Pack for a Purpose: Making a Difference, Five Pounds at a Time

Pack for a Purpose: Making a Difference, Five Pounds at a Time

Pack for a Purpose

By Rebecca Rothney, Founder, Pack for a Purpose

How to Make Big Impact with Little Effort

Pack for a Purpose™ is a newly founded non-profit organization dedicated to providing needed educational materials and medical supplies to children around the world. The organization was founded on the principal that every little bit helps, and all it takes to get involved is to use a small amount space in your luggage for supplies when packing for a trip abroad. The concept is simple, and getting involved is easy.


The Pack for a Purpose website lists, by country, the contact information for lodges around the world already supporting legitimate educational and medical community projects, and their specific needs based on the projects they sponsor. All travelers need to do is visit the site, find a listing for a location where they are staying on their vacation, and bring a few pounds of the requested supplies in their luggage to drop off when they arrive. Each lodge listed on the Pack for a Purpose website has been contacted about the program, has agreed to participate, and will eagerly welcome all contributions from travelers.


The first time we took supplies, we visited a local school in Botswana and the kids were playing soccer with a ball of rags tied together with string. It’s startling to see just how little some of the schools and clinics have to work with. Five pounds can be as much as 400 pencils or five deflated soccer balls. While crayons, Band-Aids and similar items are very simple things that most Americans take for granted, many people in the places where we have traveled just don’t have them. We can all find a little space in our luggage for a bag of supplies. If enough people make small contributions, we have the potential to make an enormous positive impact.

Changing the Way World Travelers Pack

The idea behind Pack for a Purpose came to me while talking to my travel agent regarding a trip to Kenya in 2008. I asked the agent why his other safari clients did not also use some of their luggage allowance for taking supplies. "Because nobody thinks about it," he said. That was my Aha moment. "Then I need to provide a way for them to think about taking supplies." I told the agent. From that conversation, Pack for a Purpose was born.


One of the first contacts we established for the program was Michelle Puddu of Wilderness Safaris in South Africa. My husband and I had personally worked with Puddu to bring many hundreds of pounds of school supplies to South Africa and Botswana over the course of several different trips. "The idea is a brilliant one – it costs almost nothing on the part of the donor, just a great deal of kindness and a small amount of effort," Puddu said. "This is the type of goodwill that nobody really thinks about, but makes a big difference."


Initially, we identified 25 locations in popular tourist destinations in Africa, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The goal is to identify all appropriate locations on every continent and in every country where vacation travelers are already staying and can drop off needed supplies. To facilitate this, visitors to the Pack for a Purpose website can go to the contact page and submit an appropriate lodging for consideration. As word spreads and more travelers participate, we have the potential to deliver several tons of needed supplies each year directly to the people who need them.


Pack for a Purpose makes it easy for everyone - vacation travelers, honeymooners and business travelers - to contribute in a meaningful way.

TIES Business Members on Pack for a Purpose

Here are a few examples of TIES business members participating in Pack for a Purpose, and the items needed for the local community projects that the lodges support.

  • Arenas del Mar Beach & Nature Resort (Costa Rica): Printer paper, graphite and coloured pencils, construction paper, rulers, clay, scissors, glue, dictionaries, markers and white boards, pens, notebooks, crayons, erasers, uniforms, coloring books, accessories for motor skills development such as puzzles.
  • Lapa Rios Ecolodge (Costa Rica): Games (e.g. Shoots and Ladders, checkers, dominoes, playing cards), mathematical functions flash cards, soccer balls, uniforms and cleats, jump ropes, jacks, frisbees, clean, second hand children’s clothing (both boys and girls, ages 6-15 years).
  • Yachana Lodge (Ecuador): Laptop computers (new and used), white board markers, deflated soccer balls, books in Spanish, solar calculators, rulers, pens, pencils, large maps.

>> See full list of destinations & participating businesses

More about Pack for a Purpose

Rebecca Rothney, a former North Carolina school teacher turned entrepreneur, founded Pack for a Purpose along with her husband, Scott and several friends. For more information about Pack for a Purpose, travel locations, lists of needed supplies and other ways to get involved, contact: packforapurpose[at]




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