Life is full of surprises each and every day. And one of the biggest, and the one that never fails to astound me, is the boundless depths of human kindness.
Having worked in inner city schools with impoverished and at-risk kids prior to starting our adventure in the jungles of Belize, I was surrounded daily by some of the toughest and saddest home situations that can be imagined. Drugs, mental and physical abuse, and crime were normal occurrences in my students’ homes, and the sad stories far outweighed the happy ones. Yet there were always those teachers, social workers, and caring community partners that came back again and again with smiles and love and belief in these rough-edged kids.
Moving to Belize and beginning the adventure of carving an award-winning eco-lodge out of virgin jungle, I wondered how my new choice of lifestyle and career would bring me that same sense of fulfillment that working with my troubled students gave. And then, along came Pack for a Purpose! Such a simple concept with such huge results. Pack a little bit of something for the community you’re visiting and leave it with the hotel or tour operator there. Each bit adds up to a lot, and there you have it—“Little Effort. Big Impact.” Table Rock has had such an impressive response to this program that we have had to build a large chest to keep in our office just to hold all the school supplies we receive from selfless travelers who come to visit Belize!
And if that were the end of the story, it would be a great one. But there is so much more! Like the Aprin family of five from Toronto who went, not only the extra mile, but the extra five miles for our little village school. The mother of this family, also a teacher, read about our work with the community school and immediately got in touch with us. “What else can we do? Is there something more that is needed besides what is on the Pack for a Purpose website? How more can we help?” This lead to some great email chats and some great collaboration between us.
Now, having been a teacher, I know exactly how little time these hardworking professionals have in their day. Between lesson plans, meetings, preparing materials, teaching, and making time for family, there isn’t much left for anything else at the end of the day. And yet, here was this amazingly dedicated woman working to not only get the basic school supplies we need for our school, but recruiting fellow teachers, staff members, and community members to contribute to the cause. She worked with her student club at school and held fundraisers, stayed late to email with me and our village school’s principal, and ultimately arrived in Belize with an amazing result. Two hockey bags loaded with flash cards, pencils, manipulatives, art supplies, and academic posters and games; dry erase markers, notebooks, backpacks, and shoes. And the mac-daddy of them all—a long sought after digital data projector that the school could have never afforded! To think of all the lessons that will be able to be taught using this fantastic tool! Something that hugely impacts the learning of the entire student body — all 225 students and their dedicated teachers. This is what it’s all about.
Our village school and her primary school in Toronto are now working to continue to impact the lives of children in both Belize and Canada by collaborating to create communications between students at both schools. The students in different grades will be writing letters to each other’s classes and sharing photos, artwork, and ideas. For students on both sides who may never have the opportunity to travel abroad or experience other cultures this is a gateway to a new horizon. We are thrilled to have been and to continue to be a link in this great chain of socially green initiatives, and to be witness again and again to the boundlessness of the human heart.
Founder & General Manager
Table Rock Jungle Lodge, Belize