Here at Plan International Australia, there are many things we are thankful for and most of them, in some way or another, come back to you!
Over the past 12 months, our organisation has seen immense impact in all areas of our work – tackling the root causes of poverty, supporting communities through crises, campaigning for gender equality, and helping governments to do what is right for the communities we work with.
Supporters like you have played a critical role in making this work possible and allowing us to reach 50.8 million children, across 75 countries in the process.
No matter how you choose to support us, you are helping create real change for children and girls across the globe and we are so grateful to have you on this journey with us.
On Thank You Week, we want to share the love – here are some wonderful stories of Plan supporters who have inspired us this year. Everyone has their own unique reasons for choosing to support our mission.
Whatever or whoever inspired you, we want to thank you. Thanks for trusting Plan International Australia to create the change you want to see in the world.
Matthew is one of the busiest retirees around – he cooks, gives history presentations to aged care facilities and community groups, babysits his grandkids, and on top of all that, he finds the time to support Plan International Australia too! In fact, for the past 50 years, Matthew has volunteered, donated, created a special bequest for Plan’s work; he even met his wife Elizabeth, while hosting a fundraiser for Plan 40 years ago.
Matthew has a particularly special connection to Java, Indonesia, where his father, aunty and uncle were all born, and appreciates the work we do to support communities there. He still remembers meeting his first sponsor child and family in Yogyakarta, recalling it as “one of the most moving experiences in my life”.
Matthew’s wish for children and girls in 2022? “To live a life where they have opportunity, can take the opportunity and make of life what they will”.
“I decided in my early 20s that I was living in a very prosperous country, while studying part time, Commerce at Melbourne University. I thought about Australia – we’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and obviously in my early twenties I didn’t have a great deal of surplus money. I knew that my money would go a lot further [if I donated it to Plan] than it would have gone in Australia at the time.
“I looked at what overseas organisations there were, and I noticed that Plan talked about being non-sectarian and that convinced me to go down that path, rather than religious organisations.
“Charities have to earn my continuing support. The common theme is charities who are supporting people in need, often where they can’t get the support that they necessarily need to lead a full and sustaining enjoyable life. There’s something always holding them back.
“I have always sponsored a child in Indonesia – my father, Wally was born in Surabaya, Java, in 1910, the eldest of three children. I think I was just trying to identify more with my father, and also the fact of Indonesia being comparatively close to Australia, as you see, from the other countries which Plan supports.
“And obviously going to Indonesia made me realise that at that time, 45-50 years ago, that they (Plan) were often supporting people in the rural communities because they had far less services than the capital cities or large cities. I am pleased that Plan is still working in Indonesia.”
As a general practitioner and a mother of two, a passion for women’s health, rights and education comes naturally to Sharmila, and she sees these values reflected in Plan International’s work.
In addition to travel, she enjoys the simple things in life, going on walks, reading and spending time with her kids and beloved Bor-doodle, a cross between a border collie and poodle – “They do exist!” she insists.
Growing up, Sharmila was very aware of cultural beliefs around sons being valued over daughters but feels fortunate to never have experienced that in her own family. She draws hope from the young people of today for their open-mindedness, passion and unwavering commitment to challenging norms.
Sharmila’s wish for children and girls in 2022? “I want a future where girls have autonomy over their bodies. I want every child to be growing up in a safe environment.”
“I come from a family that really valued education and I come from an Indian background. Certainly growing up, my mother did say that, you know, a lot of the community in India and here in Australia valued boys and valued having a son. And my parents had two daughters.
“But I remember her saying to my dad, ‘Should we try for a boy? Should we have a boy?’ and my dad said ‘No, these girls are enough, we will treat them the same as a son’, and that’s what they did, they gave us every opportunity. They didn’t necessarily see it as any different to having a boy, and I think that was quite powerful for me, coming from that sort of background, and not being made to feel lesser for being female.
“I think as a young girl, I probably was really struck by a lot of the injustices against women and felt a little bit helpless and hopeless about it all. In the process, I’ve been trying to focus on what can be done and how we can empower women.
“And I’m very conscious of the fact that I’ve been given a lot of opportunities that I wish for everybody and every girl to have. Having a daughter myself, like every mother I know, every mother around the world, wants the same things for their daughters.
“I see a lot of hope and positivity in what Plan does. I see that a lot of the work they do is from the ground up – it’s building communities, it’s changing things at the coal face. Not just for one person, but for entire communities and for generations to come.”
The not-for-profit sector isn’t new to Lai Yin – she has regularly worked and volunteered for multiple charities over the years – but when she first crossed paths with Plan International Australia, little did we know she’d still be volunteering with us seven years later.
Together with a group of friends, Lai Yin has been sponsoring a child through Plan International Australia for the past 30 years, and she currently volunteers three days a week. She recognises the importance of volunteers and attributes her interest and involvement to her biggest influence, her father, a man who believed in justice, fairness and equality for all.
A lover of art, pottery, gardening and sci-fi films, Lai Yin brings great warmth, joy and humour to the Plan International Australia community, and her commitment over the past seven years deserves to be celebrated.
Lai Yin’s wish for children and girls in 2022? “Education – it can transform a girl’s life, widen her perspective and open up endless opportunities.”
“The girls (who live in Afghanistan), their education has been taken away from them and they are unable to study. It is shocking and a big blow to them. My sister and I always discuss these issues and invariably agree that we are so blessed and lucky……because it could have been us. Yes, it could have been us!!!
“We were lucky to be born into a family where education was a top priority and all the children were given equal opportunities. My siblings and I were encouraged to study overseas. My sister and I have happily settled down in Melbourne. I hope other people can have the same opportunities as us.
“I personally feel that we should give something back to society if we can. I have some spare time and love volunteering at Plan. The organisation is progressive, cohesive, inclusive and fun. I love and embrace the vibrant, interesting and different ethnicities within Plan. It is very apparent that staff and volunteers care and respect each other.
“Sophie (volunteer coordinator) always says, ‘We can’t thank you volunteers enough. What will I do without you?’ And you know, in a way of course it is true. But that’s what we are here for and all the volunteers are really, really very committed. The “vollies” are an amazing and close knit group, totally committed to Plan.”
Growing up in an all female household with her single mum and sister, Bethany was always told she could be anything she wanted. Now, as a maths teacher, she instils the same message in her students, and has seen girls’ confidence and sense of self blossom through this approach to education.
Growing up, Bethany’s mum sponsored a child close to Bethany and her sister’s age, and Bethany recalls writing letters back and forth. On starting a fulltime job at 22, Bethany decided it was time to start donating herself, and since then she has already seen the impact of her contributions on children and their communities, with a couple of the children she sponsored eventually graduating from the sponsorship program.
Bethany’s wish for children and girls in 2022? “To get an education without anything stopping them.”
“In a perfect world, there would be no poverty and everyone would be able to access any education that they wanted without money, distance, or health being a barrier.
“Education can change your entire position in society. I feel like a lot of the time, particularly in a family unit, educating girls tends to elevate the family out of poverty. It is important, particularly for girls, being able to get an education without anything stopping them.
“In the classroom, when I see girls realise that they have a voice and break out of that really quiet position it’s one of the massive joys of teaching – seeing those girls realise that, ‘No, I can actually do this’, when so often in society, they’re told to just be quiet, stay to the side, and just be a good little person rather than have their own voice and opinions. You do have an equal share even if the boys are usually a bit louder, you can share your opinions and stand up for yourself.
“If I could change anything, I would love to see children allowed to just be children, to not worry about [having] enough food coming into the house or entering into early marriages. All of that. I want kids to be able to be kids. I want everyone to be able to have a fulfilling life, with equal access to education.”