When Mongai Fankam of Charlotte, North Carolina was 3 years old, she began accompanying her mother to the Republic of Cameroon, a country in west central Africa. During her visits, Fankam would notice children walked miles to school carrying their books and school supplies in their hands. These children’s books were easily destroyed when it rained.
When she turned eight and entered third grade, Fankam launched the No Backpack Day Movement with the support of her elementary school. She launched this effort to raise awareness of the millions of youth around the world who do not have backpacks and have to walk to school each day carrying their school supplies in their hand. She challenged her entire school to come to school for a day without a backpack and carry their school supplies in their hands or in plastic bags. In addition, her school decided to offer additional support to the cause by donating backpacks and school supplies to kids in need.
By May 2012, eight schools had joined in this movement and donated more than 500 backpacks filled with school supplies. In the summer of 2012, Fankam, her mom, and some friends travelled to Cameroon to distribute these school bags. To date, more than 25 schools in North Carolina and Georgia have participated in this movement and they have donated more than 4,000 backpacks and school supplies to children in Cameroon and Sierra Leone.
Through this initiative, Fankam has been able to raise awareness of the more than 120 million children in the world who walk to school every day carrying their books and school supplies in their hands. In addition, her initiative has provided backpacks for children who are now able to attend school with dignity and respect along with certainty that the weather and other elements will not easily destroy their school supplies.