It all started with one couple and a trip to Africa . While traveling through Botswana, Rebecca and Scott Rothney found the children at Mbele School playing with a soccer ball fashioned out of bits of rag and plastic bags taped together. It was then that the couple realized that by packing less personal affects and taking advantage of the airline’s baggage weight allowance standards, they could transport sorely-needed items to the local people they encountered during their travels abroad.
Since that life-changing experience, Rebecca, Scott, and a handful of socially-aware adventurers have delivered an estimated 1,000 pounds in donations of soccer balls, school supplies, clothes and medical equipment to the various African communities they have visited. However, the Rotheneys knew that to successfully spread this idea of responsible travel, they would have to create a program that was manageable and rewarding for the average explorer.
Rebecca and Scott now operate Pack for a Purpose, a nonprofit organization offering a free service that teaches travelers that by packing and distributing five pounds of supplies, countless communities will benefit worldwide.
While five pounds may not sound like a lot, its impact is greater than you think. Five pounds amounts to four hundred pencils or five deflated soccer balls, including the inflation device. Five pounds covers one stethoscope, one blood pressure cuff and five hundred band-aids. Most importantly, five little ol’ pounds equals a chance to affect positive change and create lasting relationships in communities that you respect.
And it all adds up if, say, you and 499 other people were to commit to the mission. The result would mean an impressive 1.25 tons of supplies would be donated globally.
When you visit the Pack for a Purpose site, you will find contact information for the accommodations and community programs participating in this effort listed by country. Additionally, you will learn exactly what is needed and how to pack your items to minimize the amount of weight carried and damage incurred. (Sustainable travel tip: Rebecca Rothney encourages travelers to buy the supplies locally, if possible, once they arrive at their initial destination—this will cut down on transport-related CO2 emissions and boost the local economy.)
So, while packing for your next vacation to the breath-taking wilds of Tanzania, the lush isles of Fiji, or the natural wonders of Japan, why not leave the extra pair of shoes at home? The extra room will be much better filled with bandages, sanitary staples, games, and school materials. And the added bonus? You will embark on your trip with both heart and bag full of good intentions.