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Pack for a Purpose when traveling abroad

After reading a bit about Pack for a Purpose, it's clear that this organization is making a difference in the lives of children around the world. Their idea of using  extra space in your luggage to bring needed supplies to areas you are already traveling to seems simple, yet very powerful.  I recently had a chance to ask Rebecca Rothney, Chairperson for Pack for a Purpose some questions about their organization and how others can get involved when traveling abroad.

Can you tell us how you got started doing this and how Pack for a Purpose came to be?

During our first trip to Africa, my husband Scott and I learned that while we were limited to 40 pounds (18.14 kgs) of luggage on safari, the airline had an allowance of 100 pounds (45 kgs) of checked luggage plus a 40 pound (18.14 kg) carry-on. In making plans for a second trip, we looked into visiting a school near the lodge we would visit in Botswana. We contacted our safari company, Wilderness Safaris, to see if we could determine any specific needs of that school. Armed with that information, we were able to deliver 140 pounds (64 kgs) of school supplies, including soccer balls, to the school. It was enormously rewarding to be able to help the people in the community that had given us such a life-changing experience. Since then, we and a few of our fellow-travelers have made several trips to other countries in Africa and have been able to deliver an estimated 1,000 pounds (453 kgs) in donations of clothing, school and medical supplies. I asked a travel agent why other travelers did not use their luggage allowances this way. "Because nobody thinks about it," he said. That was our "aha" moment.

Scott and I knew from our experiences that taking large amounts of supplies required a great deal of time and close logistical cooperation with the touring company. We felt we needed to come up with a simpler and more direct way for travelers to take supplies where they were going.

By asking travelers to pack 5 lbs (2.27 kgs) of supplies, we felt we would be able to involve everyone who wanted to add value to his or her trip by participating. By delivering the supplies directly to the traveler's accommodation, it would be possible for every traveler to contribute and require no logistical support. That amount would take only a small space, require little effort and still make a big impact.

So, say I am traveling -- tell me, what exactly do I need to do to help support Pack for a Purpose?

If you are going to a destination on our website, you simply look at the supplies they have requested and select which ones you would like to take. Then you drop them at the “front desk” when you arrive. It is as simple as that. If you are not staying at a destination on our website, you can contact us and we will try to find a way to make an appropriate connection for you. The last way you can help is to let us know of any destination you find that are doing community based projects that should be listed on our website.

What would you like others to know about your organization or mission?

We are an all volunteer organization which has been fortunate to have many wonderful people with expertise, creativity and dedication come together to make Pack for a Purpose® a reality. They are listed on our website under About Us and on our Partners Page. I owe them a large debt of gratitude. We are just a year old, and while we have grown from 25 to 97 destinations, we will not be content until we have every appropriate destination on the planet supporting a community based project listed on our website. I absolutely believe most people fortunate enough to travel are more than happy to make a contribution to the communities they visit. I just wanted to provide and easy, one stop informational website to provide travelers with the information they needed to do that.

Has there been any part of your journey with Pack for a Purpose that has surprised you?

The thing that has surprised me most is how long it takes to add appropriate destinations to our website. It only taking 5 minutes to upload the information and the website is free of charge. In my naiveté, I thought we would have hundreds of destinations, which I know are out there, the first year. We constantly search for appropriate places to add and I know that we will eventually feature all of them.

I would say the other thing which has not surprised me but continues to delight me are the wonderful contacts I have made around the world. All over the planet there are people working hard and effectively to benefit the communities they live in, and travelers looking to assist in their worthy endeavors. With all the negative stories that make the headlines every day, my days are filled with joy as I make contact with the goodness and generosity that spans the planet.

 For more information visit http://www.packforapurpose.org/

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