Pack for a Purpose

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Rebecca Rothney, a former teacher and the founder of the not-for-profit organisation Pack for a Purpose. Established in 2009, the organisation aims to match travellers with communities and groups in need in their holiday destination of choice.

Pack for a Purpose works with hotels and properties around the world that already support local projects by listing essential project supplies (anything from footballs to pencils) on their website. Visitors heading to that particular destination can then pack as much or as little as they like into their bags (5lbs or 2.27kgs is recommended) and deliver it to their hotel that will then distribute it to the relevant project.

The organisation is staffed by what Rebecca calls a “wonderful, dedicated, talented team of people” who are all volunteers. As Rebecca says, “an enormous amount of community effort goes into making and sustaining this website. And I make everyone cookies in return!”

We think that it’s a wonderful idea and one that makes it easy for all travellers, young and old, to leave a positive footprint. Here, Rebecca tells us a little bit more about the organisation.


A project in Costa Rica & Rebecca Rothney, founder of Pack for a Purpose.
A project in Costa Rica & Rebecca Rothney, founder of Pack for a Purpose.


globetotting: Why did you establish Pack for a Purpose?

Rebecca: The very bottom line is that it goes back to the way that I was raised by my parents, especially by my mother. When we were growing up, you simply didn’t go to someone else’s house, for any meal, without bringing a hostess gift. And you certainly didn’t stay the night at someone’s house without bringing something. I was brought up with a strong sense of community and the idea that you help your community.


Projects in Kenya supported by Pack for a Purpose.
Projects in Kenya supported by Pack for a Purpose.


globetotting: How did you come up with the idea?

Rebecca: Whenever my husband and I have enough frequent flyer miles we go to Africa. Our first trip was to a ‘glamping’ lodge and we fell madly in love with the place. Two years later we looked to go again but glamping was a lot more expensive than staying in a permanent safari camp. So I found Wilderness Safaris and while organising our trip, they emailed me to say that we could visit a school if we like and they then sent me a list of things that the school needed. I talked to all my friends and together we collected 140lbs of supplies that I then took to the school. The next time we visited Africa we went with some friends and we each bought 150lbs of school supplies.

From here I got together with some friends, one of whom is a web developer, and we put together a rough draft of the website. Three months later, on December 17, 2009, the website was live.


A project supported by Pack for a Purpose in Zambia.
A project supported by Pack for a Purpose in Zambia.


globetotting: How does it work?

Rebecca: I work with travel agents to find lodges / hotels that are already supporting local projects such as schools, health clinics etc. The list of supplies needed for these projects is posted by the properties on our website. Travellers visiting, for example, the Strawberry Fields Lodge in Ethiopia, can look online and see what equipment is needed and pack what they can into their suitcase. The supplies are then delivered to the hotel that, in turn, distributes them to the local project(s).

The list of supplies varies from project to project and destination to destination and we encourage people to pack a minimum of 5lbs (2.72kgs) of stuff into their bags; 5lbs is very doable!

I wanted to make it easy for people to help; this way all people need to do is get their stuff to the hotel. In four years, travellers have delivered 26,000lbs of supplies.


A project supported by Pack for a Purpose in Cambodia.
A project supported by Pack for a Purpose in Cambodia.


globetotting: Tells us about the destinations you cover.

Rebecca: We have now close to 350 properties on board but I won’t be satisfied until we have everywhere on planet earth! There are some properties and destinations that are more popular than others. Africa and Costa Rica are popular for example, as are the Sandals resorts as the agents who sell Sandals packages have been trained to tell people about Pack for a Purpose.

And of course it’s easier to get supplies to bigger cities than if you’re heading out to say, the Masai Mara but sometimes we can connect the lodge with the traveller in one of the main cities and supplies can be handed over there. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to help. You can be 5 or you can be 85 and you can still do this!

We would really like to see more properties in South America, Oceania, Asia, the Southern Pacific and Europe on board.


School kids in Ecuador say thanks to Pack for a Purpose.
School kids in Ecuador say thanks to Pack for a Purpose.


globetotting: How can Pack for a Purpose help kids leave a positive footprint?

Rebecca: I think Pack for a Purpose can affirm for everyone how important being involved in the wellbeing of your community is – it that’s a temporary community that you’re visiting for 4 days or the one that you live in permanently – being part of the change and well being of that community is a requirement of human beings.

Children learn by what they observe and what they participate in. Kids have an enormous capacity for joy and to see the wonderful possibilities in the world. When this sense of community and of helping others is reinfornced at an early age, it stays with them throughout their lives.


Projects in Zanzibar supported by Pack for a Purpose
Projects in Zanzibar supported by Pack for a Purpose


Pack for a Purpose: How It Works

1. Select your destination.

2. Find a lodging and a project it supports.

3. Choose the supplies you wish to bring from the specific items requested.

4. Drop off the supplies at the lodging.

5. The supplies will then be delivered to the community-based project.


Has your family helped a Pack for a Purpose project? Please share your stories in the comment section below. 

2 thoughts on “Pack for a Purpose”

  1. In April I took two of my children to Costa Rica and we were so excited to find this organization. We took two big suitcase full of school supplies to a school in Alejuela. It was a great feeling to know we could help out even if in a small way. It is a great idea and anyone really can do it.

    1. That’s so great to hear! We love the idea behind Pack for a Purpose and it’s always good to hear from families that have actually used it. What did your kids think of taking school supplies to Costa Rica? It sounds like it was an amazing experience!

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