How tourists can save lives on their travels

by Tamara Hardingham-Gill, CNN
(CNN) — Vacationing in developing countries can sometimes leave travelers feeling uneasy, particularly if they’re concerned that tourism may be doing more harm than good.
But giving back doesn’t necessarily have to mean months of volunteer work.
In fact, tourists can help to make a difference in the country they’re visiting by simply bringing along an extra suitcase with them.
Organization Not Just Tourists provides a service that allows travelers potentially to save lives by taking much-needed medical supplies to isolated foreign clinics.
“It’s kind of a small way for travelers to say thank you for the hospitality,” says Avi D’Souza, founder of the Not Just Tourists (NJT) Toronto branch.

The beginning

A typical Not Just Tourists suitcase

The medical supplies are packed up in suitcases by volunteers during regular “packing parties.”
Courtesy Not Just Tourists
The NJT movement began in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1990, when doctor Ken Taylor and his wife Denise started personally delivering medical supplies to remote areas of Cuba after noticing a lack of provisions during a bike trip to the country.
The couple were soon approached by others who wanted to get involved, and began contacting local hospitals, pharmacies and drug companies for contributions.
D’Souza decided to set up a branch in Toronto after seeing a suitcase being brought to a small island off the coast of Honduras.
“I thought it was such a good idea,” he says. “I started it [the Toronto chapter] in my parent’s garage. It began with nothing and we’ve grown to now having over 1,000 volunteers, sending to 63 different countries.”
Over the years, the organization has stretched across Canada, with branches in Ottawa, Montreal, London, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Saint John. It now distributes to various countries across the world, including Syria and Peru.
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