Passengers who travel “carry-on only” may have a new, charitable reason to reconsider their preferences.
Travelers headed to secluded or remote locations can volunteer to bring life-saving medical supplies with them in a pre-packed suitcase from Canadian non-profit Not Just Tourists.
The program pairs travelers with medical supplies donated from hospitals, clinics, and medical suppliers. Not only does it equip isolated clinics with much-needed supplies, it gets travelers out of their comfort zones and helps them connect with locals, Avi D’Souza, the program director for the Not Just Tourists Toronto branch, told Travel + Leisure.
“The bigger idea behind the project is about connecting people,” D’Souza said. “So often we hear stories about travelers going on trips and they go outside their comfort zone and they end up becoming a lifelong benefactor for that community. It’s about spreading love and showing people that you care.”
The whole organization is volunteer-run and has “never taken a penny of funding,” D’Souza said. Since the company was founded in 1990, it has grown to several different locations across Canada and the U.K. (and they’re in talks to start more in the U.S. and Australia). In total, they’ve brought more than 10,000 suitcases to 82 different countries around the world.
On a mission for Not Just Tourists, travelers could deliver suitcases to bush clinics in Cuba, Honduras, or Peru. The delivery works in conjunction with whatever itinerary travelers already have planned.
In order to sign up to deliver a suitcase, travelers fill out a survey on the Not Just Tourists website. After speaking with a travel coordinator to iron out details of the trip, they then pick up their pre-packed suitcase from a Not Just Tourists location.
The suitcases are filled with basic medical supplies that typically have a hard time reaching bush clinics. Travelers could bring gauze, syringes, catheters, birthing kits, stethoscopes, or IVs (among many other supplies) to the clinics. Each suitcase contains about $400 of medical supplies and weighs between 15 and 20 pounds. Travelers receive a letter detailing every item they’re about to carry. The organization also encourages travelers to unpack and repack their suitcases before departure so that in the event they are stopped by security agents, they can truthfully respond that they packed their bags themselves.
Some airlines may waive baggage fees if travelers explain that they’re on a charity mission.
Travelers without any upcoming voyages can help out the organization from their homes by donating their old luggage; D’Souza said suitcases are sometimes harder to obtain than medical supplies.