Under the Monocle: Zikora’s drive to give back to her roots


Photo courtesy of Zikora Nnam

A pictured captured by Nnam of a Nigerian man on his motorcycle.

The time is 7:00 am. You’ve showered, eaten breakfast, and are about to depart on a long and treacherous walk from your home to York Community High School. It is a groggy Monday morning, and the air is humid– the last thing you want to do is walk to school. Now imagine, to make the feat even worse, you don’t have any shoes and must embark on the journey barefoot.

As far fetched as the scenario may be, halfway around the world, this is the norm for a lot of people.

Junior Zikora Nnam, inspired by stories of her parent’s upbringing, has pioneered a project to bring shoes and toys to children in Nigeria and Ethiopia. Collecting these items through the end of the school year, she plans to deliver the donations when she visits the countries this summer.

“I’m organizing a collection of shoes of any condition or size to bring to Africa when I visit Nigeria and Ethiopia this summer,” Nnam said. “I’m not limiting it to just shoes. Students can also donate clothing, toys, or any other resources they feel that a child or person living in Ethiopia or Nigeria would need.”

Both of Zikora’s parents were born and raised in Nigeria. Eventually, they moved to the United States after high school in order to escape poverty and find better job opportunities. Growing up, Zikora’s father told many stories about what his life was like. Owning shoes was one of the many luxuries of life missed out on.

“My dad’s favorite sport was soccer,” Nnam said. “Although, to play he had to make a ball out of tying a bunch of cloths together. He and his brothers would kick around the ball of cloth just like it was real soccer.

While hearing these stories is enough to impact a person, seeing the poverty is a whole other experience. Nearly every year, Zikora and her family visit the rest of their family in Nigeria. Passing through extremely impoverished places, she has seen this misfortune up close.

“Sometimes we would be driving, and kids will come knocking on our car windows begging for money,” Nnam said. “It deeply impacted me as a person to see people living in poverty to the extent where they had to beg strangers for any resources they could get.”

Her experiences have helped her understand the opportunity and blessings she has been granted growing up in a country like America and a town like Elmhurst. Although she has taken it a step further, calling an initiative to give back to those who are less fortunate and bridging a gap between communities halfway around the globe from each other.

“She’s really good at getting people to work together,” Zikora’s junior English teacher Mrs. Shackleton said. “The fact that she is pioneering this project with something to contribute when she goes to visit has a really strong impact. I think it says a lot about her character, and that her efforts are always directed toward helping.”

In addition to the drive, Zikora and her family are executing medical missions when they visit Nigeria. Her father, a professor of African world studies at Dominican University, has gotten students and faculty involved in the African culture through these missions.

“On the first medical Mission, we went to Nigeria, took people’s blood pressures and then gave them any necessary treatment,” Nnam said. “We plan on doing the same thing when we go back this summer to provide more service to them that they don’t currently have.”

Growing up in a town like Elmhurst, many of us may forget to appreciate the basic necessities of life that are guaranteed to us. While we all go through hardships, it is important to remember the things we do have and to never forget to give back to the community.

“It’s important to see how these kids would find happiness with the little that they have.” Nnam said. “I could only imagine the happiness they would have if they were given the real resources and toys they dream of.”

Zikora is seen as a positive influence all throughout her life– a characteristic many can testify too.

“I think Zikora’s shoe drive is awesome because she is donating back to where her parents came from,” Nnam’s teammate and sophomore Grace Maniola said. “She always wants to make an impactful change.”

Zikora hopes to make a difference, not only for those who are in need but hopefully share her insightful perspective on the world with her peers. Zikora’s drive is a way to stress the importance of service and giving back.

“When I relate my situation to the people in my parent’s home country, I start to realize how fortunate I am.” Nnam said. “I hope my drive can have the same impact on the student body.”