An interview with Pack for A Purpose Founder Rebecca Rothney

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” says the famous John Lennon quote, delivering a gentle warning to day dreamers. In life, there are people who do things, and people who talk about doing things: Rebecca Rothney heads up the “just do it” camp.

We sit down with the inspirational founder of Pack for a Purpose to hear how she came up with the idea of packing for a purpose.

Rebecca Rothney, Founder and Chairperson, Pack for a Purpose

Free Shipping

The moment of inspiration came to Rebecca on a trip to Africa where it occurred to her that she was flying across the globe with a huge amount of unused “free shipping”. The standard baggage allowance on international flights can be put to good use, she thought.

So, in the weeks prior to her trip, she started stocking up. “I asked all my friends to give up one store bought cup of coffee for one day and buy supplies with that money. That’s all, just one coffee,” recalls Rebecca. 

After this there was no looking back. Each trip Rebecca took she filled her spare luggage with supplies: “I’ve been there, I’ve seen the need and I actually have the capacity to do more,” she says. “I began asking wherever I travelled what people needed, and it was so varied – on one trip, for example, we took stethoscopes for a clinic. Can you imagine – a clinic without stethoscopes! A simple stethoscope weighs less than a kilo but it can touch a thousand hearts.”

Sharing the word

The next step was to help others to make use of their excess luggage to bring supplies for local people. This was when she set up the Pack for a Purpose website.

Photo @TravelLeap

Ecoventura Packs for a noble Purpose

Social responsibility and giving back sit at the core of our beliefs here at Ecoventura. We have supported the Alejandro Alvear school for many years and recently the Corazones Unidos Foundation on the island of San Cristobal which helps kids with disabilities. We knew our guests wanted to donate supplies, and when we met Rebecca, we knew exactly who would benefit most from her Pack for a Purpose program. See the full list of school supplies here.

Corazones Unidos Foundation Students

Pack for a Purpose followers

“We have no way of knowing how many people are just doing it,” says Rebecca, “because it’s simple and there’s no sign up or registration.”

Many guests who visit the Galapagos aboard our vessels, Origin, Theory and Letty, take great pleasure in bringing school supplies. It doesn’t have to be huge amounts – “small but impactful things is the key”, says Rebecca.

The generosity also spreads beyond our guests. Recently a young woman Sooki Hong, who was visiting the Galapagos Islands (but not travelling aboard our yachts), arrived at the office at San Cristobal to deliver materials for the school. This came as an unexpected and very welcome surprise to the teams at Ecoventura and Pack for a Purpose as Sooki had never contacted us about taking supplies.

“She just dropped them off at the office at San Cristobal one day, which was amazing” says Rebecca. “Clearly, she had been to the Pack for a Purpose website or perhaps to the Ecoventura website to have found what supplies were requested.”

Sooki Hong and the supplies she brought to the Galapagos

“Every time someone chooses to be gracious and kind the world is better, period.” Rebecca Rothney, founder of Pack for a Purpose.

To finish, Rebecca recalls some of the most moving tales she has experienced over the years: “We had one family who packed for a purpose and ended up sending a shipping container of goods to schools as they were so inspired.”

In another case, there was a child who wasn’t attending class because he didn’t have shoes. “A guest who happened to work for a shoe-making company bought some shoes,” tells Rebecca. “This changed the little boys’ life: he could now attend school.”

If you would like to pack for a purpose when visiting the Galapagos, please visit our designated page on the website to see the full list of supplies needed at Alejandro Alvear School. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need any further assistance.