Before you toss that extra sweater into your suitcase that you’re definitely not gonna need on a Caribbean vacation, consider instead packing some school supplies, English books, or some band-aids to donate to the local community. Sandals, which operates some of our favorite resorts, has partnered with local organizations in a number of countries to help the community thrive. The program is called “Pack for a Purpose” and Sandals has made it incredibly easy to give something back to the people of the area you’re visiting while on vacation.

How to Pack for a Purpose

The idea of volunteering while traveling has immense appeal. Many of our favorite vacation destinations are located in developing nations where some aspects of life’s needs aren’t being  met for a portion of the population. In some locations, these issues include lack of educational tools or healthcare services. In others animal welfare suffers.

Pack for a Purpose

Although our vacation may be luxurious, many of the local towns nearby may be struggling with what we would consider a basic lifestyle – enough food, access to clean water, sanitation, and a livelihood. It is often very difficult to know what is needed for donations where you will be going. Do they have plenty of clean food, but the kids need shoes? Do they have a great source of school books, but lack basic medical supplies? How can we know what to donate to offer the most help?

New soccer balls are always popular at the Soccer Club at The Great Commission United Academy in Heideveld in the Cape Flats, South Africa. Photo: © Pack for a Purpose All rights reserved.

On the same note, often times volunteering requires training, sometimes years of training. Or it could require vaccinations. Or on a more simple note, some vacationers simply don’t have the time to dedicate to volunteering. But this is precisely how Pack for a Purpose can come into play.

Choose your destination, check which organizations (resorts or tour operators) are participating in the program, and what they need. Simply pack the stuff from their detailed lists into your luggage that they need at your destination. It’s as easy as adding a few extra items to your shopping list and then leaving out that one extra sweatshirt from your suitcase. And it could make a world of difference to those living in your vacation destination. After all, don’t we all want to leave a positive mark on the places we visit? Or find a meaningful way to say “thanks”? This opportunity checks all of those boxes.

What Do I Pack?

The Pack for a Purpose mission is broken into specific areas of help:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Child Welfare
  • Animal Welfare
  • Socio Economic Development

Each initiative requires different materials, but it’s simple to decide which items you can pack to help out. Here’s how it works:

  1. Plan your vacation! (or let us plan it at no cost to you!)
  2. Check the Pack for a Purpose map to decide which organization you’d like to work with.
  3. Check the materials they’re asking for, and pack what is needed.
  4. Contact the organization and arrange for the donation.

If you’d like to donate a significant amount or maybe your friends are adding in contributions, consider packing the items into a separate duffel bag. Something that’s easy to take back home.

These school supplies made it to Playa Viva in Mexico to support The Gregorio Torres Quintero Primary School. Playa Viva also has a need for medical equipment and yoga mats for community health project. Photo: © Pack for a Purpose All rights reserved..

Each location has a specific list of items they need, and the list is updated often, making it simple and easy to follow. The organization asks that you stick to the donation list and don’t add any extras that aren’t on the list. Some of the items are everyday, inexpensive, easy to acquire items while others are more expensive and harder to get (might need an Amazon order, for example). Here are some common items that show up on many of the lists:

  • Classroom supplies like pencils, scissors, markers, books, solar calculators, rulers, and book bags.
  • Sports activities like jump ropes, soccer balls, Frisbees, bean bags, and inflation pumps
  • First aid equipment like Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, sterile gloves, gauze, digital thermometer, and wound spray, 
  • Personal hygiene supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and bars of soap
  • Clothing and shoes: either new or gently used clothing, shoes, flip flops, and hats

Where Pack for a Purpose Works

The organization works in over 60 countries, so you’re more than likely going to one that could use your donations. Check with this map for updates on locations. Here’s a current map of the locations to participate in Pack for a Purpose.

Some Extra Benefits of Packing for a Purpose

So you packed two (deflated) soccer balls, two huge bags of pencils, and one map of the world for the classroom wall. The local school is now set on pencils for the year, the geography lessons will be so much better, and the kids will have new sports equipment to stay active. That small trip to the store before your trip increased the quality of life for all of those kids. And an additional benefit of packing along items to donate is now you have room in your suitcase for some great souvenirs. Try to seek out something special that supports other people in the community. Maybe a painting done by a local artists or a wood carving or clothing made with a local hand-dying process. It’s a double-win if the souvenirs you bring home support the community. Often these fair-trade jobs are steps in the process that allow future generations to support themselves and not need to rely on donations in the future.

Ready to pack for a purpose?

Our team has tons of insight about Sandals vacations, and how you can make a difference in the local community while you’re on vacation. Whether you’re looking to volunteer your time or skills on vacation, or have room to pack some items a community needs, we can help lead you to the perfect combination of vacation and making a difference.  Let’s get planning!


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