azin amlk n g girls
At f i r s t, Mongai Fankam may look like any other 11-year-old girl, but the first clue that she’s extraordinary is her big, beautiful smile. In it one can see her love and compassion, and that’s only the beginning.
This 6th grader, who attends Carolina International School in Concord, has been a world traveler since she was 3 years old. She has met with U.S. Senator Chris Coons, the committee chair on Africa. She has done television and radio interviews, including Radio Disney. In 2012, just before entering the third grade, Mongai accompanied her mother, Abong Ngranui-Fankam, co-founder of A Place of Hope, to Cameroon, West Africa.
at 8 years old. In her first year, eight local schools collected supplies and 500 backpacks. Three years later, Mongai’s efforts, along with 35 schools have collected 7,000 backpacks of supplies! Personally, Mongai understands the value of school supplies. Her personal favorite is her notebook. “It helps me to be organized.” Her goal for this year is 10,000 backpacks. Currently, she has 3,000. And one may be surprised to know all these items are not in a rented storage facility—but in her family garage. Talk about a family commitment!
Mongai was moved seeing other children walk to school, carrying their school supplies in their hands or in plastic bags. When she returned home, Mongai created a No Backpack Day at her school, Blythe Elementary in Huntersville, to raise global awareness for a very specific need for children her own age halfway around the world.
When she’s not campaigning to help others, Mongai truly is down to earth. She is a strong math student, and she relishes shoe shopping and seeing her favorite film series: Fast & Furious. Close with her mom, she enjoys hearing her mother recall stories of growing up in Cameroon. For now, she wants to be an actress when she grows up, but she quickly adds, “And I want to do what I’m doing now. It’s important.” The best compliment I ever got was ‘Keep up the good work.’”
Despite having created an activity that may make some children uncomfortable, Mongai says most of her school peers participated readily. This awareness launched Mongai’s career as an activist
This summer, she’ll travel again to Cameroon, for her grandmother’s 75th birthday and to distribute school supplies—so many, they will have to be transported in a shipping container.
For more information or to hold your own No Backpack Day
event, visit www.nobackpackday.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
favoritebook? “I Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch, teaches us to always love and care for our loved ones no matter how old they are.”
| june 2015
By: amy hallman