By Morgan Bryce
Backpack International Inc. is hosting a community-wide packing event called “Christmas in a Backpack” Dec. 21 at Opelika’s Southview Assembly of God Church.
According to Backpack International founder and president Osyln Rodriguez, more than 500 donated backpacks will be filled with 20 to 25 items ranging from toys to hygiene items for underprivileged children in Alabama, Belize and Rodriguez’s home country of Guyana.
“These items mean a great deal to the children and their parents. For parents who can barely afford to put food on the table for their children, it’s one less thing they have to worry about,” Rodriguez said. “It gives parents a boost to see their children smile. For the children who receive the backpacks, it’s an opportunity to just enjoy being a child and not have to worry about their needs. It gives them the confidence to show up in school knowing their have some supplies. A confident child is unstoppable.”
This packing event is an add-on to the organization’s regular packing event held in May, which precedes their annual trip to Guyana.
Lasting from 9 a.m. to noon, volunteers of all ages will work in unison to fill every backpack in that three-hour window. Those interested in volunteering can do so through a Facebook event page and clicking through a SignUp Genius or Volunteer Match link.
The Auburn Mall Starbucks will provide coffee for volunteers, and Praise 88.7 FM will be on-site that day play Christmas favorites. Chick-fil-A of Tiger Town will be providing a limited number of dessert cards.
Churmell Mitchell of Game Changer Photography will capture the event. Also attending the event will be Auburn University mascot Aubie, who will pose for pictures with guests and volunteers.
Donations are still welcomed, and will be accepted at the Auburn Therapy and Learning Center (2408 E. University Drive, Suite 109) and the Travis Carswell Allstate Insurance Agency (2352 Pepperell Parkway) until the week of the event. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the following address:
P.O. Box 95
Auburn, AL 36831
For more information, like and follow Backpack International’s social media pages or visit www.backpackinternational.org.
About Backpack International Inc.
“Established in 2015, Backpack International’s founder Oslyn Rodriguez visited Guyana after 14 years to celebrate her grandfather’s 85th birthday. Her family held an outdoor gathering and invited children from the local village to share in the celebration. About 50 children arrived. As everyone sang songs and enjoyed food and drinks, Oslyn began to look around the village. She didn’t see a playground or park. There was no community center or positive outlets for these children. She jotted in her journal that she needed to do something to make a difference in the lives of children and youth in Guyana. In the Summer of 2016, Backpack International, Inc. took a team of four volunteers to Guyana, South America. Partnering with two local churches, they were able to serve 102 children. They held a 3-day VBS, distributed daily meals and presented the children with certificates and backpacks filled with school supplies, hygiene items, toys, and more.
Every July since, Backpack International has traveled to Guyana to host their annual ‘Christmas in July’ Vacation Bible School Program. To date, Backpack International has given away more than 1,000 backpacks to children, youth, and adults in need. In June 2019, Backpack International expanded to include Sylacauga as another service area. They hosted Vacation Bible School, provided evening meals to children and families in the community and presented participants with bags filled with school supplies, hygiene products, toys, and more. Through their partnership with Campus Kitchens of Auburn University, they are able to provide hot meals to the hungry in Sylacauga. Backpack International also provides various volunteer opportunities for students, families, and groups throughout the year. Another component of Backpack International is Educational/Adventure Travel. Through their partnerships with organizations in Guyana, South America, students and individuals are able to experience another part of the world.”