Pack for a Purpose

We always try to use local guides, establishments that employ indigenous residents, and are environmentally sustainable. When we shop, we “go local,” such as women’s empowerment businesses. We believe privilege comes with responsibility, whether that be in financial contributions (such as Episcopal Relief and Development or Open Doors) or the donation of resources that may be lacking where we are visiting. This summer was no different.  

We first became aware of Pack For a Purpose 10 years ago in connection with a safari trip to Botswana and Zambia. Once we learned of the program, we connected that knowledge with the fact that our air carrier, South African Airways, allowed us two free bags each, but our small planes between safari camps only allowed us a medium size duffel bag. If we could find a PFOP need near our first stop before needing a small plane, we could get our two duffel bags full of school supplies and soccer balls to Sinde Village in Zambia, right near our first camp. We were able to bring the supplies ourselves, see the village, see the preschool and Twabuka Middle Basic School, speak with some teachers, and meet the children. Schools are important for children as they provide them with what may be their only meal of the day. If you’ve every wondered where those “meal-packages” from programs such as Rise Against Hunger go – we can attest to one village that benefits from them!

When this year’s long postponed (due to Covid) trip to Kenya came round, we were ready to up our game. Kenya Airways direct flight from New York’s JFK to Nairobi allowed us the same two free bags where we only needed one. We started assembling goods two months in advance: chalk, colored pencils, jump ropes, craft scissors, soccer balls, protractors, band aids. Our daughter, who teaches at Mary Hooker Environmental Studies Magnet School in Hartford, set out a box at her school to take advantage of year end cleanup from her fellow teachers. Our traveling companions did the same at their church.  

When all was said and done, we had seven bags of donated goods weighing over 51KG (110 pounds) from eight of us (7 adults and a 7-year-old).  Our travel agents, Travel Beyond in Minnesota, donated some bags to help transport. Once we arrived in Nairobi, our ground travel contacts at Bush and Beyond made sure that the donated goods found their way to Safarilink (a Pack for a Purpose Partner), a local airline serving many Kenyan safari camps. With the help of Lewa House Safari Camp, over several days these bags were transferred to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy near Mount Kenya. Once there, the Conservancy distributed those goods to 23 different schools in surrounding communities.

We wish we could have been there to see these goods arriving in the hands of the teachers and children, but we are so thankful for all the people along the way who made this happen for us and these schools. As citizens of the world, being able to connect with like-minded people and organizations via the internet helps make such actions possible for us. 

How might you pack with purpose when you travel or vacation?

John contributed to this post, including all the photographs (not including the five which were provided by the Lewa Conservancy’s Education Program).

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