Stuff your rucksacks with pens, bras and the Economist

www.stuffyourrucksack.com puts travellers in touch with charities that need help

BBC TV presenter Kate Humble came up with the idea for stuffyourrucksack while stuck in a small Saharan village. Invited to a local school, the kids asked her how many hours it would take to travel by camel to England. Wondering out loud about how camels might cross the sea and whether they were allowed on ferries, a little arm went up: “What’s the sea?” The teacher asked her if she had a world map. Humble was humbled. If you grow-up in a land-locked country with no access to maps, books or the internet, how do you learn about the ocean? If only she’d known the school needed a map, she could easily have stuffed one in her backpack and opened up the world to a bunch of kids somewhere near Timbuktu. www.stuffyourrucksack.com was born.

The idea is simple. Small charities (or travellers who know about them) use the site to post wishlists of things they need. You check the site to see who needs what near your next destination, pack a few bits and pieces for them and then see what the organisation do when you drop them off. Travellers can feed back on the places they visit and are encouraged to keep their eyes peeled for more organisations that deserve support.

“The beauty of it is that it gives equal value both ways” says Humble. “The community benefits from something they actually really need and you get a local experience that you just can’t buy or get out of a guide book”.

Marybeth Gallagher from an after school programme in Namibia says: “The children have benefitted greatly from this website. I cannot begin to tell you how much loot people have hauled from all parts of the globe to donate to our kids. They have also come to visit and to spread the word about our work. It’s a brilliant idea!”

The site is currently getting a revamp and due for a re-launch in May. The hope is that it becomes a vast self-policing message board between travellers that extends to include more information about volunteer work. Aware that many big projects need volunteers to commit to 6 months or more, Stuffyourrucksack wants to hear from smaller organisations that would appreciate even just a few hours help as travellers are passing through town.    

To give you an idea of what you could be stuffing your backpack with, here are just a few ideas to get you started:

A doctor in Chiang Rai in Thailand needs ibuprofen

A charity that helps street kids in Guatemala needs more sleeping bags

A deaf school in Kenya wants toys

An animal hospital in Sri Lanka needs dog collars

A school in Cambodia needs English teachers (minimum 1 week)

A hospital in Malawi wants cell phones

A school in Cuba would love some musical instruments

A university in Macedonia is desperate for copies of The Economist

A school in China needs balloons

An organisation in South Africa wants your bra

And if you’re travelling across the Sahara, there’s a school out there in need of a map…

Visit www.stuffyourrucksack.com for more information and join them on Facebook.

Read the article on Matador or here.

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