taking YUGA to the next level

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Alma (center) and Alexis (right) first got involved with YUGA during the 2013 Leadership Summit–and they haven’t stopped taking action since!

What inspired you to take action for the first time? Was it a movie you watched? A letter you got in the mail? A surprising statistic?

For Alexis, it was hearing the stories from youth around the world at the Leadership Summit–and realizing that she could do something to help. And for Alma, it was her passion for education that brought her to YUGA. Her parents didn’t have access to education, and it became her priority as a student and youth activist; and like Alexis, after talking with other young people at the Summit, she realized that “everything positive has come through education.” After attending the Summit together, they decided that the best way to take action was to start their own YUGA chapter.

At first, it wasn’t easy. They had to get the word out about their new chapter to their fellow students at their high school in Wisconsin. They found an adult advisor; they found a time and place to meet. They presented YUGA to their peers–and luckily, “I’m very loud,” says Alexis, and neither one of them minded talking to others to encourage them to join

That was the beginning–and the best was yet to come. They focused on the Because I am a Girl campaign and fundraising for a screening of the ground-breaking documentary, Girl Rising.

“My favorite thing was doing the [YUGA] workshops,” says Alma. “Just seeing their faces of shock—just like, wow, you actually taught them something.”

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They met their goal and held a screening of Girl Rising, which was a big success–but they want to do more next year, involving more people. They have continued to lead workshops inspired by the information and activities in YUGA’s toolkits. During their workshops, Alexis says, “teachers will pass by, and see us doing something, and they’ll come in and get into it. It’s cool to teach your teachers something. They tell us: ‘Thank you girls for trying to bring this awareness to our school.’”

What’s next for them? Well, their goal is to do a Walk4Wells in the spring. They’re already imagining ways to get creative, including options for a run, and races for younger kids. And Alexis wants to bring YUGA with her to college in the fall. Her top choice college even mentioned her involvement in YUGA in her acceptance letter!

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Their advice for their fellow youth activists is simple. First, from Alma: “Don’t be afraid to try new things and bring new ideas. Step up and do what you want to do.”

And finally, from Alexis: “Don’t get too discouraged. Sometimes it is hard to get your opinions out there. Don’t give up. In the end, you’ll make a difference. You might not notice it at first, but you will.”

#YUGA2013 year in review

Did YOU make it into YUGA’s year in review?
Find the original on Storify–and follow @YUGAPlanUSA and #YUGA2013 for more!
YUGA2013  with tweets  · YUGAPlanUSA · Storify

after typhoon haiyan, Plan responds

The following information comes from a Plan International report on the status of our relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. We’ll keep the updates coming!

Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013.

It has been called the most powerful storm to make landfall in recorded history with sustained winds of 170 mph, gusts of up to 195 mph, and a storm surge as high as 21 feet.

Typhoon Haiyan devastated areas in nine regions of the Philippines and has affected almost 15 million people, including some 5 million children. As of December 7, approximately 4 million people remain displaced as a result of Typhoon Haiyan and almost 6,000 people have been killed.

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Plan is one of the Philippines’ longest-serving aid and development organizations, with a
special focus on helping marginalized children in 420 communities across the country. Plan has worked in the Philippines for more than 50 years and has extensive experience responding to natural disasters and other crises, deploying teams of technical experts to support the immediate delivery of clean drinking water, food, medical supplies, shelter, educational resources, and psychosocial support.

Typhoon Haiyan affected all areas where Plan works. More than 40,000 Plan-sponsored children and families live in the affected areas.

Our immediate priority is to provide life-saving food, water, shelter, healthcare, protection and sanitation and hygiene for vulnerable families and children.

We are working in coordination with stakeholders (Philippine government, UN agencies, partners, and other INGOs) and we are committed to protecting the rights of children affected by the disaster, ensuring their voices are heard and their needs are met.

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Here’s more information on exactly what Plan is doing on the ground:

  • Food: Plan has procured almost $2 million worth of emergency food for distribution to 12,700 families (1 month rations). Plan has already distributed 129,880 ready-to-eat meals to a total of 12,988 people, and will continue to provide food in the coming months.
  • Shelter: Plan has distributed 5,476 shelter kits to 5,476 families in accordance with Sphere standards, 18,488 plastic sheeting to 18,488 families, and over 1,000 tents to affected families.
  • Health: Plan will continue to provide “hospitals in a box,” reproductive health kits for crisis situations, clean delivery kits, drugs for sick newborn children, and midwife post-natal kit, among many others.
  • Education: Following assessments in the field, Plan has started with 100 Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) in Eastern Samar. Plan is currently preparing the training for 120 day care workers on psychosocial first aid and other skills, and will continue to provide school supplies and training.
  • Water, Sanitation, Hygiene: So far, Plan has distributed 1,406 water kits and 7,570 hygiene kits.

Thank you for your continued support–none of this would be possible without you.

Let’s keep up the relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines. We can’t let the children there become a “lost generation,” displaced by this huge storm. And we can help everyone have a happy holiday season, no matter where they live.