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Packing with a Purpose

When Rebecca Rothney first travelled to Africa with her husband Scott, she learnt that whilst her luggage allowance on the safari was quite limited, the airline limit was much higher.

On her next trip, she took it upon herself to contact the safari company with which she was travelling, to find out if the community projects in the area has any specific needs. Rebecca and Scott delivered 65kg (140 lbs) of school supplies to Mabele Primary School, Botswana and witnessed the difference that it made to this local school.

After asking her travel agent on her trip to Kenya, why other travellers didn’t use their luggage allowances in this way, the travel agent said that “nobody thinks of it.”

That was 2009. Pack for a Purpose was born from the simple idea of using your luggage allowance to benefit local communities when you travel. The company now lists over 470 accomodation and tour companies who have partnered with their initiative worldwide, making it simple for travellers to make a difference on every trip.

We were fortunate to interview the founder of Pack for a Purpose, Rebecca Rothney to find out more about this amazing initiative.

1. What inspired you to create Pack for a Purpose?

I was always taught growing up that when you go to someone’s home and enjoy their hospitality you bring a “hostess gift” to express your gratitude for their generosity and kindness. The person’s economic status was irrelevant because the gift was to express gratitude. Of course it was important that you take something the hostess would be able to use and enjoy. This same principle seemed, to me, to apply when I was going to someone else’s country and benefitting from the kindness and generosity of a community.

2. How many people have become involved in helping communities since you started Pack for a Purpose?

The website was designed to be very easy for travellers and provide all the information they needed in one place. As it is not necessary to contact us to Pack for a Purpose, we only receive emails from travellers occasionally. Consequently, we have no way of knowing the actual number of travellers who choose to Pack for a Purpose.

That being said, accountability is very important to us. All the accommodations and tour companies on our website must report back to us three times a year with the weight of the supplies they have received. As they are the logistical arms of our initiative, and they deliver the supplies to the projects they are working with, we felt that this was the best metric to keep track of.

To date, Pack for a Purpose travellers have taken over 82,724 kgs (181,993 pounds) of supplies meeting essential needs in over 60 countries.

3. What has been your most memorable experience with a community through Pack for a Purpose?

That is like asking me who is my favourite child. Every time my husband and I Pack for a Purpose, there is immense joy added to our trip.

Two experiences stand out. The first was in 2008 when we took stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, along with other medical supplies and school supplies, to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Seeing the doctors happiness at receiving the medical supplies was truly humbling. Our trip was so much more meaningful to us because we could provide these essential items to a clinic that did not have them. While like many people, my husband and I had been taking supplies to support projects where we traveled, it was on this trip that the idea of Packing for a Purpose crystalised for me.

The most recent memorable experience was being able to deliver 517 pairs of BeGirl underwear to The Children in the Wilderness program run by Wilderness Safaris. This underwear allows girls to stay in school every day of the month and is effective for two years. Wilderness Safaris will distribute the underwear to girls and their eco clubs in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia. I believe when you educate a girl you sustain a community, so I was thrilled to be able to provide a resource so that 517 girls did not need to miss any days of school each month for two years.

4. How can people get involved in Pack for a Purpose?

Being a Pack for a Purpose traveler is simple and easy. Everything a traveler needs to know can be found at on our website.

A stethoscope weighs less than a kilo but it can touch 10,000 hearts. A tube of antibiotic cream, weighing less than three ounces can prevent twenty children from getting an infection. Whether you are five or ninety-five, going on a family vacation, a business trip, or your honeymoon, you can Pack for a Purpose.

When you choose to Pack for a Purpose, the trip you take goes farther than the miles you travel.

Pack for a Purpose asks travellers to pack 5 pounds (2.27 kgs.) of supplies, and this allows everyday travellers to easily get involved without the need for logistical support. That amount of supplies only takes a small space, requires little effort, and can still make a big impact.

In 2014, Rebecca was honoured as one of the National Geographic Travellers of the Year.

To learn more about Pack for a Purpose, visit their website at https://www.packforapurpose.org

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