Last month my husband and I decided to take a last minute trip to Jamaica. It had been a stressful year of teaching during the pandemic for both of us and we were ready for a quick and safe escape from the dreaded Michigan winter! A week before our planned date of departure, I had discovered Pack for a Purpose via The Sandals Foundation and a private Sandals Facebook group I was a member of. I quickly began researching the organization and its mission and, as an educator, was thrilled to see that they placed an emphasis on the need of donating school supplies to those less fortunate- and even more excited to see that our Sandals Resort was a partner with Pack for a Purpose! My wheels began turning instantly.
In the past, I’ve done lots of traveling to the Caribbean islands. Part of which was working in schools and with students in villages. I know first-hand the lack of supplies that these schools encounter, and I couldn’t imagine the burden this would place on my job as a teacher. Markers, pencils, erasers…all things that my students and I take for granted each day….and these are all things that schools in Jamaica and other neighboring countries struggle to get for their students. I knew I could make a small difference and I knew I could get my 3rd grade students to help me.
Pack for a Purpose suggests packing a gallon size bag full of the requested supplies, but I knew my students could do better. After pitching the idea to them in class, I reminded them that I would be leaving in a week and we needed our goal to be realistic. They were so excited to help! We settled on a goal of 50 pounds…50 pounds of school supplies in a week was what my 8 and 9 year old students thought they could collect. And off they set!
We set a box outside our door plastered with “I Packed for a Purpose” posters, asked the rest of our elementary school to join us and watched the donations trickle in day after day. I added requested supplies to an Amazon Wishlist, shared it on social media and each day we had boxes of supplies waiting for us at school, purchased by people from across the country who wanted to join in our mission. The final day had come, we were supposed to pack up the supplies as a classroom, and in typical Michigan fashion, we had a snow day! My kids were so bummed that they couldn’t help but my husband and I were leaving the next day so the supplies had to get packed up! Thankfully I recruited my 8 and 11 year old daughters to help me. It was time for the final weigh in…73 pounds of school supplies were collected in just one week! 73 pounds! I was blown away. Like I tell my students…if everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot. We all pitched in, we all did a little, and we all made a huge difference in the lives of students across the globe. I reached out to a local business, Woodworth Commercial, to see if they would be interested in sponsoring the shipping costs of the supplies and they happily jumped on board.
Once in Jamaica and at the resort, we met with the Sandals Foundation Representative and explained that the two large suitcases full of supplies were collected and donated from students all the way back in Owosso, Michigan. She had tears in her eyes explaining to me what this would mean to the kids in the surrounding communities, they had not gone back to school yet because of Covid and many did not have the supplies at home that they needed. We grabbed a quick photo so I could show my students that their supplies had made it all the way to Jamaica and they were officially world changers.
As a teacher, the most important lessons I teach my students are not always the ones that come from a textbook or are on my lesson plans. This was one of those lessons. My students are aware of the difference they made halfway across the world just by choosing to be kind and do good. Hopefully, they are able to inspire others, even adults- that if we all do a little, nobody has to do a lot.