There are many, many reasons to travel light when packing for a vacation in order to avoid everything from prohibitive luggage fees to waiting at the baggage check. Pack For A Purpose gives you reasons to make the most of your packing, however, by letting travelers use the empty space in their luggage to help those in need.
Pack For A Purpose began in 2009 with a simple premise: bringing small gifts of appreciation to the communities in need that we come across on our travels.
We took a moment to talk to Rebecca Rothney about how the project got started, how you can get involved, some common items that come in handy, and some locations that are particularly in need.
Can you introduce us to Pack For A Purpose?
Pack for a Purpose is an easy way for travelers to make every journey more impactful. Our mission is to positively impact communities around the world by assisting travelers who want to make meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit.
What's the general premise?
By simply using a small amount of space in their luggage, travelers can bring requested and needed supplies to community projects at the destinations they visit. In this way, they can say "thank you" for the hospitality they are receiving, knowing that the hostess gift they are bringing is useful and will be appreciated.
When did you begin?
Pack for a Purpose was officially launched on the web December 17, 2009 with fewer than 30 participants. In the five years since then, we have grown to include more than 480 participants in over 60 countries.
Growing up, my mother always emphasized that when you visit someone, whether for a meal or for the weekend, you always bring a hostess gift to say thank you for their hospitality.
What inspired you to begin Pack For A Purpose initially?
During our first trip to Africa, my husband Scott and I learned that, while we were each limited to 40 pounds (18.14 kgs) of luggage on safari, the airline had an allowance of 100 pounds (45 kgs) of checked luggage plus a 40-pound (18.14 kg) carry-on. In making plans for a second trip, we looked into visiting a school, Mabele Primary School, near our accommodations in Botswana. We contacted our safari company, Wilderness Safaris, to see if we could determine any specific needs of that school. Armed with that information, we were able to deliver 140 pounds (64 kgs) of school supplies and soccer balls to the school. It was enormously rewarding to be able to help the people in the community that had given us such a life-changing experience.
Can you give other examples of what some of these contributions might be?
Requested supplies are very specific to each project on our website, and that's part of the beauty of Pack for a Purpose. As the needs list comes directly from the source and changes as necessary, the traveler can be assured that what they are taking will truly benefit the project. Before there was Pack for a Purpose, my husband and I always brought supplies on our trips by inquiring ahead of time about what items were needed.
When we went to Kenya in 2008 and stayed at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, I emailed them to ask them what they wanted for the schools and clinic. The clinic responded by asking for a stethoscope since they did not have one. Being able to bring not one but two stethoscopes for the clinic - along with blood pressure cuffs, which they also requested - was a very meaningful experience for us and added great value to our trip.
School supplies make up a large part of the requested supplies on our website. They range from pens, pencils and rulers to protractors and graphing calculators.
How does Pack For A Purpose help to neutralize or offset some of the concerns often attributed to tourism's impact on a region?
We believe graciousness and gratitude are universally appreciated. It's important to minimize the weight of the supplies that are taken and make sure that all excess packaging is recycled before supplies are packed, since many countries do not have their own recycling facilities.
Some travelers like to bring candy and balloons with them. While these items certainly bring joy to children, they are a detriment to kids with no access to dentists, toothbrushes or toothpaste; and the balloons, once deflated, are a choking hazard to wildlife and litter the environment.
Pack for a Purpose travelers are going on a trip. Our goal is to make sure they have an opportunity to express their appreciation to the community where they stay in a meaningful and beneficial way.
For people who are thinking of packing a donation, are there any specific items that might need to be declared at customs to not get in trouble?
All of the items requested on our website are legal items. However, customs regulations are ever-changing and vary widely from country to country. So it's a good idea to check with the embassy from the country you plan to visit. Or you can check with the specific lodging/tour company that you plan to stay at or use.
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