When my family and I started planning a trip to Africa, we scoured all of these travel blogs and found out a lot of people bring small things to share with the children they meet. We loved the idea and kept a running list of what they mentioned—chocolates, balloons, pencils—but found out candy isn’t a good option because of the lack of dental care, and balloons can hurt the wildlife. Then we found Pack for a Purpose. It was so unique in that we could find out what specific communities needed.
My brother, Thomas, and I were excited to see that one of the places we were already staying at, Muchenje Safari Lodge in Botswana, was one of the places on their list. Our family and friends loved the idea (especially my mom, who was a kindergarten and first grade teacher for 35 years). As the trip came closer, we were able to raise enough money to buy nearly 40 lbs. of supplies! We bought school supplies, play equipment, clothes and musical instruments. And since we were flying internationally, a second checked bag was free, so we packed an entire lightweight, foldable bag with the supplies.
We reached out to Rebecca, the founder of Pack for a Purpose, who was so sweet and helpful. She contacted the right people and set up a school visit, so when we arrived at Muchenje Safari Lodge, they already had a trip scheduled to Mabele Primary School. The school serves 176 children from six to 12 years old. After a short 20-minute drive to the school, we met the principal and the teachers, and they were so grateful and elated to receive all of the supplies and equipment. They started passing out some of the flash cards, markers and crayons immediately and said that they’d be using the handful of backpacks that we brought as rewards for some of the kids later on.
They even took us around to a couple of the kindergarten and first grade classrooms, and the kids were so proud to show us their work and sing us the songs they’d learned. We even stayed through some of their recess. All of the children were so sweet and excited to ask us where we were from and loved taking pictures so that they could see themselves on our phones.
We can’t wait to do this on another trip! Pack for a Purpose made it so easy, and the children and teachers were very grateful for everything we brought. I didn’t see any sports equipment out during their recess, so I hope they’ve put all of those balls, jerseys and Frisbees to good use. This will be a visit my family and I never forget.