It happens quite often: While you packed carefully for your holiday, you won’t even have used half of the stuff during your holiday. One pair of flip-flops, 2 pair of shorts and 7 shirts also do, instead of the additional 10 you packed. So in the end you give the remaining room in your bags to your girlfriend. How about, next time you say no to her ;) Because there is something much better that you can do with the space in your bag. Pack for a Purpose is an organisation which wants you to pack useful things for people in need your holiday country. Pencils, stethoscopes, footballs without air – this way, more than 28,5 tons of donations have been made and shipped to people over the past five years. And you can now be part of this great idea
‘Pack for a Purpose’ – Small things with huge impact
‘Gosh! Why haven’t I thought about that before?’ – Rebecca and Scott Rothney booked 7 days of Safari in Africa, to see lions, giraffes, go camping camping – everything included. They could bring 19 kilos of luggage, because the Jeep wouldn’t fit much more. On the plane, however, they were allowed 45 kilos. Rebecca is the person behind Pack for a Purpose and rightly she has been voted by National Geographic ‘Traveller of the Year’.
Rebecca and her husband have seen so many parts of the world in the last couple of years. ‘No matter where I go, I see myself as a part of the local community. Through my parents’ sense of responsibility I was inculcated with the belief that if you are part of a community, for however short a time, you are responsible for contributing to that community in whatever way you are able. My mother made it very clear that you always bring a hostess gift to someone to thank them for their hospitality.’ She couldn’t forget about the remaining 26 kilos of empty space in her bag. So before she returned the next time to Africa, she contacted a school in the area that she was visiting. She asked them if they were in need of anything such as books, skipping ropes, toys or even medicine – in the end the Rothneys packed their 64 kilo luggage and took them along to that school. ‘The principal almost wept when she saw the rulers, as there was not a single ruler in the school. Even though the classrooms were well-built, the school had limited supplies. There was not a soccer ball either and watching the children play with one of the five we brought gave us inestimable joy!”
28,5 tons of donations – travellers from all around the world are packing
What started with 64 kilos is today more than 28.500 kilos! An international charity mission developed: Thanks to the internet… Rebecca and Scott encouraged friends and people from all over the world to help and created the website www.packforapurpose.org. ‘Through the internet we can reach like-minded people from all over the world who want to travel in a meaningful way.’ Through her daily internet research, Rebecca is discovering various projects of tourist enterprises which have already been honoured for their local work and help in social projects. ‘We want to make it as easy as possible for the traveler’, Rebecca explains, ‘There are many hotels, hostels, home stays and tour companies that support the work of local projects. I know that there are a lot of travelers who would like to help but don’t know how and also don’t really want to have too much effort. That’s why we provide easy access.’ So, if you want to participate in this charity project you can book your stay in such hotels which support one the local projects. when you arrive, you hand your donation to a hotel employee, who forward your things to those in need. What you can also do is contacting a cooperating tour provider who then collects your donations. Or you can do it all yourself and look for a project near your destination to deliver your gifts in person!
‘Coloured Pencils, Pens, Footballs, New or Gently Used Children’s Clothing and Shoes’ – the list shows that what’s missing can often be the simplest things. On Rebecca’s website you can have a look at the different projects, categorised according to the countries they are located in. There you can see a full list of all the things that are badly needed. It is asked to read carefully through the lists, though, as only the local project leaders know exactly what the school, institution, orphanage or home is short of. ‘The locals themselves know best what is needed.’ Yummy chocolate and lollipops are well meant, ‘but many children, especially in rural areas listed on our website,don’t have a toothbrush or access to a dentist, and cavities are no fun’, Rebecca explains. This is why you should stick to the lists, because ‘because those are the only things that are currently needed.’ Until now, many organisations from all around the world contact the ‘Pack for a Purpose’-team and ask them for support. Whether it’s animal shelters, hospitals, food canteens, or Kindergartens – there are no institutions excluded. ‘We want to list every locally supported project that helps make the world a little bit better,’ is Rebecca’s philosophy. By now there are as many as 889 programs registered in more than 60 countries on the website. All in all, 510,759 people have already been helped by the donations.
Irish Dancing included…
The Success as well as the number of people involved are constantly increasing. In 2013, travellers packed more than 8250 kilos into their bag for ‘Pack for a Purpose’. In 2014, the number has reached 10.81 tons until September. A higher interest of the media, a bigger reach and most importantly more ‘Gosh! Why haven’t I thought about that before?’-moments make the mission grow even more. In Ireland, too, the project gains more and more attention. The Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve in South Africa, a rural school for farm workers’ children recently received a 3.5 kilo parcel from Ireland, including a demonstration in Irish Dancing, which the pupils loved!
The Sky is the Limit – with just a little help from you
In future, the goal of ‘Pack for a Purpose’ is growing even more and becoming better known. Every day Rebecca Rothney hunts for new projects that the project could support. And ‘Right now we are working on developing a partnership with university exchange programs,’ Rebecca explains. ‘We also want to convince international medical conventions to come join our project.’
Some of the donations that Rebecca gets for her project go to those dedicated interns who coordinate Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the rest of the IT stuff! ‘As a mostly volunteer organization, interns are ‘paid’ in my hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate mint chip cookies and occasionally lunch. Everyone here works towards making the world a better place.’ Rebecca hasn’t been working for the past two years. ‘My husband Scott is a full-time worker, so I can fully dedicate myself to the project – even if that means I have to sit in front of that computer for 10 hours every single day. That wasn’t exactly how I ever pictured myself,’ she laughs, ‘But as long as it helps the people, I am happy’. ‘Pack for a Purpose’ has not yet been abused in any country. ‘Of course it could happen that some supplies given to a teacher or clinic could end up on the black market,’ Rebecca explains, ‘but so far we don’t know of a single case where this happened.’ But even if only 10% of the donations get into the wrong hands, ‘it’s still 90% that arrives safely – a good enough reason to keep going, don’t you think?’
My dear Holidayguru Followers, I am really impressed by ‘Pack for a Purpose’! With just a little bit of effort you can change a lot and make so many people happy. Maybe you can pack one pair of flip flops less on your next holiday and replace the other pairs of shoes with bandages, note pads or pencils :) Whatever way you do it, you can pack 200 grams or 20 kilos – but please do it!
How to help with ‘Pack for a Purpose’
1) Go to www.packforapurpose.org
2) Select your destination – Are you going to Asia, Africa, South America or Europe?
3) Select the country you travel to
4) Next to the ‘Lodgings’ section you can see which projects your specific area is offering. Choose one or click through all of them to see what things are needed where
5) Buy a few things you see on the list that fit in your bag – even if it’s only 2 kilos.
6) Your hotel may already support the project and you can simply hand your donations over at the reception. Or you contact one of the tour providers who support the project to pick up your donations. Third option: You can visit the organisation you chose and bring them your donations in person.