Freshman Cassie Eng: Changing the World One Backpack at a Time


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Cassie Eng (‘22) is a perfect example of a local hero and a student changemaker. After all, how many freshmen do you know with their own charities? When she was only 11 years old, Eng started her own charity—which she calls Cassie’s bag of dreams—with Josh Mahinay, the founder of Be a Giver. Cassie’s Bag of Dreams works in conjunction with another organization called PEARLS, and  the Bag of Dreams project have given out around 1,500 backpacks to kids across the Philippines in need of school supplies.

“PEARLS stands for Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love and Smiles, and the founders’ mission is to help the poorest of the poor in the Philippines,” Eng told the Legend. “One of the communities lives on an active dumpsite in Manila, and they scavenge the trash for food [as] one of their meals… Project PEARLS set up a daily feeding program. PEARLS has also done scholarship programs to help kids get to school, [created] livelihood training for the parents, and [donated] money for clothes, food and schooling. When I’m in the Philippines, [where] I go to every summer, I volunteer and I help out with the feeding and the activities. It also connects to my personal project Cassie’s Bag of Dreams.” Eng met the founder of an organization called Be a Giver, and through that organization began her own foundation: Cassie’s Bag of Dreams.

“When you go to the Philippines, their poverty really hits you in the face. One of the common things you see when you visit Manila is kids running around with barely any clothes on [trying] to make money by begging. They also try to wash your car, so they come up to your car and they start trying to clean the windows hoping that they’ll get some extra change. [It’s] really heartbreaking especially because here we’re not really exposed to that level of poverty.”

Eng credits her interest in charity and helping other children to Michael Jackson—specifically, the song “Man in the Mirror.”  “Obviously that’s a great song, and it’s all about charity work and being a good world citizen and helping others. When I was watching that when I was like 5 I had no idea there were kids living in these kinds of conditions and they weren’t as privileged as me and because of that it really opened my eyes,” Eng admitted.

On top of being an Urban student and charitable entrepreneur, Eng is also a dancer. When asked how she manages to balance extracurricular activities, homework, and the charitable projects, she said they “are usually based around my time in the Philippines which is usually in the summer, so it’s not until the end of the school year that it gets really busy and that I start to spread the word about what I’m doing.”

Eng’s goals are ultimately to “see [poverty eradicated] while [she’s] still alive.” On top of that, she says says “The Bag of Dreams is focused on the youth, by the youth, so [I hope to] inspire other young people to get involved somehow, to take up this cause and join the movement to eradicate extreme poverty.”