THE Sandals South Coast Resort recently had the pleasure of hosting the founder and chairperson of 'Pack for a Purpose', an incredible non-profit which has been changing the face of travel across the world.
In 2010, Rebecca Rothney started the United States-based 'Pack for a Purpose' programme, inviting travellers to extend gratitude to the countries they visit by donating five pounds of school, medical, hygiene and other much-needed supplies to their country destinations.
What started with 29 partners across 15 countries today comprises 450 partners in 60 countries facilitating travellers donating over 430,000 pounds of supplies to underserved communities around the world. With its website providing an in-depth needs list for each destination around the world, travellers have been able to make informed decisions on what to buy and donate.
In 2011 Pack for a Purpose made its début in the Caribbean by connecting with its first partner – Sandals Foundation.
“It was Nina Patel, a travel advisor and the owner of Vacations That Matter, who introduced the Sandals Foundation to our team at Pack for a Purpose. She knew of the work of both organisations and thought we could bring great value to each other and more importantly, to the Caribbean region,” said Rothney.
By leveraging the power of the Sandals and Beaches brands and its robust marketing machinery, the Sandals Foundation has the ability to expose people to the Pack for a Purpose programme and increase its awareness.
“The impact that that partnership has left on both entities, the multiple communities across seven islands in which Sandals and Beaches resorts operate, and the guests, has grown tremendously – and this has not been by chance,” said Heidi Clarke, executive director of the Sandals Foundation.
“Travellers staying at Sandals, or Beaches resorts, will hear our team members talk about our work within the communities and encourage them to get involved. Those who want to find out more about what we're doing are also guided to the Pack for a Purpose website to learn how, with a small space and a little effort, they can also make a big difference,” added Clarke.
She further noted that many travellers garner help from their friends and families to source and bring supplies during their trips. In order to gain additional support for the cause, the Sandals Foundation dispatches pre-arrival emails and information packages to guests, informing them of the opportunity to give back by visiting the Pack for a Purpose website to get involved.
Travel agents are also part of the awareness machinery as they are introduced to the programme at various travel shows and marketing events.
“Currently, about 50 per cent of our guests are participating in the programme, and this number has been growing steadily since the beginning of the partnership in 2011,” noted Clarke.
Benefiting institutions include infant, primary and junior high schools, women's centres, medical facilities, post-secondary institutions, infirmaries, and various communities.
In July, while visiting Jamaica for the first time to celebrate her husband's Scott's birthday and bask in the sunshine and breathtaking beauty of the island's south coast, the Rothneys did not miss the opportunity to live up to their organisation's mantra to pack for a purpose.
“Pre-COVID, guests visiting Sandals and Beaches resorts would have had an opportunity to visit schools for the 'Reading Road Trip', a Sandals Foundation initiative, but with schools being closed now, myself and Scott had the unique privilege of travelling instead to the town of Savanna-La-Mar with Sandals Foundation volunteers from Sandals South Coast to deliver donated supplies to young people from underserved communities within the parish,” said Rothney.
“The temperatures were high, but the joy I had by being given that opportunity is the real warmth. It fills my heart even now.”
Other highlights of Rothney's trip included meeting a family of six at the airport in Raleigh, North Carolina. They were also en route to Jamaica but staying at the Beaches resort in Oracabessa, St Mary.
“We struck up a conversation and I asked them if they knew about Pack for a Purpose and they said, 'Know about it? We're doing it! We packed for a purpose', “ Rothney recounted with a beaming smile.
“Then, when I got to Sandals South Coast I met at least five different couples who had packed for a purpose. Amongst them was this lovely couple we met on one of our snorkelling trips, who told us they had actually packed an entire suitcase of supplies for donation. Ironically, the day after meeting this couple I was in Savanna-La-Mar donating loads of supplies, including their items.”
Rothney noted that experiences like these are truly priceless and have provided her with the greatest sense of joy and accomplishment.
“I believe people are kind and generous but they need the information to do that effectively. You don't want to take things that aren't needed, because that's a waste,” says Rothney.
“Our website gives travellers the information that they can be 100 per cent sure that the gift of gratitude that they're taking to the community is exactly what that community needs,” added Rothney
The partnership with Pack for a Purpose has been a welcome support to Sandals Foundation's mandate to empower Caribbean people and make the region a better place to live. Through continued growth, Pack for a Purpose can attract more participation and together, help meet practical needs within communities.
For loyal Sandals Resorts guest Shannon Hopper, giving back has become an integral part of her vacation itinerary.
“After many trips to Jamaica, my husband and I feel that it is our home away from home! We are so fortunate to be able to travel here and enjoy the beauty and hospitality of the island. But it's also important to realise that while we enjoy a beautiful paradise, this is not the reality for many of the residents. Donating supplies or some of our vacation time is the least we can do to help the country we have grown to love so much,” declared Hopper.
People travelling around the world can visit the Pack for a Purpose website www.packforapurpose.org and simply select their country destination. A list of supported partners and projects with supply needs will be available for viewing.