When the Cralem family learned they would travel to South Africa recently, Waunakee seventh-grader Lizzie Cralem decided to extend it beyond sightseeing and into a service opportunity.
As she researched a project, she wanted schools to be the beneficiary.
“Personally, I love going to school every day,” Lizzie said, adding that she also wanted to help people.
The impetus for the journey was her mother. Amy Cralem and her fellow master of business administration students at UW-Madison were tasked with research there.
Lizzie discovered a way for travelers to make a difference in the places they’re visiting with little effort. An organization called Pack for a Purpose allows tourists to pack needed supplies in their suitcase to deliver when they reach their destinations.
“It seemed super easy and not expensive,” Lizzie said.
Her initiative impressed her parents.
Her father, Jared Cralem, explained how the organization works.
“The intent is as travelers go to underdeveloped – or less privileged – countries, if we just take a little bit of luggage space, what they do is make it easy,” Jared said.
The Pack for a Purpose website includes a list of needed supplies in areas throughout the world, along with directions to drop-off points.
Lizzie decided to collect donations from others, as well. She contacted principals at Prairie Elementary, Waunakee Middle School and Waunakee Intermediate School to help get the word out among fellow students.
“They were for it. It grew into this huge successful project,” Lizzie said.
She also approached other MBA students, and two had contacts with Fiskars and Dynatek, so those company also donated supplies.
“That’s how it really exploded,” Jared said.
The family ended up with 12 suitcases containing 500 pounds of supplies. Some of the MBA students traveling to Johannesburg dropped suitcases off there; others brought the supplies along to Cape Town.
Monetary contributions helped offset the cost for the extra checked baggage.
Jared, Lizzie and her brother, Benton, met with Grow Africa, who would transport the supplies to schools in Zimbabwe.
The Cralems also saw the sights during the trip, they said.
“We got to see a ton of animals,” Lizzie said, including zebras, giraffes, elephants, wildebeests and lions.
They also visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated. Their tour guide had been imprisoned there, as well, and knew him, Jared said.
Lizzie said though traveling is expensive, she loves visiting different places and would like to do more projects like it.
“We’re really proud of her,” her father said. “She did this on her own. All we did was talk about ideas of how would collect supplies.”
For more information about Pack for a Purpose, visit packforapurpose.org.