One of the exciting things about voluntourism is how it can be so easily incorporated into people’s lives. It piggy-backs on that yearly family vacation, transforming something you would do anyway into something unique and memorable. It recognizes that the easiest way to involve people in a project is to make it easy for them to participate. This is what makes Pack for a Purpose so compelling: it takes advantage of something unused that has always been there, transforming emptiness into usefulness… literally.
Pack for a Purpose was founded by Scott and Rebecca Rothney after their first trip to Africa. They realized the airline’s baggage weight limits far exceeded what they had packed, and that they would be traveling with a whole lot of space they weren’t using. What if they used that space to transport goods to people in need? There would be no additional cost to them, no additional cost to the environment, and they would be helping to provide needed supplies to under-served communities in Africa!
Like with so many of the best ideas, Pack for a Purpose seems so obvious, so logical, it seems crazy that no one has thought if it before!
Pack for a Purpose asks travelers to pack five pounds of supplies into their suitcases. Five pounds might not sound like a lot, but it is the equivalent of 400 pencils; 5 deflated soccer balls with a pump; or a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and 500 band-aids. The Rothneys estimate that, if 500 people each pack 5 pounds of supplies, they can provide 1.25 tons of materials to community-based projects around the world. This is a low effort/high reward way to act on your empathy.
Scott and Rebecca Rothney:
Their website provides detailed guidelines for how to pack, what to pack, and where supplies are needed most. They work with destinations in North America, South America, Central America, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Oceania. Chances are good, wherever you’re going, there is someone nearby in need of supplies.
Pack for a Purpose isn’t just a great idea, it’s a well-planned organization. For each destination on the list, Pack for a Purpose provides detailed information about the local aid groups that will receive the materials you transport. These organizations have a variety of needs—from medical care to education—so it is important to do a bit of reading before deciding what materials to bring. Pack for a Purpose encourages travelers to get in touch with questions, comments, or to tell the story of their adventures. The Pack for a Purpose tagline summarizes the organization’s message beautifully: Small space. Little effort. Big impact.