelter
  • volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • host a hunger banquet
November - Violence Against Women
  • hold a drive for items needed by your local women's shelter
  • join a march against domestic violence
December  - HIV/AIDS
  • participate in the Move to Stop AIDS Dance-a-Thon 
  • join a local AIDS walk 
  • wear red on December 1st, World AIDS Day
  • make red ribbons to sell during lunches, and donate the money to a Plan project for HIV/AIDS relief
January - World Peace
  • create a peace campaign in your school
  • design and plant a peace pole for your school 
  • host a candlelight peace walk
February - Social Justice
  •  volunteer at a local service organization, like a homeless shelter or International Institute
March - Water and Sanitation
  • raise awareness of both International Women's Day (March 8) and World Water Day (March 22) by hosting a Walk for Wells
April - Environmental Sustainability
  • attend Earth Fest in Boston
  • host a YUGA group clean-up of a local part or street
  • plant flowers outside of school
  • do a review of your school's 'green' practices, and present a list of of recommendations to your principal
May - Fair Trade
  • have a table outside of local grocery stores and farmers markets that explain what Fair Trade is and why it is important
June - Child Labor
  •  have a day of silence at school in honor of those who do not have a say in their future
July - YUGA Camp
  • recruit members of your YUGA chapter to come!
August - International Youth Day
  • host a youth fair, where attendees celebrate what youth are doing in the community. Invite the whole neighborhood!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

YUGA Camp Through the Eyes of Ebonee

Written by Ebonee, a 1st year camper from Providence, RI

Yuga camp was literally life changing for me. I’ve always felt called to help different countries around the world but never did I think that I’d be this eager to make change not only in other countries but everywhere I go! I met so many amazing people there, everyone was so unique and I learned something different from each person. Some of my favorite parts included the African drumming, high and low ropes courses, the community service cleanup, the refugees workshop, An Alien Among Us, tie dye, international dinner, and the talent show! I would love to visit the Netherlands and Haiti after learning about their countries.
(Above, from left, Danielle, Jana, Natasha, Ebonee, and Nadyah before tackling the high ropes course at Camp Aldersgate)

Friday, July 29, 2011

YUGA Camp Through the Eyes of Johnnie

Written by Johnnie, a 1st year camper from Washington, DC

I learned a lot at YUGA camp. I learned that when voices come to together they can make a difference, and that is YUGA's goal. I developed a better understanding of the world around me. Meeting new people was probably my favorite part; I really enjoyed getting to know each and every individual. YUGA helped me think about the world more and what goes on in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, or the Netherlands. Meeting people from each country made the experience feel real. The earthquake in Haiti for example, meeting people that actually went through it made it feel real; It is a different feeling compared to reading about it or seeing it in the news, you can know that someone knows what it felt like. Each person who has been a YUGA camper is a person who firmly believes that change can happen and they would like to help. I am so happy I was fortunate enough to be a YUGA camper. It feels like I have know each person forever. I really think I have made life-long friends and I am steps closer to making the world a better place for all of the people.
(Johnnie, pictured above, with fellow campers from around the United States, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic)

YUGA Camp 2011!

YUGA Camp 2011! YUGA Camp is a fun filled week packed with different activities, workshops, and guest speakers that will help campers to learn more about global issues, leadership, teamwork, and what they can do to better their communities. Here are some samples of what workshops and activities were conducted at YUGA camp!

YUGA staff conducts the morning rounds to make sure that everyone is up and moving for breakfast bright and early at 8 am. There is so much to do that we have to start early! After everyone finishes their meals and catches up about the night before, it is time to watch a short video and write in journals about how campers are feeling. One of the most powerful videos we watched was titled “The Girl Who Silenced the UN for 5 Minutes.” Despite the time and some campers not getting enough sleep, the video caught their attention as they watched Severn Suzuki deliver a speech at the UN Earth Summit in 1992. Suzuki is a prime example of a youth who wanted to make a change as she started the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. Her speech was so powerful that it silenced all of our campers as well as some of the most prominent world leaders!

After the morning video and journal it’s time for the morning news! Each morning a different family group, smaller groups that campers are divided into, researches what is going on in the world and reports back to the larger group. Each morning we learned about current events happening here in the US, the Netherlands, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The morning news was a good time for campers to learn about things going on in the world while they were all working together at camp.

A typical morning activity for campers was the high-ropes course conducted by Camp Aldersgate staff. This exercise faced some campers with the challenge of finding their own inner strength to make it up the pole and onto the zip line while it also promoted team work as their fellow campers cheered them on from the ground. The high-ropes course is always a powerful bonding experience where many campers make new personal relationships and find their own strength and bravery they may not have known they had! (YUGA camper Enma climbs up "the caterpillar" at the high-ropes course!)

All of the campers also hopped on a school bus and drove to Pawtucket, Rhode Island for a community service clean up activity. Campers and staff worked together with members of the Pawtucket Housing Authority to freshen up the area and clean up trash. It was a good experience to get the campers out of Camp Aldersgate and into some real communities in Rhode Island!
Another powerful workshop was the HIV positive speaker who came to speak to the campers from AIDS Care Ocean State. Tom shared his experience as the longest-living person born with HIV in Rhode Island. Tom has spent his life dealing with the struggles and stigma that are attached to being HIV positive but told the campers his inspiring story of survival and perseverance. YUGA camp is all about learning about issues such as HIV/AIDS and figuring out what we can do to help reduce our risk and help to educate others about the disease.

YUGA campers also participated in a Plan Staff Panel where employees at Plan International USA came to talk in an open forum and give campers the opportunities to ask questions and learn about what working in a non-governmental organization can be like. We were even joined by the current CEO of Plan International USA, Tessie SanMartin! Campers also participated in a workshop where they learned about Plan’s “Because I Am a Girl” campaign and what they can do to help further the program in their schools and communities. Plan staff members also came in to run a workshop where campers learned about the different kinds of philanthropists and how to become one. Many campers learned they are already philanthropists with all of the wonderful work they are doing in their own communities!

Campers from all over the United States were joined by campers from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Netherlands. Everyone was able to share their experiences about the work they do in their own communities and swap ideas with other campers. YUGA camper Johnnie from Washington, DC says, “YUGA helped me think about the world more and what goes on in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, or the Netherlands. Meeting people from each country made the experience feel real. The earthquake in Haiti for example, meeting people that actually went through it made it feel real; It is a different feeling compared to reading about it or seeing it in the news, you can know that someone knows what it felt like.” Hearing about the different projects and experiences that youth in other countries are working on and experience really made an impact on all of the YUGA campers. These youth have now established a connection that will last al lifetime and have made ties that will help them to better their own advocacy and action projects in their own communities.

(Below, campers from the DR, Haiti, and the Netherlands share about the work they are doing in their communities)
Other camp activities included daily swimming and boating, bonfires, family group challenges, tie-dye, story telling, scavenger hunts, frequent dance parties, a wonderful talent show, and of course the delicious international dinner where campers were able to eat food from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Netherlands, Asia, and India!

Stay tuned for more blog updates about camp and hear from campers about their experiences, favorite memories, and things they learned at YUGA camp!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hi! I'm Allegra, the summer intern for YEA!

Hello YUGA blog readers!

My name is Allegra and I am the summer intern for the YEA team here at Plan! I have been a part of YUGA for the past 5 years or so and absolutely LOVE it! I attended Cranston High School East where myself and a group of friends started the YUGA chapter there our sophomore year. Through all the struggles, we were able to develop an active group at our school and it continues to grow there today! I recently finished my first year of college at Clark University in Worcester, MA and although we do not have a YUGA chapter at Clark, I became apart of groups with similar goals to YUGA such as STAND (Students Taking Action Now; Darfur) and ONE Campus Challenge, a group who raises awareness and holds events dealing with global issues such as diseases and poverty. The skills I learned from being a part of YUGA have helped me to succeed in college and be able to hold leadership positions in the new action and advocacy clubs I joined at Clark.

I have also attended the summer YUGA Leadership Camp for the past 4 years so if you have any questions about YUGA or camp, feel free to ask! I hope those of you coming to camp are getting super excited!!! Can't wait to see you there!

I'll be updating the blog with interesting stories or articles I find for the rest of the summer so keep a look out!

peace and love,
Allegra! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

YUGA: A Year in Review!

YUGA members all over the country have been working hard all year to raise awareness and hold events concerning different global issues. Check out what YUGA members have been doing all year!

-YUGA Meets US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
YUGA members Luis, Angie, and Rachel spoke with US Senators Sheldon Whitehouse about the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. YUGA members also took action at last year’s YUGA Leadership Camp where a workshop was held about the international crisis of child marriage. Way to go YUGA members!

Above, YUGA members Luis, Angie, and Rachel stand with Plan USA's interim CEO, Audrey Bracey-Deegan and US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse at Plan USA's Warwick office.


-A Hand in my Future
Cranston East High School participated in Plan UK's A Hand in my Future campaign, collecting pictures of hands with a message about the importance of youth in decision-making.
-Recycling at School Football Games
Cranston East also collected cans to recycle at their school’s football game. "Not only are we helping the environment," says Luis, "but we're also able raise money by personally bringing the cans to the recycling plant." This is a great way to fundraise, raise awareness of environmental sustainability, and have a great time, too!


-Corrie and Kate Learn about Plumpynut
Corrie and Kate visited the Edesia factory in Providence, RI- the home of Plumpynut, a line of products that treat and prevent malnutrition for over 100,000 children. 195 million children are undernourished and every day 16,000 children die because of lack of food and adequate nutrition. Edesia is a great organization that dedicates their time and effort to the protection of children all around the world. Check out their website for more info about Plumpynut and other exciting things Edesia is up to at


-Poverty Week at Cranston East
The Cranston East YUGA chapter decided to create a week at their school where they would raise awareness and money for poverty both locally and globally. They made 50 bagged lunches for Crossroads, a local homeless shelter in Providence, RI, and also had a bake sale where they raised about $60 to send to Crossroads as well.

Top: CHSE YUGA members with their banner and bagged lunches they made for Crossroads.
Bottom: YUGA members Rachel and Kaitlyn with the cupcakes they made to benefit Crossroads.

-Sisters Nadyah and Jana begin a YUGA Chapter in Maryland
Nadyah and Jana worked with their school principal to use some of the YUGA toolkits to help make their school a 'Green School,' an accreditation from the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE). If you want to get help with starting your own YUGA chapter visit the Plan website at or contact Corrie. If you are interested in starting a YUGA chapter at your school, check out this special toolkit!


-Annual Move to Stop AIDS Dance-a-thon a Huge Success!
Youth from around the state danced the night away at Plan USA's 5th annual Move to Stop AIDS Dance-a-Thon! We were thrilled to raise $5,500 for Plan's HIV/AIDS programs in Zimbabwe, thanks to the hard work of YUGA youth, raffle prize money, and a generous donor who agreed to match everything raised at the Dance-a-Thon. Thanks to all those who donated, performed, and all YUGA members who helped make the Move to Stop AIDS Dance-a-Thon a HUGE success!

YUGA members gather with Congressman David Cicilline and the plaque that YUGA presented

YUGA members Clare, Arisa, Livia, Angie, and Carissa

YUGA members danced all night long to the beats of DJ Tatu

-Blake Middle School Skypes with Haiti
Nearly 750 students at Blake Middle School, a school in Massachusetts who was dedicated to raising money after the Haiti earthquake, joined on a Skype call with Haitian youth and Plan staff to ask questions about their peers in Haiti. This shows that youth can connect all around the world and relate their life experiences!


-Commission on the Status of Women
Corrie, Sara, and Kirby went to the United Nations to join girls from all around the world to speak to members of the UN about women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social, and educational fields. They used their voices to urge UN members to make sure they know that girls’ rights are human rights. You go girls!
YUGA members gathered with girls from all around the world at the UN!

-World Water Day
Walk for Wells was developed to simulate the walk that many girls in Niger have to do everyday in order to reach clean water for drinking, bathing, washing, and cooking. You can host this walk-a-thon at your school and help to raise awareness and money to fund projects that help girls get clean water in their villages. Check out the Walk for Wells website for information on how to host our own walk-a-thon!


-Earth Day
YUGA members celebrated Earth Day by getting outside and helping to better the environment in their own communities. Check out YUGA’s Top Ten Ways to Live Green here!


-World Fair Trade Day
May 14th was World Fair Trade Day and was a time to take a closer look at the products we buy and how the workers who have made those products are treated. It is your job to check the labels and advocate for fair trade products. Hold an event or fundraiser at your school with all Fair Trade Certified products!

-YUGA Leadership Camp Planning
Camp planning is underway and we are very excited for this summer! Check out the YUGA Camp page on the Plan website for a look at a typical day, view pictures from past years, and read about what camp is like through the eyes of a camper!

YUGA members from a past YUGA Camp!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

World Against Child Labor Day!

June 12th was World Against Child Labor Day celebrated around the world by million of children that organizations like Plan USA were able to save from hazardous working conditions. According to the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, there are 115 million children currently working in hazardous working conditions making this issue of great significance. There has also been a recent rise in the number of older children working in hazardous conditions- an increase in 20 percent within 4 years! This issue MUST be given urgent attention in order to help reduce the number of children and adolescents suffering high rates of injury when working in unfair working conditions.

What do organizations suggest we do to address the problem of child labor in hazardous conditions?

We must take a life-cycle approach when dealing with the issues of child labor. This involves a stronger focus on ensuring that education and training policies prepare children for work life so as to acheive an effective school-to-work transition. If adolescents enter the workforce, there must be adequate safety regulations in place to ensure their safety and health. There must also be a wider knowledge of the internation labor standards spread throughout the world. Laws and regulations along with proper education for children, workers, and employers must be established and put into place.

Organizations like Plan USA are taking strides to ensure safer working conditions for many children in the workforce. Children in Shebedino, Ethiopia were celebrating World Day Against Child Labor now that a Plan project has helped protect them from hazardous work and enabled them to go to school. These children used to spend their days at the local clay makers crushing soil for hours with just sticks and stones. Because the soil and dust were so overwhelming, the young children would cough for hours because of this tiring work.

Plan USA provided this community with 1 diesel and 2 manual clay grinding soil machines and now many children do not have to hand crush the soil and can attend school full time! These manual crushers are safer and less tiresome than using a stick to crush the soil.
Here is a woman demonstrating how to operate the clay crushing machine provided by Plan!Check out the full article about Plan's work in Ethiopia here:

Spread awareness about this issue at your school or tell your family and friends. Many of the companies that we buy clothes, food, and other items from support child labor and have many children working in sweat shops or under other unsafe working conditions. Check the labels and buy clothing that is made in America!

YUGA also has a FULL toolkit on what you can do in your school or at home to help stop child labor and get educated about the facts.
Check it out!

Monday, May 16, 2011

School Days

As the school year winds down, we’re all looking forward to the summer- hanging out at the pool, sleeping in on the weekends, and catching up on our favorite TV shows. I just finished my first year of graduate school, and, like many students across the country, I was counting down my final days of class before summer break.

But as excited as I am for more rest and relaxation, I really do love school. I love reading about people and events in other countries, sitting with my friends in class, and that feeling I get after working hard and earning a good grade on a paper or exam. I feel really lucky that I have been given the opportunity to attend school for 18 years (!!), especially when I know so many youth across the world have not been afforded that same opportunity. Unfortunately, many children and youth face daily barriers to attending school and attaining a quality education.

Here are some obstacles that children and youth might have to overcome to get an education:

10 Common Barriers to Education:

1. Lack of money- Many parents lack the necessary fees for tuition, school books and supplies, uniforms, or food, and therefore cannot afford to send their children to school regularly.

2. Distance- In rural communities, schools are often few and far between, requiring children and youth to take long and often unsafe walks to school every day.

3. Responsibilities at home- In rural communities, children and youth often have many duties at home, which might take away from their time in the classroom. Some of these chores may include caring for younger siblings, housekeeping, and fetching water for the household.

4. Value of girls’ education- In some societies, little value is placed on a girls’ education. In these communities, girls struggle against social and familial pressures in order to attend school.

5. Child marriage- In some parts of the world, children, especially girls, marry at very young ages, often to save the family money. A young wife must often take care of her husband and household, which interferes with her ability to go to school.

6. Pregnancy- A lack of comprehensive health education, a lack of access to contraception, a societal taboo against discussing reproductive health, and the prevalence of child marriage can all contribute to early pregnancy among girls and adolescents. If a girl is pregnant or has a young child, she will not be able to regularly attend school or focus on her studies.

7. School facilities- Often schools are not properly maintained or lack adequate facilities, and therefore do not offer safe and healthy learning environments for students. Classrooms can also be hot, crowded, and lacking in materials such as desks, chalkboards, and books, which impair student learning.

8. Sanitation facilities- In addition to classrooms, students should also have access to safe and healthy bathrooms, including separate spaces for boys and girls. Children and youth also need access to clean drinking water throughout the school day, which often schools cannot provide.

9. Teacher’s Investment- In some instances, teachers are underpaid, inadequately trained, or not fully invested in providing quality education for their students. So even when students attend school, they sometimes do not receive personal attention or effective instruction.

10. Child Labor- Millions of children around the world are engaged in the labor force in order to help contribute to their family’s income. These jobs can include unpaid and paid work (though often for very low wages) in agriculture, domestic service, textiles, and other industries. Sometimes this work can be dangerous, and can require long hours. Children are sometimes also trafficked illegally within their own country or internationally. If children are working, they often do not have the energy to keep up with their studies. While working, children and youth often miss days of school, or withdraw from school all together. (For more information on the impact of child labor, make sure to check out the upcoming issue of YUGA’s E-News in June.)

Have you ever faced any of these obstacles, or do you know anyone who has? Which obstacles do you think would be most difficult to overcome? Do you think obtaining universal access to quality education for all children and youth is important? Why or why not? Can you think of any other barriers to education youth around the world face? Please be sure to e-mail your ideas to Plan at

As for me, next time I am nervous for an exam or tired after a long night of doing homework, I’m going to try to think about what it would be like if I had to study while facing any the barriers mentioned above. While I will no doubt enjoy my break from classes this summer, I will try to keep in mind how lucky I am to get to attend school on a regular basis. And I’m sure that when August comes around, I will be very excited to start classes once again.

Good luck finishing up the school year and happy (almost) summer!