Pack for a purpose and give back

The festive season is a time for spending time with people we love but also a time to be thankful for everything we have.

Going on an overseas holiday soon? Discover an easy way to ‘pay it forward’ on your next overseas trip with the innovative, nonprofit charitable initiative, Pack for a Purpose.

I once trekked for several weeks in Nepal with an Australian dentist who, each time children asked him for lollies or money, gave them toothbrushes. The kids were somewhat less impressed than I was by the extent of his generosity.

Overseas charitable organisations suggest that you should not give money to beggars, especially children, as it can encourage people to beg or worse – can result in children being maimed to make them more pitiable. Aware of this, I have had an in-depth argument with a leper in Mumbai who concluded his case with, “thanks for nothing” as he walked away. I left a very large donation to a medical charity before flying out of India but still feel troubled, years later.

With some forethought you can make a real difference when you travel. Bringing common useful objects to overseas schools can be a great help. But you really need to know what is needed in the places you’ll be visiting to have maximum impact. 

What is 'Pack for a Purpose'?

Some travellers set up a website called Pack for a Purpose, which covers the world, albeit with some significant gaps. The founders say that they started the site after a trip to Africa in 2011 when their airline baggage allowance was much greater than their safari weight allowance.

So they used the difference to take school supplies and soccer balls to Botswana. The site has won awards from the 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year, a Travel + Leisure Global Vision Award in 2012 and being shortlisted in The Observer Ethical Awards – Travel category for 2013.


The site has the tagline “Small Space. Little Effort. Big Impact” and states that: “You can make a big impact on the lives of children around the world"

How you can help

Use available space in your luggage to provide supplies to communities you visit.
For 2.27 kilos, you can bring one of the following:

  • 400 pencils
  • 5 deflated soccer balls with an inflation device
  • A stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and 500 band-aids

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The small contribution you make will not only make a difference but will leave you feeling rewarded

The site states that it can be done in a few easy steps:

  1. From the destination list find accommodation that supports a project.
  2. Choose what you want to deliver from the specific items requested.
  3. Drop off the supplies at the accommodation and they will deliver it for you.

Taking the guesswork out of travel gifts is a great idea. Take a look at Pack for a Purpose and be inspired by the stories others have shared. If you know of a project that should be listed, that can be done here.

Keen to discover other ways to help? Read about micro volunteering here.

Have you ever done any volunteering or thought of other ways to help whilst travelling? Join our conversation below!