As parents, we love the ability to make the world a smaller place for our children through travel. We recognize that we are really fortunate to be able to explore other places and it’s important to us to contribute to the places we travel either indirectly through our tourism dollars, or more directly through organizations like Pack for a Purpose.
We have had the opportunity to Pack for a Purpose twice as a family, and both were exceptionally rewarding experiences. The first time, we were traveling as an extended family with grandparents to South Africa and found that multiple of our lodges supported local programs with donations. We chose to focus on Grootbos, a lodge with a nonprofit that supports an early childhood center with 160 kids and a soccer organization that engages over 5 thousand area children!
We each used the additional bag allotted in our international baggage allowance and planned to bring 6 suitcases with supplies and equipment to donate. We scoured the internet for deals and purchased 6 big purple suitcases because we thought they’d be easy to track in the airports. The Pack for a Purpose site made it easy to see what donations were needed and we set about asking friends and families for donations through emails and social media. We also shopped internet specials and the local dollar store to find many of the necessary objects. People dropped off donations at the house and we packed them with our purchases as a family, using hints on the website and space-saving bags. When it was all done, we had almost 300 pounds of donations to bring!
Thankfully, Grootbos was only a land transfer away from the international airport. We had coordinated with our safari outfitter ahead of time, and they donated a luggage trailer to help us get all the bags to the lodge. When there, we were able to take a tour of the foundation and to hear about their amazing community outreach. We also went down to the soccer fields and were able to meet some of the coaches and learn more about their programs and the many kids they serve. We left feeling fortunate to have contributed in a small way to kids like ours half a world away.
When we had the opportunity to travel to Africa again (Kenya), we immediately thought about Pack for a Purpose and were thrilled to find that there were multiple lodges participating including both of our Saruni lodges. This trip was as a family of four, so we purchased 4 big purple suitcases (now tradition!) and set to work. We chose to focus on two different schools, the Kiltimany Primary School and the Ngoswani School that served kids the same age as in our family. We again reached out to friends and family and received donations of clothes and soccer balls, which are always a big hit!
We again shopped the dollar store and the internet for bulk items and were able to get pens, pencils, chalk, jump ropes, flash cards, erasers, and other school supplies to bring. Since Kenya does not allow plastic bags, we rolled clothing and secured it with rubber bands and used resealable containers to be able to keep the items protected.
We coordinated with the Saruni lodges, who were happy to help. While the schools were far and the bags were too heavy for our internal flights, they arranged to have a representative from Saruni meet us in Nairobi and collect the bags. They were able to store the bags until the supply trucks left for the outlying camps and then 2 bags (~100 lbs of supplies) were loaded onto the trucks to each camp. We weren’t sure if the trucks were going to make it to the camps before we did, but they did as they were later in our trip. For an earlier stop at Borana Lodge, we carved out space in our suitcases to bring a few soccer balls and medical supplies (aspirin, ace bandages, and bandaids) for a local medical clinic.
We were able to visit both the school and the clinic and lost badly at a game of soccer with the kids at the local school, which was a lot of fun! It definitely makes the world a smaller place to have your kids connect with local kids their own age through games and laughter.
We visited the two other schools that we had packed the purple bags for and were able to tour the classrooms and chat with the students. Some of our Saruni guides and trackers had attended these schools as children themselves and many of them had children currently enrolled, which made the experience even more special.
Both our kids and the local kids were curious about each other, and the supplies were welcomed. In fact, on teacher immediately broke into the case of pencils that we had brought because the students were taking a test and didn’t have enough to go around.
We will definitely continue to Pack for a Purpose in the future. The ability to connect more deeply with the local community and to feel like you’re giving back in small ways are powerful experiences and memories that we will all treasure.