Sarah Collins Bio Sarah Collins is a South African adventurer, entrepreneur, and lifelong social activist. She thrives on challenges and has worked tirelessly over the past two decades to inspire change in the realms of gender-equality and environmental sustainability. Sarah grew up in rural, apartheid-era South Africa in the 1970s. Her childhood inspired her lifework focusing on empowering women living below the poverty line through grassroots efforts. Educated in both the UK and South Africa, Sarah spent much of her school years challenging apartheid. She returned to Africa to launch and run a horseback riding safari business in Botswana, and has since devoted her life to community projects. Among others, her career has seen her run for political office, set-up her own NGO, and help local communities create thriving business to support their livelihood. Her first NGO, Take Bake Back the Future, sought to encourage young people to take ownership of the earth’s natural resources. Through this program, in partnership with the NGO LoveLife, more than 50,000 South Africans have been through wilderness and bush experiences. Many of those who went through the program are now senior rangers and conservationists. She also established the first community-based safari company - Planet Okavango. Within 1050sq miles of pristine wilderness, this community built Stanley’s Camp, a world-class lodge, which is now one of the primary sources of tourism for the area. In the political arena, Sarah founded the South African political party, Women Forward. Sarah used the party platform to highlight rural development for women in South Africa. With all of this on her plate, Sarah still wanted more. She was looking for something that would change lives, especially the lives of women and children, and make a dramatic difference. Sarah’s “light bulb moment” occurred in 2008 during a rolling power outage resulting from South Africa’s precarious electricity reserves. Wanting to still cook without the need for electricity, Sarah remembered her grandmother taking pots off the stove, wrapping them in blankets and furniture cushions, and hours later having a piping hot, perfectly cooked casserole to serve. This age-old method used the retained heat of the food to complete the cooking process. Sarah started experimenting with heat-retention cooking and came up with a convenient, modernized model called the Wonderbag. The Wonderbag was created to ease the impact of health, social, economic, and environmental problems facing Africa and developing countries. The Wonderbag, simply put, enhances rural women’s quality of life by drastically reducing time spent cooking. These women need much less wood to feed their cooking fires; therefore, they and their children do not inhale so much hazardous smoke and the risk of burning (food and far worse, children) is reduced. Because the time required for collecting firewood fuel is also reduced, children, especially girls, also have more access to education than they would otherwise. Sarah Collins Bio Her small home business has expanded into a global social impact solution. It is a dual model company with the Wonderbag Foundation, focusing on the poorest of the poor and a commercial retail business called Natural Balance. The busy Wonderbag factories produce hundreds of Wonderbags each day to meet local and international demand, especially through the Buy One, Donate One partnership with exclusive retail partner, Amazon.com. For each Wonderbag bought online, one is donated to a rural family in need in Africa. Since the bag has launched in 2008, over 700,000 bags have been distributed throughout Africa to families in need. Sarah has also taken the Wonderbag to the Middle East where it has been a gracious welcome in vast Syrian refugee camps. Sarah has been recognized as one of Oprah’s ‘heroines’ in the South African edition of O Magazine, spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos and voted one of the most powerful women entrepreneurs of the year by Fortune Magazine for 2013. Q&A Q. How did you come up with the design for the Wonderbag? A. The Wonderbag is filled with repurposed foam chips, a waste product of furniture and mattress manufacturing in South Africa that would otherwise be dumped. These are encased in traditional “shweshwe” African-print fabric sewn into the Wonderbag shape. This design was created by a township seamstress- Moshy Mathe- who I met in an airport line. She was wearing a shweshwe outfit. An immediate airplane companion, I showed Moshy a sketch of my idea and the very next day the first Wonderbag prototype was born. Q: Why should the world care about Wonderbag? A: Powerless is powerful. Wonderbag isn’t just a powerless cooker; it’s an instrument for change. The Wonderbag empowers women across Africa and the globe to participate in more activities outside of the home enhancing their quality of life. Wonderbag also has dramatic health and environmental effects by lowering smoke inhalation diseases and deaths, saving water, reducing our carbon footprint and minimizing deforestation. It is proof that a simple cooker can make both delicious food and a lasting difference. And because we are donating one Wonderbag to a family in need in Africa for every Wonderbag purchased in the U.S., Americans now have the amazing opportunity to empower others and be part of this social change. Q: Do you have any long-term goals for Wonderbag? A: I hope to have 100 million Wonderbags in circulation, in use, around the world by 2020. Q: Why did you set that goal? A: If we sell 100 million Wonderbags, we’d save 170 million trees and 100 billion liters of water. We’d create 100,000 new jobs and $3.6 billion in disposable income. Fewer children would die from smoke inhalation diseases and be back in school. 1 billion women would have a better quality of life. The socio-economic progress made for women in the developing world is truly dramatic. Q. Can you elaborate on the environmental impact that Wonderbag helps to alleviate? A. One Wonderbag per year saves 1.7 trees, 1000 liters of water, 1,248 hours of time not spent collecting firewood—this is just ONE Wonderbag. 1 job is created for every 1,000 bags.
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