I love experiencing other cultures and ways of life on a more local level while traveling – to see how the locals actually live day to day and to feel like part of the place not just a tourist. As such, when I first read about Pack for a Purpose in a travel magazine in 2013, I immediately wanted to get involved. Our foundation, Salt Cured had contributed pencils to other charitable organizations and efforts in the past. When traveling the islands, we witnessed many local children asking tourists for a “sweetie” or treat. We began taking pencils with us to hand out. Through Pack for a Purpose, we would be able to give more specifically and on a larger scale with more impact. This would allow us to feel like we were part of the community while making a difference and expressing our appreciation for their hospitality in sharing their beautiful island, customs, food, and treasures.
In 2013, my husband, John, daughter Sophia, and son Jack delivered 1,200 pencils and 20 frisbees to the local distribution partner in Nassau – Sandals Royal Bahamian. In turn, they delivered the supplies to the Gambier Primary School. For years, I prayed for every little hand that held one of the pencils.
This year when planning an anniversary trip in December with my husband, I knew I wanted to Pack for a Purpose again. I was truly as excited about taking supplies to the children as I was about the trip itself. The night before we left, our son, Jack (age 13), joined in the excitement as we packed up. We again visited Sandals Royal Bahamian to deliver pencils and frisbees to the Gambier School for recess and P. E. Rebecca Rothney, the founder of Pack for a Purpose, coordinated with me throughout the process to ensure everything went smoothly. The school, which has approximately 105 students from ages 6 to 11, had closed due to the pandemic and was scheduled to reopen in January. We had arranged for transportation from the airport to deliver the goods en route to our hotel. We were immediately immersed in the customs and beautiful nature of the people as our driver, Oneil, told us about Christmas family traditions, holiday meals, and the Junkanoo festival.
At Sandals, Renee DeLeon, the PR director, greeted us. She shared how the Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals International, enjoys giving back every day, but especially at Christmas time when they “spread joy with a toy” to children. Though the doors to Sandals will remain closed for renovation until sometime in January, their “hearts and hands remain open,” she said, and thanked us for helping to put smiles on the faces of many children in Nassau.
Oneil lingered and talked to Renee as we prepared to leave. When he got back in the car, he told us he and a friend had been collecting books and supplies to give to children when the school opened back up, but he did not know how to go about dispersing them. Our encounter allowed him to meet Renee and introduced him to Pack for a Purpose. He planned to return the next day to donate his supplies. What a blessing! The remainder of the trip in the Bahamas at Christmas time was magical. The best part was being able to leave behind a gift. I will again pray for every hand that holds one of the pencils.