Your Suitcase Can Change The World: Pack for a Purpose

Feb 7, 2013

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Last week I wrote about visiting an orphanage during the safari portion of my trip to South Africa that my safari operator, Savanna Lodge, supports and helps run with help from a charity called Pack For A Purpose. Today, TPG contributor Stacy Suaya delves further into the travel-based charity and its work around the globe.

With so many carry-on and checked baggage rules and fees these days, packing is all about thinking strategically. Many of us roll our clothes and pare down our electronics. One man oddly confesses tucking bananas into his shoes and many women invest in convertible clothing. Not one inch of that precious luggage real estate should go to waste, right?

Up until today, filling my suitcase to the brim effectively and efficiently was like a badge of honor and a point of personal pride. But next time I book a ticket, I may very well utilize five pounds of that treasured cargo space for deflated soccer balls, stethoscopes and rulers among other things.

Schoolchildren in Van, Turkey receive school supplies from Pack for a Purpose, delivered by the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul.
Schoolchildren in Van, Turkey, receive school supplies from Pack for a Purpose, delivered by the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul.

Obviously, many countries could use supplies desperately. That’s where Pack for a Purpose comes in. The organization was founded to assist travelers with up-to-date information about much-needed supplies for community-based projects supported by lodgings and hotels around the globe.

I spoke with the founder of Pack for a Purpose, Rebecca Rothney about the work her organization does and how she got started. Rothney is a former teacher and entrepreneur, and was inspired to found Pack for a Purpose after a 2008 visit to Kenya where she brought in-demand supplies for a local school and medical clinic. She’s on her way to Zambia in June, where she’ll be packing 250 pounds of supplies for local communities she’ll be visiting. Of course, she has been doing this for five years now so she knows all the secrets for maximizing the amount of luggage she can possibly bring.

Rebecca is most interested in one small idea that could produce a huge amount of good – all it would take to make a big difference is if everyone would pack just five pounds of supplies each time they traveled. “Leaving one pair of shoes at home lets you bring 150 pencils or four solar calculators,” she says. “Five pounds equals a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and 500 band-aids; or 5 deflated soccer balls with an inflation device; or 400 pencils. Five pounds can make a big impact to a community.”

How It Works
Of course, you have to know what to pack based on where you’re traveling, and that’s where Pack for a Purpose comes in. Travelers can go on their website and find the lodging they plan to stay at. They can then look at the supply requests the lodging has on their page and decide which of those things they’d like to take. Then, all they have to do is simply pack them in their luggage and drop them off when they check in at the hotel, safari lodge or backpacking camp. The lodging will deliver the supplies directly to the community.

Make no mistake, this little non-profit charity is high-impact. Pack for a Purpose currently supports over 300 community-based programs in 47 countries. Travel + Leisure editors chose it for the magazine’s Digital Initiative in the Travel + Leisure
 2012 Global Vision Awards and since it went live on the web in December 2009, the all-volunteer organization has inspired travelers to deliver more than 18,000 pounds of needed supplies worldwide.

Schoolchildren at Escuela la Esperanze in Costa Rica receive supplies from Julie Bell, CEO of Luxury Link.
Schoolchildren at Escuela la Esperanze in Costa Rica receive supplies from Julie Bell, CEO of Luxury Link.

The organization is still growing, so don’t expect a huge footprint of participating properties just yet. Many are small luxury resorts, but there are also a bunch of major hotel chains. The Fairmont Mayakoba and Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, as well as Ritz-Carltons in Tokyo and Istanbul are all participants. Be on the lookout for more to come soon since on March 14, 2012, Luxury Link partnered with Pack for a Purpose, and they have partnerships with many points hotels, like Hyatt, InterContinental, Starwood and more.

Even if your particular hotel doesn’t participate, you might be able to find one nearby that does. For instance, the Fairmont in Barbados does not participate in Pack for a Purpose. However, the nearby Little Arches Boutique Hotel (listed on the website) does. They’re 30 minutes apart. Obviously, Little Arches wouldn’t drive that distance for 5 pounds of supplies. But for 50, they might – and hey, how much more do you really need to pack for a beach vacation than some flip flops and a bathing suit? Simply send the participating hotel an email and check before you go. In this case, you could also drop the luggage off yourself if you had a rental car and planned to drive up the coast.

Taking much-needed supplies to a destination makes travel even more meaningful and is a way to experience a destination on a whole new level with a better understanding of what life there is like. So next time you’re off to Cape Town, St.Lucia, Nicaragua, Lima, Istanbul (or wherever – remember, they service 47 countries), see if you can make a positive impact and learn something new. After all, that’s what travel is all about!

Do you have personal experience with other travel-based charities that you’d like to share with TPG readers? Tell us about them below!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.