Over the past several years, whenever my husband and I travel to the far flung reaches of the globe that we always seem to end up in, I make a point of reaching out to the local community to arrange to bring much needed school supplies, children’s books, etc. From a tiny village in the shadow of Machu Picchu to a boys’ orphanage deep in the Sri Lankan jungle, we have heaved, schlepped, dragged many a duffle bag filled with supplies.
So, when I knew we’d be heading off to the Okavango Delta in Botswana this past April, I made an inquiry with our tour company, African Budget Safaris, months ahead to see if there would be a village we could bring donations to. Our agent immediately turned me over to Rebecca at Pack for a Purpose.
Over the course of several months I collected books, note books, pencils, etc. My husband and I managed to collect a tremendous amount of what was on the Pack for a Purpose list pretty much by ourselves. When our local thrift shop would be having a 50% off day, I would pick up baby and children’s clothing. I asked our dentist to donate tooth brushes. When the local library was having their book sales, I would go and gather up the appropriate children’s books. And, of course, nothing can beat getting composition books and related school supplies than at the local “dollar” store!
Before leaving, I made an inquiry with the tour company as to how much we could bring and how big the duffle bags could be that we would be bringing for the villagers. We were told not to worry, that since they were for the Sango Village, the pilot would accommodate however many bags we would be bringing. Even if it meant that they would be flown in on the next flight with MacAir in to the bush. In the end, we prepared two decent sized duffle bags. One was jam-packed with school age children’s books, notebooks, pencils, baby clothing, etc. The second duffle bag was equally jam-packed with much needed basic medical supplies for their local clinic. Stethoscopes, thermometers, tooth brushes, aspirin, etc. (A side note: because we have experienced luggage being left on the tarmac in the rain, I lined each of the duffle bags with a trash bag. I also put all the medical supplies inside separate Ziploc bags as added protection. The folks at Sango will put any and all plastic bags to use! They can be used to haul water, etc.)
My husband and I can truly say, of all the villages and orphanages we have been to over the past decades, none has ever been as memorable and more beautiful as our time spent at the Sango Village. We arrived after lunch from Sango Safari Camp into the village. All was quiet. As in really, really, REALLY quiet. We were silently asking ourselves, “Did our camp manager Beauty not alert them that we would be arriving?” Then, one by one, some with children, some without. The young, and the old. Each of the villagers as well as the village Chief emerged and began walking toward Beauty and our guide DK to our jeep! It was truly magical to see everyone from the village walking toward us and greeting us with a warm “Dumela-Mma or “Dumela-Rra”.
As Beauty is the liaison between the Sango Camp and the Sango Village, she was aware of what each villager was in need of. Beauty and DK unzipped the duffle bags, and were overwhelmed by the amount of supplies that we had managed to cra into every corner and every space in each of the bags. She would ask the villagers what was needed most by each family, and then would look through the bags and find what each family needed.
My husband long lost count as to how many families we were able to provide clothing and school supplies to!
We were also able to spend some time with several of the villagers and the children, which gave us a short, brief, intimate insight into their daily lives.
I cannot even begin to tell you the overwhelming warm, grateful feeling that we had as we all drove away and the village children were calling and waving behind us saying “Ke aleboga!” (Thank you!)
Travel truly isn’t about just what you get, but about what you can give.