Helping the world’s kids an everyday job for islander
Although the Jamestown resident is often mired daily in the details of fear and poverty and destruction, she’s also part of an organization that brings something vital to the world’s children: Hope.
As director of communications for the Warwick-based Plan USA, Costello manages all internal and external communications for the organization, which works to address the origins of poverty in 48 developing countries throughout the world.
“In light of Haiti, and in light of the earthquake and child protection pieces, with everything we do really focused on children and families and communities, it’s great work,” she said. “I feel really fortunate to be here.”
Since the devastating earthquake that occurred in Haiti on Jan. 12, Costello and Plan USA have utilized their extensive experience in disaster relief to bring hope to thousands of Haitian children and families.
Plan has been working in Haiti since 1973, and its team of 160 staff members and emergency specialists has been working overtime since the earthquake.
Haiti’s children are particularly vulnerable since the quake, Costello said, so Plan has been working to make child protection and psychological support a priority by distributing child protection messages, organizing temporary schools and offering emotional support.
This past Sunday, the local Youth United for Global Action and Awareness chapter of Plan gathered with Costello at her Warwick office to talk on the phone with Plan spokesperson Steven Theobald, currently working in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The exchange was particularly meaningful for YUGA members and friends of two 17-year-old Haitian students who attended last year’s annual YUGA global leadership event in North Smithfi eld.
Youth from several R.I. school systems – Cranston, Warwick, Providence and East Greenwich – are involved in YUGA, Costello said.
She hopes to see Jamestown children represented in the future.
“We would love to one day expand and include Jamestown,” she said. “I feel like Jamestown schools have done a great job of opening children’s eyes to other places around the world.”
Costello, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, brings plenty of experience to her role with Plan USA, which she has held since September, 2008. She was previously press secretary for the office of Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy and public relations manager for Day One (formerly the Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource Center of Rhode Island). Costello was also an award-winning anchor and reporter for ABC6 News in Providence.
“I was working with Congressman Kennedy’s office, which was a job I really enjoyed, but I had started to learn a little bit about Plan,” she said. “I recognized that my work in television, my work in Congressman Kennedy’s office and my work with the Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource Center all gave me different experiences and different tools. If I put them all together, I thought as the communications director of Plan, I could really make a difference.”
Though her job is centered on helping others, Costello was quick to point out how her position has benefited her personally – as well as her three children, who are students in the Jamestown school system.
“It’s really opened my eyes,” she said. “I thought my eyes were already opened to the plight of so many around the world, but what I find every day is a story about a community, a real slice of life. Some of it is hard to read or listen to, but it gives you a better idea of how people are living day to day.
That knowl- edge has given Costello the opportunity to teach her own children about what’s happening in Haiti, as well as in the rest of the world.
“I try to share some of my day with them and let them know what I was working on,” she said. “I let them know they should be very grateful for what they have.”
Costello said child sponsorship remains the largest source of income for Plan USA, which also benefits from various funding outlets. The organization has just over one million sponsors across the nation.
Sponsoring a child is a straightforward process, according to Costello.
“We have a sponsorship model in Plan, essentially matching a donor or individual with a child in one of the communities that we work in around the world,” she said. “It’s about supporting the community that the child is living in. The child gets the benefit of Plan’s programs within their community and country. Many of those sponsors are Rhode Islanders and many are Jamestowners.”
Costello counts herself among the many admirers of the work Plan USA does around the globe.
“Everyone is drawn here because they really believe in what Plan is doing,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere. I’m surrounded day to day by people who really want to make a difference and are working around the world to get things done.”
If you’re interested in sponsoring a child or supporting Plan USA’s efforts in Haiti, visit www. planusa.org or call (800) 556- 7918. All donations are tax-deductible.