Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Heather C. Cumming, May 20, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:26 - Introduction / Background

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Partial Transcript: Um my name is Heather Cumming, I am 42 years old, I have--um, a daughter named Radiance, she's 12.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says that she is 42 years old with a 12 year old daughter named Radiance. She says that she loves Africa and will take any opportunity to speak about it. Cumming explains that she is from Ohio, which she is grateful for because it is slower-paced and more friendly part of the country. She mentions that she worked with water supply issues in Africa and hopes to be able to help with more than just Africa in the future.

Keywords: Aid; Natural Resources; Water Supplies

Subjects: Africa; Nature; Ohio; Travel; Trees; United States

00:03:12 - The Weight of Water

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Partial Transcript: I-I call it the weight of water, and you don't realize like--what is dirty water.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming explains what she calls "the weight of water," which refers to how people have no idea how much water they're using when it's dripping out of a faucet. She claims that every village in Africa that she's ever been too, never used a bucket of water for only one thing. Cumming says that when you have to carry a heavy bucket of water home every time you need some, you start to appreciate the resource and conserve it, compared to what most people do in more technologically advanced civilizations. She claims that civilizations that don't have these technological advancements are more respectful to their resources and know the weight of water.

Keywords: Conservation; Cycles; Dirty Water; Landry; Tubs

Subjects: Africa; Faucets; Resources; Reuse; Villages; Water; Water-supply.

00:05:08 - Growing up in Ohio

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Partial Transcript: I loved it, I--I feel like I--well I--was definitely very privileged--girl, um, I don't think my siblings and I were spoiled, I would not use that word--um--but we had everything that we needed so I guess that is privilege.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says she grew up privileged and had everything she needed. She explains that she didn't realize her privileges in society until she was older, and she then realized she needed to share her privilege. She claims she was the second born child, and she felt like her older sister was hard to compete with because she was so smart and beautiful. She says being the middle child made her feel like nobody noticed her, and she liked that because she felt like she could do whatever she wanted. Cumming claims that growing up, she never felt like she mattered enough to make her parents proud, as she had three other siblings.

Keywords: Middle children

Subjects: Ohio; Privilege; Siblings; Society

GPS: Ohio, U.S.
Map Coordinates: 40.417286, -82.907120
00:11:54 - Parental Influence

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Partial Transcript: Talk about your parents though--like describe your parents to me.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says when she was a child, she was never really close with her dad because he was always at work. She explains that he was a defense attorney and says he had an impossible job, but needed to support his family. She claims her mother was incredible and they were very close, despite differences. Cumming says that she has realized that she believed in everything he believed in.

Keywords: Defense attorneys

Subjects: Attorneys; Criminal defense lawyers; Families; Fathers; Justice; Lawyers; Love; Parents

00:16:12 - Family Dynamic

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Partial Transcript: Okay so--how--how would you describe like--like just a--just to give you a--get a sense of--you know the family dynamic.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says their family would look forward to a family vacation every summer and they always had a lot of fun. She claims that all the siblings knew that they would have to go to college because their parents forced them. She also claims that they would make everyone eat dinner at the table together every night. Cumming says her parents got divorced when she was 18 so she never thinks of herself with someone with divorced parents because she was already about to move out.

Keywords: College; Dinner Table; Family; Family Dinner; Trips; Vacations

Subjects: Colorado; Divorce; Family vacations; Meal; Parents; Summer; Travel; Values

00:18:59 - College Plans

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so, um, I--I was going to be a fashion designer--yeah.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says that in college, she planned on being a fashion designer. She explains that she loved seeing costumes match the landscaping in films and was also interested in makeup. She claims that on a phone call, her boyfriends mother told her that she always thought she would do something so much deeper with her life and not fashion design, and that stuck with her. Cumming says that she tried really hard in art school, but always struggled because she was not good at art. She states that she believes that it was all meant to happen this way.

Keywords: Art Classes; Art School; Clothing; College; Makeup (Cosmetics)

Subjects: Costumes; Designers; Designs; Drawing; Expression; Fashion.; Halloween; University of Cincinnati

GPS: University of Cincinnati
Map Coordinates: 39.132923, -84.514954
00:27:46 - Moving to Colorado

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Partial Transcript: The best friend I ever had--um, that I'm not in contact--with her anymore--but I met her in the dorms my freshmen year at the University of Cincinnati and she and I decided that together we were going to move to Colorado.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says that she and her freshmen year roommate decided that they wanted to move to Colorado because her boyfriend and his other two friends moved out there as well. She claims that after the school year was done, they moved out there with many of her other high school friends. She states that she was not going to school, but she just needed to be around this group of friends because they helped her get through her parents divorce and the trauma it brought to her.

Keywords: College; Family; Friends; Moving; Relationships; Trauma

Subjects: Colorado; Divorce; High school; Ohio; Parents; Travel; University of Cincinnati

GPS: Boulder, Colorado
Map Coordinates: 40.016869, -105.279617
00:35:13 - Working in a Dental Office

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Partial Transcript: I had to take a year off and I worked--um as a uh--I--I worked in a dentist office, and I cleaned--I sterilized dental instruments.

Segment Synopsis: Cuming explains that she had to take a year off to gain residency for in-state tuition, so during that time she worked in a dentist office. She says she asked many questions and went from sterilizing tools, to taking X-rays, to prophylaxis for children, to then answering phones and scheduling appointments.

Keywords: Appointments and Schedules; In-state tuition; Prophylaxis, Dental

Subjects: Children; Dentistry; Dentists; Insurance; Sterilization; X-rays

GPS: Boulder, Colorado
Map Coordinates: 40.016869, -105.279617
00:38:52 - Getting into the humanities

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Partial Transcript: He--um had mentioned to me--oh--um--Heather you should--you should do humanities.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says that a friends of hers encouraged her to do humanities in college because she didn't really know what she wanted to do, but she wanted to be able to learn. She mentions that he explained that the humanities was the art of thinking and feeling, and that she ended up loving all the classes she started taking. Cummings says she eventually got a college job at Wild Oats Market.

Keywords: Wild Oats Market

Subjects: College majors; Colorado; Humanities; Learning; Markets; University of Colorado Boulder

GPS: Boulder, Colorado
Map Coordinates: 40.016869, -105.279617
00:42:19 - Night Class Influences

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Partial Transcript: Night classes--like I want to--might try to make my daughter before she goes to college, take some night classes .

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says an original reason why she didn't like school was because she didn't like how the immaturity of everyone lead them to be cruel to one another. She expresses the importance of raising children to be kind. Cumming explains that she loved her night classes because it was about learning and not social factors, or who was the coolest in the class. Cumming says that she also saw this in her humanities classes because her classmates were valuable as the professor or the books.

Keywords: Night classes; Night school; Peers; Professors

Subjects: Books; Bullies; Classmates; Education; Humanities; Learning; Social; Students

GPS: Boulder, Colorado
Map Coordinates: 40.016869, -105.279617
00:44:47 - Learning in the humanities

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Partial Transcript: I go in and--I guess I was early--but that never happens, but maybe I was early--and I go in and I'm waiting and this like guy walks in and I just look at him and I'm like that cannot be the professor.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming describes one of her humanities professors as wearing very different clothing with a shaved head covered in tattoos and skull earnings, and says this was because all of her humanities professors were not afraid to be themselves and real. She says that being older, she has realized that human beings that are of value to her are ones that know themselves. Cumming says that we get caught up in chaos when we ask society who we are. Cumming says that the humanities not only allowed students to find themselves, but to study details and understand that learning comes with many layers.

Keywords: Professors; Skeletons; Tattoos

Subjects: Human beings; Humanities; Individuality; Society; Values; Wisdom

GPS: Boulder, Colorado
Map Coordinates: 40.016869, -105.279617
00:49:33 - Connections to Africa

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Partial Transcript: Was there any kind of foreshadowing of that where was--was there sort of a mentor who had connected you to Africa in terms of--or some--what--what--was there anything connecting you to Africa at this point.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says she took an African Ensemble class her senior year of college because she expected it to be easy and not strict on attendance. She explains that the professor was from Ghana and he was who "gave her Africa." She also explains that when she was younger, her grandparents went to Africa and sent a postcard. She claims that ever since then she has wanted to go to Africa.

Keywords: Electives; Postcards; Professors

Subjects: Africa; African Ensemble; Ghana; Grandparents; Travel

GPS: University of Colorado Boulder
Map Coordinates: 40.005710, -105.259010
00:52:05 - Introduction to Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: My senior year of high school--excuse me--college, I just spent doing all the stuff that Peace Corp makes you do.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says she spent her entire senior year of college preparing for Peace Corps so she could finally go to Africa. She claims that she really learned about the Peace Corps because there was a recruiter on campus and then went to an introduction night that gave her all the information.

Keywords: Campus; Recruiting; Senior year

Subjects: Africa; Peace Corps (U.S.); Volunteers

00:53:45 - Studying Abroad

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Partial Transcript: I left out such an important part--and forgive me--um my junior year of college I studied abroad in England.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says she studied abroad in England her junior year of college. She says she studied 40 minutes outside of London at a college called The University of East Anglia. She claims that while she was there, she had friends in France and Ireland that she was able to go see. Cumming says that going to England opened her to the world.

Keywords: Study abroad

Subjects: England; France; Ireland; London (England); Travel; University of East Anglia

GPS: Norwich, England
Map Coordinates: 52.628101, 1.299350
00:56:18 - Visiting India

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Partial Transcript: And then what blew me through the celling was my graduation gift to myself--I know everyone gives you some money or something you graduated from college.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says that she was friends with an exchange student from India, and because she was so kind to her, her mother invited her to visit them in India. She claims that that visit was the first time she had laid eyes on "toxic poverty". She explains that she had to process the whole situation because it hit her hard how rough it was for the people there. Cumming says she was also the sickest she had ever been while in India. She claims this experience proved to her that she could do Africa and was open to it.

Keywords: Exchange students; Graduation; Processes; Sickness; toxic poverty

Subjects: Africa; English; India; Poverty; Travel

GPS: India
Map Coordinates: 20.593683, 78.962883
01:02:22 - Peace Corps Training Experience

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Partial Transcript: Explain to me--how does Peace Corps train somebody?

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says she is biased because she loves the Peace Corps and uses their value system with her current project. She says her training started in Philadelphia. She states that she knew what she was going to be doing, but she didn't care because she was willing to do anything. Cumming explains that she is an introvert and liked to be around older people most the time, which is why she was terrified to be around people her own age for a long period of time.

Keywords: Bias; Disbelief; Grandparents; Systems

Subjects: Introverts; Peace Corps (U.S.); Philadelphia (Pa.); Schools; Training; Values

01:07:57 - Staging in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Peace Corps had you in Philly--for how long?

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says they did staging in Philadelphia for 2-3 days. She explains that she got there a day late because of the weather in Ohio caused her to miss her flights. She claims that she believes that she never felt like a part of the group because of this reason, which ultimately made her more connected to the Africans. Cumming says she got to staging and everyone had made friends, and she always felt behind.

Keywords: Airports; Bonds; Delays, Flight; Friends; Inclement weather; Staging

Subjects: Africans; Airplanes; Americans; Peace Corps (U.S.); Philadelphia (Pa.); Training; Weather

GPS: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 39.952583, -75.165222
01:12:30 - In-Country Training / Host Family Issues

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Partial Transcript: I always thought that Peace Corps did like a state-side months and months of training preparing you for things--

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says that Peace Corps changed their training system and instead of training in the U.S. they train in the country they are assigned to. She explains that this helps volunteers absorb the culture by living with a host family before they are just thrown into it. She states that she had to be removed from her host family during training because the host father was trying to have a romantic relationship with her. Cumming says that her host family was just a husband and wife, and the wife was not feeding her and the husband made her feel in danger.

Keywords: Training systems

Subjects: Culture; Food; Host Family; Peace Corps (U.S.); Safety; Training; Value; Zambia

GPS: Zambia
Map Coordinates: -13.133897, 27.849333
01:18:54 - First Impressions of Zambia

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Partial Transcript: Talk about your first impressions of Zambia when you went over for training.

Segment Synopsis: Cumming says her first impressions of Zambia were of how safe it felt. She explained that when they first got there, they flew into Johannesburg which is one of the most violent cites in the world. She claims that once you do research of African history and culture, you can understand the aggression, but she was still scared at first. However, she claims that when she got to Zambia, it was an entirely different dynamic and she felt very safe. Cumming says that Zambians have always been very happy and kind because the land has always been theirs after the British colonization.

Keywords: Independence; Zambians

Subjects: Africa; British; Colonization; Copper; Culture; Imperialism; Johannesburg (South Africa); Safety; Tribes; Violence; Zambia

GPS: Zambia
Map Coordinates: -13.133897, 27.849333