I was first made aware of Pack for A Purpose by Brian at thepointsguy.com when he wrote about them back in February. Since then I have been following their progress with growing enthusiasm and believe that these people are really making a massive impact. Yesterday Rebecca Rothney, who founded Pack For A Purpose with her husband Scott was gracious enough to find the time to speak with me about her work there, and listen to some ideas I had for helping spread the good word.
Pack For A Purpose is a 501(c)(3) Charity based in the United States founded by Rebecca Rothney in 2009. The goal of the Charity is to form a knowledge network where individual travelers can look-up the needs of local schools and organizations in the geography that they are visiting, and then bring much needed supplies to these regions by packing them in their luggage.
- Travelers are encouraged to check the needs list by Destination
- Travelers are then asked to pack 5lbs of supplies for the destination (though more is never a bad thing!)
- Pack For A Purpose partners with lodging/tour companies in the Region which become a drop off point for the supplies, who in turn distribute the supplies to the local schools or community projects.
Why I Love Pack For A Purpose
Rebecca has deliberately tried to minimize her impact in the process, this is one of those rare Charitable organizations that really seeks to get the very most impact from every dollar to the people who need it most. By empowering and enabling the individual you are the person who is doing the work here, you make sure that the supplies get into the hands that need them the most, and you know that nothing is wasted on bureaucracy along the way. Personally I find such hands on delivery of help so much more rewarding too, as it really feels like you made a difference.
Do Trickle Down Economics Work?
Personally I believe that they do, but the trickle can be incredibly slow moving. As such, when you visit a poorer nation just the simple act of your tourism and spending wealth on vacation does make a big difference to the region, however, without getting too hipster about this, a lot of the time when people stay in more ‘off the beaten path’ places they do so in the comfort of a resort location, these resorts do employ locals, so good is done, but a lot of the profit is funneled away from the local community. This is very evident in places like Africa where you have resorts that can cost upwards of $1,000 per night, but locals living in desperate poverty.
Changing Hearts and Minds
During my lifetime I have experienced strong feelings against the Western world. There have been times when we have felt the need to interpose ourselves into far flung regions of the earth in order to maintain peace, and spread freedom. However, many of these efforts have come through the toughest of measures, and it is clear that there has been collateral damage from these actions. It is my opinion, that Poverty and Illiteracy are the breeding grounds of future generations of trouble for developed nations. If people are kept in the dark, and uneducated they can be manipulated by those with bad intentions and we will see more conflict in the future.
It would be a wonderful world to live in where every time a village in Africa saw an American face they associated it with giving, with school supplies, with the tools to become educated, for their betterment. These people would see the Western World truly as bringers of Freedom, which is not a battle that ends when troops pull out.
Would You Visit a Friend without a Host Gift?
Well you might, but you can be sure you wouldn’t be invited back anytime soon. When visiting a friend’s house for dinner it is accepted that you would bring something to them as a gift, be it a bottle of wine, or dessert or something for the home. Let’s have that mindset go beyond our neighbors here, and look at the world globally. As travel is now so much more simple than before, and almost the entire world is accessible to us now, lets look at the people of the world as our neighbors, and treat them as such.
What not to Bring
The list of ‘what not to Bring’ is quite extensive, as you can imagine. But things that people make common mistakes on are things like Candy – whilst it can be a lovely treat to your Children here you have to consider that in rural Africa kids don’t have access to a Dentist, heck many of them don’t own a toothbrush. So whilst your intentions are fabulous, being strategic in what you Pack For A Purpose is key, and is why the site lists the needs of each place. Also consider how you are packing – if you are bringing Craft Scissors or Glue (glue sticks are generally better) you might need to check your bags.
Things that are always needed
A school will always need those standard school supplies, things like Pencils, Crayons, Erasers, Book Bags, Notebooks, Rulers. Also, medical supplies like BandAids (plasters for our British friends) Tampons, Sanitary Napkins etc
A Tampon can make the difference between University and Ignorance
It is a tragic thing, but already 2/3rds of the Worlds illiterate Adults are Women. In 3rd World Countries it is already a battle for them even to be able to attend School in the first place, as they are often forced into running the family home from an early age. Those that are lucky enough to attend school simply can’t go in for around 4 days every month if they don’t have access to the proper sanitary items – that can be the difference between some education, and making it to University.
If a Student is performing poorly due to attendance they are even more likely to drop out mid way through the education process. Just this little thing can change their lives. And in a rural village, the impact of education in the youngest generation can change the landscape for everyone.
How YOU can make the difference
- Decide to help, by bringing 5lbs (or more if you can) of requested supplies to the community project you are interested in.
- Check your Destination with the Pack For A Purpose website Destinations Page here: http://www.packforapurpose.org/docs/destination.shtml they are always adding more places where you can Pack For A Purpose.
- Deliver your supplies to the Lodging/Tour Company listed nearest your Destination
- Take a moment to think how much different you trip just was, how much impact 5lbs just made.
- If you are unable to travel, or if there are no locations close to your destination please consider a cash gift to Charity, it is Tax Deductible in the US and allows them to keep the operation running smoothly: http://www.packforapurpose.org/docs/donate.shtml
- If you have visited a Lodging/Tour Company not on their website that is supporting a community project, please reach out to Pack for a Purpose and they will contact that lodging/tour company and invite them to participate on the website.
What I am going to do to make a difference
I’m going to do the same, I will be Packing For A Purpose from now on. Additionally, I want to use the reach of this blog to help promote Pack For A Purpose, so will be doing a few things in the future to help with getting the word out there, one thing I have in mind is a weekly update on Free/Cheap items from Staples that can help you fill that box of goodies for little to no cost to yourself, to make it even more accessible to people.
Please note, the opinion’s here are mine, and do not represent the views of Pack For A Purpose. I just think that we can do a lot of good in this world with just a little effort, and Pack For A Purpose has given us a way of making that happen very easily.