Next time you head to Africa for a vacation, leave some room in your luggage for soccer balls. Many African tour operators, safari camps, and lodges support local communities in the areas in which they work. It's a great idea to ask if you can bring any school supplies, medical supplies, clothing or other light objects that will help these projects, help others in the community. Do rely on local knowledge before you pack, giving responsibly is as important as giving anything. Sometimes salt, soap and mealie meal may be much more in demand than a bag of toys, even though toys are more fun to give.
Traveling independently and not sure what to bring? There's a non-profit web site that can help -- Pack For a Purpose. They have good suggestions on how to pack common items that are in high demand, and they also have lists of specific requests from lodges around Africa.
While airlines are doing their level best to encourage us not to fly by charging for every pound of baggage, it's still worth exchanging 5lb's of your own things, for pencils, calculators and band-aids. Not only will you be making a difference to a local community, but you'll have more room to buy local souvenirs to bring back home. And better yet, you'll have an excuse to visit a local school or community center while on vacation. It often ends up being a highlight of a trip. As the Pack for a Purpose logo states: "Small space, Little Effort, Big Impact". You can't argue with that.
Image © Getty Images