Over a decade ago, I found myself at the Travelers’ Philanthropy Conference in Monteverde, Costa Rica, listening to an inspiring concept that connected travelers to important local causes. I thought I might have been missing something because the model was so simple but so on point. I was intrigued by the simplicity that this organization, Pack for a Purpose, used to solve an inherent problem of getting the right things to the right people.
We often tend to over-engineer solutions without first seeing if we can connect the existing dots to increase positive impact. Pack for a Purpose combined current travel practices with informed philanthropy, which created a new approach for an improved impact tourism experience. As an avid traveler and supporter of impact/sustainable tourism, I was immediately drawn to the organization and its vision.
Like many other travelers, I yearned for a meaningful way to contribute to the communities that I visited. Though well-intended, I often found that my contributions were not connected to the people’s inherent needs.
I particularly liked Pack for a Purpose’s model because it was a win-win-win for all involved: projects receive goods that contribute to the success of their initiatives; accommodations and tour companies that support these projects gain visibility through the Pack for a Purpose website, social media, and numerous national and international media outlets; most notably, communities ultimately receive the supplies they actually need.
Shortly after returning from Costa Rica, I began planning for my next adventure. I decided that I wanted to “Pack for a Purpose.” I searched for my destination on the organization’s website, while very informative, it was not entirely intuitive. I decided to reach out to its founder, Rebecca Rothney, with a suggested user experience improvement around mapping its partner destinations. She immediately responded and embraced the suggestion. Before I knew it, I was assisting in the ideation of the suggested improvement. From that point forward, I was hooked on supporting this wonderful organization.
As a Board member, I have been continually impressed by the scale of impact Pack for a Purpose achieves with limited resources. The concept is successful and sustainable because it requires minimal participant effort to attain measurable results around its five core Initiatives: Education, Health, Child Welfare, Animal Welfare, and Socioeconomic Development.
I am acutely aware of my good fortune to have easy access to necessary items like medical supplies, educational materials, and clothing. The sad reality is that many people do not. I hope that the ideas of respect, gratitude, and empathy continue to grow in the travel industry enhanced through meaningful cultural exchange encouraged by organizations such as Pack for a Purpose.
I am lucky to have the opportunity to travel and experience local cultures. In doing so, I have been extended gracious hospitality from people and communities throughout the world. Pack for a Purpose has provided me with a small but significant way of showing my appreciation when I visit destinations. I hope that anyone who plans to take a trip will consider setting aside a small space in their luggage to “Pack for a Purpose!”