’burg and Beyond

In Lewisburg and far afield, Bucknellians make a positive and palpable difference
Debra Gonkpah ’26 holding brick above her head
Photo: Arch Media Agency
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Deborah Gonkpah ’26 received a $10,000 grant to fund the construction of two public latrines in Liberia.
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Deborah Gonkpah ’26 was 12 years old when an Ebola outbreak killed thousands of people in her native Liberia. Three years earlier, her cousin died of cholera. The stark consequences of her community’s lack of sufficient resources and health education inspired her to take action. “Having those events occur in my life made me passionate about wanting to improve the health system,” she says.

Today, Gonkpah is working to improve sanitation facilities in her home country. “In Liberia, open defecation is a major problem that is linked to the spread of disease,” she says. “Access to a sanitary toilet shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be a basic human right.”

What She Did

In 2021, as a high school student, Gonkpah organized the construction of a public latrine, a project she accomplished through her own fundraising. She realized applying for grant money could enable her to expand her efforts. In 2023, she received a $10,000 Davis Project for Peace grant, which allowed her to spend her summer break in Liberia overseeing the construction of two more toilets. She also organized a public service campaign about sanitation and hygiene.

What’s Next

Gonkpah hasn’t yet declared a major, but she is interested in pursuing an area of study that would prepare her for a career in biological research and diplomacy. Her ultimate goal is to install 100 public toilets in Liberia. “I will keep applying for grants and use every opportunity to fund this project,” she says. “Public latrines promote health and well-being and also create social cohesion through towns that share and care for them.”

—Katie Neitz

Taking Action

Deborah Gonkpah ’26 spent the summer in Liberia working to construct a public latrine, a project she funded with a Davis Project for Peace grant. She also organized a public-service campaign to spread awareness about sanitation and hygiene.
Photos: Arch Media Agency