Pack for a Purpose is a simple idea with a tremendous reach. It allows schools and community centers in developing countries to identify what they need the most, and for travelers to give back by helping address those needs. Travelers can provide as few or as many supplies as they would like – by “Packing for a Purpose.”
My family and I have always tried to find ways to travel responsibility and to give back to the people of the countries that we visit. Pack for a Purpose is a brilliant and effective way to do this. I first discovered Pack for a Purpose a few years ago when traveling in Mozambique, and I was immediately hooked. I find it far more meaningful and tangible to contribute products that will be immediately used in a classroom, or that will address basic medical or sanitary needs, than to make a money donation not knowing how it will be spent. It also helps take the guesswork out of how best to help. Anyone can do it. The beauty of the organization is in the simplicity of its offering. I’ve now had the privilege of donating supplies to a number of Pack for a Purpose-supported schools across four countries – and each time, it has been so heartwarming to make that small difference in someone else’s life.
And so, when my friends and I travelled to Zambia last month, I knew we needed to Pack for a Purpose. I carried school and pre-school supplies for the Mazele Community Preschool in Chiawa village, and the Zambezi Sawmill Community School in Livingstone. Pack for a Purpose had published an up-to-date list of the products that were most needed by each school – from toothbrushes and tooth paste, to soccer balls, to crayons, to world maps, to bars of soap – and it was easy to find these products. I purchased supplies myself, I had family members from Australia contribute money to buy others, and I also obtained some basic supplies (toothpaste and soap) from a hotel in Lusaka, Zambia.
There is nothing like putting a smile on a child’s face by giving them the watercolour paints, crayons and craft scissors that they need in order to unleash their creative genius, or soccer balls to kick around, puzzles to put together or life’s simple pleasures like a bar of scented soap.
Now is a particularly important time to Pack for a Purpose. International tourism has been badly affected by the pandemic, and many of the schools with which Pack for a Purpose partners are in communities that are reliant on tourism (the Zambezi Sawmill school in Livingstone, for example). Local economies have been impacted, and so those communities’ needs are stronger than ever. For those of us who are lucky enough to travel, it’s more important than ever that we give back.
For those of us who are looking to reduce our carbon footprint and make our money stretch further, it’s not necessary to “Pack” your suitcase and carry your items from overseas – it’s also easy to buy goods from local supermarkets in the country in which you’re travelling, and to contribute these to communities in need. This reduces your carbon footprint, helps local economies and makes your dollars go far further.
I am very thankful for this excellent initiative and this unique way to bring our international community together – we all have a few kilograms allowance in our luggage to spare, and now is the best time to make a difference!