Particularly when it comes to guys, you’re more than happy to just back one pair of boxers, two t-shirts and one pair of flip-flops. Eventually you end up having to give your girlfriend the extra space in your baggage – why don’t pack for an amazing project next time you go on a trip instead? “Pack for a Purpose” is an organisation which wants you to pack useful things for people in need in your holiday country. Pencils, Stethoscopes, footballs without any air in; through this more than 28.5 tons of donations have been given to people over the past five years.

“Pack for a Purpose“ – Small gifts with huge impacts

“Gosh! Why haven’t I thought about that before?” – Rebecca and Scott Rothney booked a 7 day African Safari trip, full of lions, giraffes and camping- everything already included. They were allowed 19 kgs of luggage, most of which they couldn’t fit in the Jeep! On the flight over, however, they were allowed a huge 45 kgs of luggage! Rebecca is the person behind “Pack for a Purpose” and was, not long ago, voted as “Traveller” of the Year” by National Geographics!

Rebecca Rothney in Curacao

Over the years Rebecca and her husband have travelled a lot and seen various parts of the world. “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 stop thinking about the 26 kgs of empty stowage out of her mind, so weeks before her next trip to Africa she asked her safari company to contact the school in the area she planned to visit and ask if they need any school supplies. Soccer balls, rulers, pencils and heaps of other school material she bought herself and also collected from friends – a total of 64 kilos the Rothneys packed in their luggage to bring to the 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!” The people were very grateful and thankful – in a western world like ours it’s hard to imagine how appreciated a ruler can be.

28,5 tons of donations – travellers from all around the world are packing

What began with 64 kilos has turned into more than 28,500 kilos today! An international charity mission evolved: Thanks to the internet! Rebecca and Scott encouraged friends and people from around the world to get involved 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.” Rebecca researches the internet daily, discovering tourist enterprises which have already been honoured for their local work and who help local social projects. This is how she discovers numerous new projects to help! “We want to make it as easy as possible for the traveller” 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.”

If you want to pack for a purpose, you have the choice to stay in one of those specific accommodations listed on the website that supports a project and the staff will deliver your donation to the project on your behalf. If you want to stay in a different hotel than the ones listed on the website, you can easily contact a cooperating local tour company that will collect your stuff – you can of course book a tour with them as well. Or you can just look on the website for a local project that’s close to your accommodation and drop off the needed supplies yourself.

Coloured Pencils, Pens, Footballs, New or Gently Used Children’s Clothing and Shoes – the lists show that most of the times it’s the simplest things that are missing. On the PfaP website all projects are categorized and introduced by the country they are located in. Here you find the lists with all things that are needed. Only the supervisor of the local project decides what’s on the list. “The locals themselves know best what is needed.” Yummy chocolate and lollipops are certainly enjoyed by children “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. That’s why you should stick to the lists, “because those are the only things that are currently needed.” Accomodations and tour companies from all around the world are now contacting Pack for a Purpose and ask for support. Whether there are animal shelters, hospitals, food canteens, or Kindergartens – no community projects are excluded. “We want to list every locally supported project that helps make the world a little bit better” – that is Rebecca’s philosophy. Up to today, there are over 880 programs registered in more than 60 countries. All up: 510,759 humans have already benefited by travellers who packed for a purpose.

Irish Dancing included…

The success as well as the number of people involved are constantly increasing. In 2013 travelers packed more than 8250 kilos for PfaP. Last year, 10.81 tons of donated supplies were collected – and that only through August 2014. A higher interest of the media, international reach and most importantly more moments of “Gosh! Why haven’t I thought about that before?” let the mission grow even faster. Even in Ireland the project is gaining more attention constantly. The Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve in South Africa, a rural school for farm workers’ children, was just recently visited by an Irish family. 3.5 kilos of supplies they packed and dropped it off at the school.

Most likely not on the list, but probably just as impressive: the little Irish girl gave a quick demonstration of the Irish Dancing for all the school kids. Lord of the dance in the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains – everyone loved it!

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The Sky is the Limit – with just a little effort everyone can help

The future goal of ‘Pack for a Purpose’ is to grow, to spread even further. Every day Rebecca Rothney is hunting for new projects to be supported. But that’s not enough: “Right now we are working on developing a partnership with university exchange programs,” says Rebecca. “We also want to convince international medical conventions to come join our project.” A really innovative way to try and spread the word about their support!

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The donations that the organization receives go to her dedicated interns who coordinate Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and the rest of the IT worlds. “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.” Two years ago when the time required for Pack for a Purpose greatly increased, Rebecca closed her business of 23 years to work full-time as the main volunteer for Pack for a Purpose. “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.” Fortunately, PfaP has not been abused yet, in no 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 10% of donations fell into wrong hands, “it’s still 90% that arrives safely – a good enough reason to keep going, don’t you think?”

Donor and class

My dear Holidayguru fans, I have been truly inspired by “Pack for a Purpose”. I think it’s phenomenal that there are people out there working so hard to make it easy for us to help others. With just a tiny amount of effort, you can achieve so much and make so many people happy. Maybe instead of packing an extra pair of shoes, you could just stick to the one pair of flip-flops and replace the other pair with bandages; something so simple to you and me, but desperately needed to them! It doesn’t matter how much or how little you can contribute, whether it’s 200 grams or 20 kilograms, you know that your donation has made a difference; surely that’s a good enough reason for everybody?!

How to help with “Pack for a Purpose”

  1. 1. Go to www.packforapurpose.org

  2. 2. Select your destination” – Are you going to Africa, South America or Europe?

  3. 3. Select the country you are going to stay in

  4. 4. Next to the “Lodgings” section you can see which projects your area is offering. Choose one or click through all of them so you can see what things are needed where

  5. 5. Buy things you see on the list which fit in your bag – even when it’s only 2 kilos.

  6. 6. Either your hotel already supports the project and you can simply give your donations to the reception. Or you contact one of the tour providers who support the project and who can pick up your donations. Third option: You can visit the organisation and give them the things you have brought on your own.

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Please note that I'm just a blogger who loves to find holiday deals on the Internet and share them on my blog. The deals published on my website are not provided directly by me, but by external travel agencies and providers. Deals must be booked on their websites using the screenshots provided as a guide.