Suburban Girl Finds Out She's a Princess

ByABC News via logo
September 19, 2006, 7:44 AM

Sept. 19, 2006 — -- Adopted two days after her first birthday, Sarah Culberson grew up the youngest daughter in a close-knit family from Morgantown, W.Va.

She was surrounded by love in her home, but always wondered about her roots.

Searching to unlock the secrets of her past, at age 22, Culberson began searching for her birth parents.

She quickly learned that her mom had died a dozen years earlier from cancer.

Culberson was crushed. A few years later, a private investigator helped her locate her birth father, along with an unbelievable surprise.

Culberson wasn't an average suburban girl -- she was a princess.

Her father, a ruling member of the Mende Tribe in Bumpe, Sierra Leone, was living in Africa.

By birthright, Culberson was royalty.

She could one day be known as paramount chief in a country she's never seen.

Talking with ABC's Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America," Culberson said it took a while to process the shock of discovering her biological dad.

"It took a couple of years to kind of deal with finding my father and having two dads," she said.

Her father invited her to Africa to meet her family.

The entire Bumpe community came out to welcome its princess -- a happy homecoming for the American girl who never knew that by searching for her birth parents, she'd find herself.

"They were amazing," Culberson said, remembering her first impression of the Bumpe. "There are about 200 [people] to 300 people there to welcome you in the ceremony, singing, dancing, and I was like, 'What did I do to deserve this?'"

While she found Sierra Leone beautiful and exciting, it was also heartbreaking.

Culberson saw people suffering from the 11-year civil war. The school where her father worked as a headmaster was in desperate need of rebuilding. She wanted to help.

Now 30, Culberson's settled from the shock of meeting her father and learning about her family.

She's started a nonprofit foundation for her father's community.

The Kposowa Foundation is dedicated to rebuilding the school buildings of Bumpe High School, which was destroyed during the civil war. She's also making a documentary about her trip.