A study-abroad semester at the University of Ghana during her junior year changed Heather Bowden's ('11) life forever. "I started volunteering with a school, which was just a porch on a building in Accra. It served those who couldn't afford formal education," she says. Over a period of two months she discovered an affinity for teaching and developed a strong attachment to her students. "I fell in love with those kids."
Heather spent time exploring the country. During one of her excursions she visited the village of Nsumensa (in-soo-men-suh) in Ghana's Volta Region. She learned that a fire had nearly destroyed Nsumensa roughly 10 years ago, wiping out many homes and farms as well as the village's two schools. The population had plummeted from 800 residents to approximately 100, and educational opportunities for the village's remaining children ceased to exist.
"After learning about the children in the village having no school to attend," she says, "the village chief and I collaborated and decided to start a school that we believed would also help rejuvenate the village."
Bowden moved to Nsumensa and became a one-woman force in bringing the new school to fruition. Today, the Nsumensa Village Project is a running school with two full-time village resident teachers and 33 students.