Pack for a Purpose is a nonprofit organization that enables travelers to take school, medical and other supplies directly to Cuba and other communities around the globe.

On November 15, Cuba re-opened its doors to travellers after the twenty month lockdown following the pandemic. Although embargo restrictions are still in place for U.S. visitors, there are many ways to legally travel to Cuba and with that travel, bring everyday supplies that Cuba so desperately needs. 

Rebecca Rothney is the chairwoman for Pack for a Purpose, an organization that assists travelers in giving back to the communities they visit. The group was born from Rothney’s trips to Africa and from her strong southern roots, instilling in her the value that she must always bring a gift to her gracious host. Since their inception, Rebecca’s destination list has grown to include dozens of countries all over the globe. 

It was only a matter of time before Cuba was added to the list.

Rebecca Rothney is the founder of Pack for a Purpose. Photo: Pack for a Purpose

Rebecca had always wanted to serve Cuba, however, she found it difficult without an accountable organization to work with on the ground. For years, she fielded questions (mostly from Canadians who easily travel to Cuba) regarding why Cuba wasn’t one of their destinations. She adamantly shook her head when people wondered if Cuba’s absence from the list was for political reasons. 

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“Absolutely not,” Rebecca said. “I just didn’t know a way to get into Cuba.”

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Enter Cindy White.

Cindy White is Cuban-American and owns a bed and breakfast called Chateau-Blanc in Nuevo Vedado.

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Cindy’s B&B is absolutely unique in that it is kosher, and partners with two synagogues in Havana. With this connection, Pack for a Purpose secured a spot through which their supply deliveries could be funneled. Cindy donates the supplies to a Havana pharmacy connected to one of the synagogues. She also runs a Cuba specialized person-to-person travel agency that also pairs with Rebecca and her team. Although neither Rothney or White are absolutely certain of the numbers, Cindy believes about thirty travelers have brought supplies to Cuba through Pack for a Purpose. 

Chateau blanc kosher airbnb cuba
Chateau Blanc in Vedado is a Pack for a Purpose partner in Cuba.

The list of needs is quite thorough and can be found on Pack for a Purpose’s website under Destinations: Cuba. Rebecca notes that these lists are crucial for people who would like to bring goods to Cuba and other places served by Pack for a Purpose. 

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“It does a traveller no good to guess what the country needs,” Rebecca said. “With this list, you know exactly what they need.”

Although travel stopped because of the pandemic, Pack for a Purpose is hopeful that with the lift of travel restrictions, supplies will again be delivered to Cuba and other destinations that so need them. 

(Hero image photo: Karen Vierbuchen)

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Kate Oberdorfer is a writer from Tampa, Florida. She studied English and music at Mount Holyoke College, and spent a semester in Havana in 2007. She has returned to the island almost every year since then. Kate wrote her master’s thesis on the Cubans of Union City, New Jersey at the Columbia Journalism School. She is currently finishing her first book in Bethany Beach, DE. Kate loves to cook, sing, and dance and is a diehard Washington Capitals fan.

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