School Backpack for Africa

Many children don’t have access to basic school supplies. Can you imagine learning to write or do math without pens and pencils? We have recently been asked to fill some backpacks with supplies for a charity.

Most of the time, it will be cheaper to donate money to a charity, so that they can buy supplies locally. However, sometimes you will be asked to fill a backpack or box yourself, which is actually a lot of fun to do. You will usually be given a list, but might still be wondering where to go shopping. When we were asked, this is what we bought and what it cost. We put together 2 backpacks, one for a boy and one for a girl. Each backpack cost £49 to put together.

backpacks for Africa


Obviously, you will need an age-appropriate backpack. You will be able to get one at most local stores. Look out for discounts, of course. We were disorganised and got ours at the last minute from Argos: Nike classic backpacks for £16.99. We could easily have saved at least £7 on this if we looked on time.

It is worth mentioning Decathlon and Mountain Warehouse here. Decathlon’s basic backpack is only £2.99 (assorted colours) and even if you don’t like this one, you’ll be able to get something reasonable for only a few pounds more. Prices at Mountain Warehouse are also low, currently you can get a decent backpack for £6.99. It varies what models they have on offer.

TOTAL: £17 / bag, but could easily have been less.

School Supplies

This is my standard list for these kind of donations:

  • paper and notebooks – A4 pad, notebooks;
  • pens and pencils: felt tip pens, HB and coloured pencils, highlighters, pens;
  • pencil sharpener;
  • erasers: these can be fun shapes and colours;
  • solar calculator;
  • maths set and ruler;
  • glue sticks;
  • pencil case.

We got these items from our local The Original Factory Shop for £1 each, but you can also get them for about the same price at The Works or at Poundland. The maths set is usually about £2.

Exam revision essentials kit £9 at the Works.

TOTAL: £11 / bag

Things to Wear

There is, of course, the problem of sizing, so it’s impossible to send proper clothes in a generic package. But you can still include some things that parents and children will appreciate.

We have been asked to include underwear. Baseball caps are also a good idea and if your package is going to a country where they are needed, you could include hats, gloves and scarves, as many people still suffer badly during cold weather.

It is nice to include some fun items as well that will, hopefully, bring a smile to kids’ faces: sunglasses for all and for girls hairbands and kids’ costume jewellery.

TOTAL: £7 / bag

Hygiene Items

Again, these things can be super useful and might be shared around in a struggling family. I have included:

  • soap;
  • toothbrushes and toothpaste;
  • a face towel;
  • a hairbrush or comb.

Again, they cost about £1 each. If your donation is for teenage girls, they would probably appreciate a pack of sanitary pads too.

TOTAL: £4 / bag

Other Practical Things

We have also included a water bottle. These seem to cost £2 at most shops. It would have been a good idea to get a solar powered torch too, but most of these are expensive to buy locally and I didn’t think of it on time to order one from Amazon, where you can get a decent brand (Draper) solar torch for £4.

TOTAL: £2 / bag

Things for Fun

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy and your backpack very boring!

I like to include one “premium” toy and put it right on the top so it catches kids’ eyes when they open their gift. By premium, I mean about £5 on sale. This time, I got a stuffed toy for a girl and a toy car for a boy.

Other fun, inexpensive things include:

  • colouring books, dot-to-dot puzzle books;
  • small jigsaw puzzles;
  • balloons;
  • yoyos;
  • a harmonica;
  • stickers.

The advantage of these is that they often come in packs that can be split up. £1 will get you:

  • at Morrison’s, one of these: 4 bouncy balls, 4 yo-yos, 4 mini pinball games,
  • at Poundland, £1 will buy you 5 mini street racer cars
  • at  The Works 6 mini ink stampers

It’s also nice to include a sporty toy, like an inflatable football or a skipping rope. Ask if you are allowed to include a bag of sweets, well within use-by date.

TOTAL: £8 / bag


Treat is like a gift! Remove price tags where possible and add a ribbon or two.


Not everything is suitable. If in doubt, ask. This time we weren’t given a list of don’ts, but in the past we have been told not to include:

  • battery operated toys, etc.;
  • anything to do with violence: toy guns, soldiers, etc.;
  • anything sharp, e.g. scissors;
  • anything fragile, e.g. mirrors;
  • anything that will leak, e.g. bubbles;
  • handmade toys without a CE label;
  • anything to do with religion and politics;
  • anything to do with gambling: traditional playing cards, dice, etc.;
  • anything in foreign languages (this might include English).

Always check if food items are allowed and make sure whatever you include is well within use-by date.

There are also a couple of marginal items that I don’t include, because they may make a mess or not be as useful, in particular, Play-Doh and glitter.

Places to Shop

I bet you already know where all your local discount shops are! It is likely to be cheaper to buy these inexpensive items locally, rather than going online. We did our shopping at our local The Original Factory Store and Sainsbury’s.

You will find what you need in most supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons – and at Costco, if you have a membership.

You will be able to get most things but probably not everything in your local discount store: TK Maxx, Poundland, Poundshop, Poundstretcher, The Works or The Original Factory Shop. Decathlon is worth looking at not just for backpacks, but also for things like balls, baseball caps, socks, hats, scarves, gloves and torches.

If you are shopping online, look for pocket money toys or party bag fillers when buying your fun items.

Most importantly, have fun putting your package together!


Author: zsuzsanna

Zsuzsanna hates buying things full-price. That’s why she is Admin and Twitter Queen at

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