From Local to Global: PfaP Travelers Assist Children in Massachusetts and Guatemala

Our Pack for a Purpose trip started as a surf adventure. Every winter Steve, Josh, Jerry and I like to go somewhere warm, to get away from the snow and cold of New England to find sun, sand, waves and warm water. Little breaks interrupt the monotony of a long, dark, cold season, which in New England can prevail up to half the year. When we need an escape, we look south.

So, like every year, we started examining maps and exploring ideas. Our focus landed on Guatemala, where the Pacific Ocean breaks on volcanic black sand. Guatemala isn’t a well-known as a surfing destination like Costa Rica or Mexico, but there are plenty of waves. There are also fewer crowds, and lots of opportunities to experience the local culture. That criteria suited our group just fine, so I started researching.

Right away one name kept coming up: El Paredón Surf House. Situated in a small fishing town essentially inside a national park, the Surf House has a half-dozen thatched-roof bungalows on the beach. With onsite board rentals and a pool, it is the perfect picture of sun, surf and relaxation.

I sent the website to our crew: “I think I’ve found our spot,” I said.

Steve immediately wrote back: “YES! And look at the bottom of the webpage. They have a local education nonprofit they partner with. Let’s see if they need anything!”

At this point it’s important to know something: Steve, Josh and Jerry all work for a Boston real estate company, City Realty, and we all volunteer for City Kids, a nonprofit that provides educational tools and resources and unique experiences for kids in the Boston area and beyond. City Kids often gives away laptops and school supplies, or hosts a daylong surf camp for Boston youth. Steve, Josh and Jerry are often the driving force in these projects, so as soon as Steve sent out that reply I knew something was in the works.

This is where Pack for a Purpose joined our surf trip. It doesn’t take much to go on tropical vacation — a few shirts, flip-flops, boardshorts, sunglasses and sunscreen — so we would have lots of spare room in our bags, lots of room to “Pack for a Purpose.”

Pack for a Purpose linked us up with La Choza Chula, an organization working to ensure the local communities and environment benefit from the growing tourism in El Paredón. They often focus on education, and they needed donations. They had use for that empty bag space.

And Steve had an idea.

“Do you want laptops?” Steve asked right away, as soon as we’d got past introductions. “How about five laptops? We want to bring five laptops down. Will that work?”

City Kids Guatemala was about to begin.

La Choza Chula desperately needed laptops. They would offer a capacity-building opportunity to the organization, enable staff and interns to work more effectively in support of the community. Steve’s suggestion received an enthusiastic “YES!” and before long we were boarding a plane with computer boxes rather than surfboards, bound for the Pacific coast.

In El Paredón we found sun, warmth and waves. We enjoyed relaxing evenings and long rides. We found no crowds, great food, and warm, kind people. But more importantly, we found partnership. Steve, Jerry, Josh and I got a chance to connect City Kids, which does great work where we live, with La Choza Chula, which does great work in El Paredon.

We toured the library, playground, high school and computer center they built, and discussed the vision of El Paredón‘s future. Our donation was small, but it supported their ability to do more with less, to creating a sustainable way of life in a beautiful corner of the world. The partnership made this trip more than just fun in the sun; it gave the trip purpose. We left the cold and went somewhere very, very warm. Thank you Pack for a Purpose!

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