Millions of children around the world walk to school, carrying their books and school supplies in their hands or plastic bags because they cannot afford a backpack.
After witnessing this while on trips to Cameroon, Mongai Fankam initiated ‘No Backpack Day’ in 2012 in the USA.
‘No BackPack Day’ is a day children in the USA go to school without their backpacks, carrying all their books and school supplies in their hands or plastic bags to raise awareness for the millions of children around the world who have to walk long distances to school and cannot afford backpacks.
Fankam (19) told Youth Corner on her recent visit to Namibia that she started this project when she was 8 years old – and 10 years later, she has managed to donate over 20 000 bags with school stationery to learners.
“I just want them (USA learners) to realise how fortunate they are to get a new backpack every year, unlike others who have to reuse a backpack or don’t have one at all,” shared the University of North Carolina nursing student.
While in Windhoek, Fankam donated some bags to the SOS Children’s Village and the Megameno Orphanage.
Jeremiah Shaalukeni, the spokesperson of the Megameno Orphanage, said the donation came just in time.
“We were in dire need of bags. We are happy to receive these donations from Mongai and will forever be grateful. We have about 20 learners who are attending school – and now, they will be able to carry their books in clean, new bags,” he said.
SOS Children’s Village’s youth development officer Dennis Kharuchab said this generous gift means a lot to the institution, and it is a kind gesture they are not taking lightly.
“She travelled from the US and selected us. She could have given it to anyone else but we were chosen; that means a lot to us, and we appreciate this. We will be getting 100 bags. This means there are people out there who care for orphans, and there is a need for them to be given hope,” he said ecstatically.
Relying mostly on donors, both of these institutions require basic needs like cleaning materials, groceries and other necessities.
The number of children who grow up without parental care or are at the edge of losing it is on the upsurge in Namibia.
According to several humanitarian organisations, this represents a sombre development concern for the government of African countries.
“I am huge on girl empowerment, so I have done a few projects related to that in the US. I want to expand to work with different girls and different African countries that I have
visited. Another project that I want to do is to start giving out scholarships to students as well,” she noted.
Fankam has worked with, among others, the former First Lady of Cape Verde Ligia Fonseca, Angola’s Ana Afonso Dias Lourenco, the former President of Malawi Joyce Banda and Zambia’s former First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa.