Most international flights have a luggage allowance of two checked bags. Yet few short-term leisure travelers actually use the second checked bag allowance. That additional bag could mean the saving of a life in your destination.
Elevate Destinations has joined forces with Afya Foundation, a medical supplies recovery organization based in the greater New York Area, to help mobilize Luggage For Life. This amazing program enables travelers to make a contribution of much-needed medical supplies to local clinics in their travel destinations.
We’ve spoken with Danielle Butin, Founder and Executive Director at Afya Foundation, about this exciting opportunity for big-hearted travelers. She’s helped us answer the most frequently asked questions about the program.
Q. What kinds of travelers contribute to Luggage For Life?
A. This program is great for physicians and other health care professionals (or families with college-age kids on the medical track), as a way to reach out and connect with their counterparts in other parts of the world.
It’s also ideal for couples or families traveling to resource-scarce parts of the world and looking for a good, meaningful way to add a humanitarian facet to their trip.
To extend the experience, travelers can also volunteer to help gather valuable information by conducting surveys with the clinics.
Q. How does it work?
A. The Luggage For Life process always starts with a partner clinic, which is asked what their real medical supply needs and priorities are, in the form of a request list.
“We will never send duffel bags that have not been matched with a request list from a partner clinic on the ground,” explains Danielle. “The basic philosophy of this program is that there are no pre-packed bags here – only bags that match the exact wishes of the people on the ground. We take their expertise very seriously.”
The foundation will work with Elevate Destinations to match interested travelers with local clinics that have ongoing request lists on file. Once a match is made, the steps are as follows:
- Discuss with your Elevate Destinations trip designer. The delivery of the bag to the local clinic at the destination will be built into your itinerary. This will be an emotional and eye-opening visit – we encourage you to make time to deliver in-person. However, there is also the option of leaving the bag at your first hotel, where a local clinic representative can retrieve it.
- Luggage For Life will ship you an orange duffel. You’ll be shipped a Luggage For Life duffel bag and 50 lbs. of medical supplies prior to departure. We ask that travelers make a $125 donation to Afya for each bag, to help Afya recover, pack and send the supplies. Please give at least 14 days notice before your departure date.
- Depart for your trip! Check your Luggage For Life bag at the airport along with your personal luggage. Afya will provide a customs clearance letter that you can use at airport security to check and retrieve this bag. Then, embark on the journey of delivering the duffel to the clinic in your destination.
Q. Are there Luggage For Life success stories?
A. Yes, many! Since 2011, travelers have brought over 13,000 lbs. of supplies to African, Latin American and Caribbean nations through Luggage For Life. One great example is the FAME Clinic in Karatu, Tanzania. Over the past several years, this partner clinic has received travelers of all kinds, from student volunteers to families on safari to medical aid organizations.
Q. Where else can Elevate travelers participate in Luggage For Life?
A. In addition to Tanzania, we have working relationships with clinics in Ecuador, Belize, and Peru. We’ll help you get in touch and request your orange duffel from Afya before your trip.
Q. Why is this important?
A. Travel to developing countries makes us acutely aware of scarcity and the staggering inequality that exist in the world today. Oftentimes as travelers, we feel overwhelmed and powerless about how to address it. Luggage For Life is a direct, simple way for travelers to take action, turning surplus in our home countries into essentials in our destinations.
“I think we have an ethical responsibility when we travel to places in the world that are resource-poor,” says Danielle. “One way to do that is to add a giving-back component. Your vacation could result in the saving of a life because a clinic has what it needs at a vital moment.”
Elevate Destinations is thrilled to be collaborating with Danielle and her team at Afya. The feeling is mutual. “I love working with Elevate!” she notes. “It has been so amazing to find a travel company where there is a moral alignment about what travel can be to the world.”