I am overjoyed that Pack for a Purposes resonates so strongly with so many.
On July 6, 2021, my husband Scott and I were finally able to celebrate his postponed 71st birthday trip originally scheduled for late March, 2020. We chose to go to our first Sandals resort because Scott loves beaches and warm weather, and we had never been to Jamaica. Even more importantly, we knew we would be able to Pack for a Purpose. In addition to the supplies we brought, our wonderful neighbors, Karen and Charles, also gave us supplies. They always choose to contribute items for our Pack for a Purpose trips.
PfaP connected with the Sandals Foundation ten years ago. The Foundation, and the Sandals and Beaches resorts across the Caribbean strongly and effectively promote a guest’s choice to Pack for a Purpose. This has resulted in their generous guests bringing thousands of pounds for the projects they support. The photo below shows supplies collected at South Coast during the last few weeks.
Scott and Rebecca Rothney with Rochelle, Vilma, and Chevelle
The day of our departure started on a wonderful note. I spoke with a woman across the aisle on the plane, and asked where she was going in Jamaica. When she told me her family of four sons were staying at Beaches, I asked if she had heard about Pack for a Purpose. Not only had she heard about it, but she told me they had packed an entire suitcase of supplies to take to the resort. Her thirteen-year-old son had been thoroughly involved in the process. Meeting someone who discovered Pack for a Purpose on their own and chooses to Pack for a Purpose is always thrilling for me!
We arrived at Sandals South Coast late Tuesday afternoon. Rochelle Forbes-Reid the Public Relations Manager for the resort met us. She welcomed us warmly, and told us we had the opportunity to go with her team of volunteers on Thursday to deliver supplies to children in an underserved community. Of course, Scott and I agreed immediately and we made a plan.
Scott and Rebecca with PfaP travelers Andrea and Bruce Durell
On our snorkeling trip the first morning, we had a conversation with a couple sitting next to us on the boat. We found out they had also Packed for a Purpose. Andrea and Bruce brought an entire suitcase of supplies. We made a plan to have lunch together and discovered what a marvelous couple they are. Not only had they expressed their gratitude to the community in Jamaica, but we found we had much in common.
Andrea and Bruce
On Thursday, we met with Rochelle’s team of employee volunteers, Vilma and Chevelle. We boarded the Sandals bus and set out for the Russia community in the Savannah La Mar parish. Rochelle explained to us that this was a troubled and underserved community. Meeting and engaging with Rochelle and her team of volunteers from the resort who are devoted to giving back to the community was one highlight of our trip.
We went to a church where we met with children and their guardians (perhaps a parent or grandparent) identified by the local constabulary as needing supplies for school. Based on the age of the children, we gave them a bag full of appropriate school items, and even some books and toys.
Rebecca handing out supplies to children
Being there and assisting in this way was a privilege. Handing out supplies in this fashion is not something a PfaP traveler would usually do, especially since COVID. Once schools reopen, the Sandals Foundation does have an amazing program called the Reading Roadtrip. Any guest may sign up, and when you arrive at the school, you either teach a lesson (which is provided to you) or read a book to a class. This educational and respectful experience allows guests to interact with the children in a meaningful way.
Rebecca and Rochelle handing out bags of supplies
Scott also helped give out the supplies. In addition, he spent some time engaging with some of the older children.
Sandals team member and Scott handing out bags of school supplies
One particularly curious and bright young man had, on his own, been researching African birds. Scott had several photos on his phone from our last safari. He shared them with Jamal and his brother Daniel, and they engaged in a lively conversation together. Jamal also shared with Scott the names of the Jamaican birds we had seen.
Daniel and Jamal with Scott
Rebecca and Vilma talking to Inspector Black and her team
After the children left, Inspector Black’s team stayed to ask questions about Pack for a Purpose and how it worked. It was wonderful to answer their questions knowing their participation was a vital part of the selection process in community outreach.
After we returned from the church, acting in her capacity as head of PR for Sandals South Coast, Rochelle asked if I would be willing to do a video interview that would be used by the Sandals Foundation. I immediately said yes. After going back to the room and freshening up, Rochelle and Gerald, one of the videographers at the resort, met us to find a cool location for the interview.
Gerald and Rochelle setting up to interview Rebecca
Over the next few days at the resort, we randomly met several other guests who Packed for a Purpose. Each time I met these guests, many of whom are teachers, my belief that people seek out meaningful travel was reaffirmed. I have no doubt that when a traveler chooses to Pack for a Purpose, the trip they take goes farther than the miles they travel.
PfaP Travelers Shannon and Mitchell Hopper
Sandals South Coast is a beautiful resort full of gracious staff, stunning gardens, and wonderful birds, including peacocks.
Photo by Scott
There are garden tours at the resort. Being especially fond of plants and flowers, we went on a delightful and most informative tour with Andre. Andre is part of the team that grows and maintains the gardens at the resort.
Andre and some tropical flowers on the grounds
There are many enjoyable activities; water sports, land sports; and, of course, the beach and pools. While we enjoyed many of them, the greatest pleasure came from meeting Pack for a Purpose travelers.