Extra Space for Hope

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During her first trip to Africa, Rebecca Rothney and her husband discovered that while their safari limited them to only 40 pounds of luggage each, their airline’s limit was 140 pounds. They had a thought: Why not use that extra space to do some good?

Rothney and her husband got in touch with a primary school in Botswana before their second trip and delivered supplies brought from home. Touched by the students’ excitement over their first soccer balls and the teachers’ joy at having proper school supplies, the Rothneys and several of their friends and family members brought more than 1,200 additional pounds of supplies over the course of the next few trips. And so Pack for a Purpose was born.

The way the program works is simple. Before leaving, travelers log on to packforapurpose.org and find participating hotels and organizations— including village schools, orphanages, animal hospitals and environmental-protection organizations in need—located near where they’re going. A list of desired supplies, such as pencils, notebooks, soccer balls, blood-pressure-monitoring kits and bandages, is submitted. Rothney emphasizes that these lists are kept as current as possible and needs can change often. The website helpfully lists how to best pack certain items (pencils should be removed from their boxes and put in plastic bags, for instance, and soccer balls should be deflated). Provisions are dropped off at the hotel, which delivers them to the organization in need.

The Rothneys’ contributions may be hard for meeting attendees to match (although many travelers do bring extra suitcases specifically to tote more), but even five pounds’ worth of supplies can make a significant difference. If a group’s hotel isn’t participating, that’s not a problem—supplies can be dropped off at any participating property, regardless of whether or not the donor is a paid guest. “If I make it easy and convenient, people are happy to do a good deed,” Rothney says.

Since its founding in 2009, Pack for a Purpose has donated more than 20,000 pounds of supplies around the world. As of press time, more than 320 hotels in 47 countries were participating, including Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont properties and hundreds of smaller and independent lodging establishments.