6 Suitcases of Supplies for 2 Amazing Projects = 1 Joyful Trip!

Inspired by her visit to a school on a safari with Wilderness Safaris in Botswana, Rebecca Rothney founded Pack for a Purpose in December 2009. She and her husband were very excited to be able to return again to Botswana. 

My husband Scott and I believe that when you Pack for a Purpose, the trip you take goes much farther than the miles you travel. We were thrilled to be able to take six suitcases full of supplies on our recent trip to Botswana for community projects supported on our website.

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Our generous supporter, Sharon Luggage, who has been donating gently used luggage for our trips even before we became an official website, once again donated gently used suitcases to carry the supplies that we could leave behind to be reused at their destination. The collecting of the supplies was a group effort. Many of our friends and neighbors contributed school supplies. The Uniform Project, a nonprofit based in Atlanta, graciously provided gently used private school uniforms, including trousers, boys’ and girls’ shirts and blouses, and sweatshirts. Savannah, the dedicated young woman who founded Simply A Pencil at the age of 7, for the second time in two years contributed over 1,000 pencils for us to take to Botswana. In total we were able to collect over 255 lbs of supplies that filled every suitcase to capacity.

Cassandra Cassidy, an amazing young woman and a Wood Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, raised enough funds to contribute 127 pairs of BeGirl panties. These panties making it possible for 127 girls to stay in school during their menstrual cycle and can be used for up to two years. You can read about Cassandra’s Pack for a Purpose experience here.

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Cassandra and our intern, Julia, packing the BeGirl panties.

Our wonderful spring interns, Kensey, Marcus, and Julia from Meredith College and North Carolina State University, came over for a pizza and packing party and managed to carefully sort and pack all the supplies into six suitcases (our checked luggage allowance).

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Marcus and Kensey completing a job well done.

When Scott and I travel, we always stay with participants on our website so that we can take supplies for the projects they support. For long trips, we wait until we have enough frequent flyer miles for free business class tickets because we are then allowed a total of six checked bags which we fill with supplies. Our carry-on is all we need for ourselves.

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As you can imagine, our first joyful breath was drawn when we arrived at our destinations and collected all six of our bags off the luggage carousel! Wilderness Safaris was there at the airport in Johannesburg to meet us and collect the suitcases of supplies we took with us for the project they support, Children in the Wilderness (CITW). Wilderness Safaris took the supplies to the office for sorting and distribution across southern Africa to several different CITW programs.

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Also at the airport meeting us was a driver who would take us to The Peech Hotel, our accommodation for our one night in Johannesburg and a long-time participant in Pack for a Purpose. On the way to the hotel, James, the owner, had arranged for us to stop and visit Little Eden, the project they have been supporting for many years and the destination of our sixth suitcase. Little Eden is a home for 300 abandoned mentally and physically challenged children and adults. Once a person becomes a resident at Little Eden, they are lovingly supported and nurtured for their lifetime.

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I was very excited to finally have the chance to meet Nichollette, The Public Relations & Communications Officer for Little Eden, in person, as we have been exchanging email correspondence for some years. When we arrived, we were welcomed warmly. We took the supplies to a conference room where we left them to be sorted later and then we were given a tour of the facility. It was immediately evident what an incredible facility this is and how fortunate the residents are. We learned there are two facilities. The one we were visiting houses the more severely disabled residents, while another facility in Johannesburg has higher functioning residents who can even participate in activities such as horseback riding.

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Twenty minutes after we departed Little Eden, we arrived at The Peech, serenity in the middle of Johannesburg. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and informed that James, the owner, would be able to meet with us in a few hours. The Peech’s commitment to Little Eden runs deep. Not only is a portion of every room fee at The Peech donated to Little Eden, but all the hotel’s retired towels and linens are made into diapers and donated to Little Eden. In addition, The Peech donates a one-night stay each month including dinner and breakfast to a member of the Little Eden staff.

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After we freshened up from our 34-hour journey and took a long walk, James met us in the hotel’s lovely garden to have a cooling drink and talk about their participation in Pack for a Purpose. It is always a pleasure to meet our participants in person to see firsthand the contributions they make to their communities and to know that the Pack for a Purpose website helps promote the wonderful work they are doing.

That evening, we had a delicious dinner at The Peech with Debbie Meadows from the offices of Wilderness Safaris. We spent several hours reminiscing about our long relationship with Wilderness and how visiting the Mabele Primary School on our first trip with Wilderness Safaris showed us what a Big Impact travelers can make. Wilderness Safaris has been a participant on our website from the very beginning, and having such a well-regarded company as original participants gave Pack for a Purpose immediate credibility when we were an unknown entity.

The next day, we left for Maun, Botswana. It was at the airport in Maun that I had what, for me, was the thrilling opportunity to finally meet Dr. Sue Snyman and spend 20 minutes speaking with her before we left on our flight into the bush. Sue is the Group Community Development and Culture Manager at Wilderness Safaris and Regional Programme Director for the CITW program.

Rebecca Sue and Children of the Wilderness at Maun

Sue has been a big advocate for Pack for a Purpose and has been a great resource and, with her expertise, has always been there to answer any questions I might have regarding classifying types of programs on our website or better ways to reach our stakeholders. While the meeting was short, it was wonderful to meet such an inspiring person. Sue also introduced me to her colleague, Mary Hastag, Community Development Liaison and CITW Programme Coordinator from Botswana who works with her there. The CITW program is spread across several southern African countries. It was for the girls in these programs that Sue requested the BeGirl panties.

CITW is an environmental and life skills educational program that focuses on the next generation of rural decision makers. It is one of the few programs aimed at bridging the divide that exists between communities and wildlife. The program hosts rural children that live alongside their Parks and Reserves and teaches them the importance of conservation.

The CITW program aims to develop environmental leaders who are inspired to care for their natural heritage so that they become the custodians of these areas in the future. CITW exposes children to their wildlife heritage, builds and strengthens their capabilities to cope with life’s challenges and educates them with the life skills necessary to actualize their greatest potential.

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Choosing to travel allows Scott and I to continually expand our knowledge of the world, experience varied and amazing cultures and landscapes, and enhance our lives. Packing for a Purpose makes our travels additionally meaningful. All travelers, by choosing to Pack for a Purpose, can enrich both their travel experience and the communities they visit. Become a Pack for a Purpose traveler on your journeys and make a Big Impact!

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