I recently read a short business news blurb on the internet somewhere about a woman, Sarah Collins, who had spent a good portion of her life trying to help other women in rural Africa help themselves. It just so happened I had been reading a fiction book series about Africa (The Ladies #1 Detective Agency) so Africa may have been fresh in my mind when I clicked on her story. Although the book I was reading was not serious in nature at all it was just a light hearted, won’t tax your brain mystery.
I started to look for more information on Sarah Collins and found a lot. I must have been living under a rock. I found out out she had started small community businesses to help many women in Africa feed and clothe their kids. She helped out in clinics and aided the environmental conservation effort in primarily rural African communities, to help the people conserve what resources they had. This woman was relentless, kind of like a one woman band. I was duly impressed and feeling like a total underachiever in the area of helping others.
Evidently, starting back in 2008, rolling blackouts were a common occurrence in Johannesburg and ongoing energy shortages were everywhere throughout South Africa. In some cases homes, schools and hospitals etc. only had power for a few hours every few days. Sarah was trying to figure out a way she could help people feed their kids and families hot meals with limited fuel or wood. Many rural African kids didn’t attend school because they were needed to gather firewood daily which took many hours. It was necessary to do this for nourishment.
Then Sarah had an idea that grew from her memory of farm living as a child. Her grandmother would put blankets and cushions around a hot pot of soup or stew to keep it cooking slowly for hours. This was done to conserve limited fuel on the farm. Sarah decided that this simple idea was not much different than burying food in the ground while cooking which had been done for centuries.
Sarah then set out to make a prototype for a heat-keeping-cooker that could be used for hours with no electricity or fuel and cook for up to 12 hours. She came up with what she called “Wonderbag.” I must admit when I heard about this I thought it was a joke. The whole idea put visions of night-time infomercials dancing in my head so I looked further. But it is basically a large heat-retention bag made out of material on the outside and a thick lining inside. It’s actually cute looking and if you didn’t know what it was you wouldn’t know what it was, if you get my drift.
When I looked into where I could get a Wonderbag, I was limited to Amazon, at least in the U.S. Africa has had them available since about 2008 where 700,000 of them have been sold or given away, but they are relatively new here. I love the idea that for every single one purchased, one is given away in Africa to someone in need. My next quest was to find out exactly how to use it and see if there were reviews from people who have used them (there are many reviews on Amazon both pro and con).
I ordered one because my family calls me the crock pot queen. I am hard pressed to bypass a new type of crock pot and I thought it would be a great conversation piece. I also thought it would be fun to write about to more or less see if it worked or not. Yes, I had to pay full price of course, but I figured it was for a good cause. You have to have something boiling or simmering first before you place a metal or cast iron pot into the Wonderbag but it really does cook. I’ve done rice and it turned out perfect. My chili turned out great too. I could see this being utilized for camping, RV’s, tailgating, food shows and well, anywhere you didn’t have or didn’t want to use electricity but needed to keep something slow cooking.
For many of the African women that Sarah helped by giving them these Wonderbag’s, the affect on their families has been profound; their children only have to look for firewood once a week now so they could return to school, the women who do their cooking to sell to others make more money for their families because they don’t have to spend time and money on fuel. In the meantime, I’m reading the recipe book that comes with my Wonderbag; http://amzn.to/1yx7pL5 to see if I can master a bag that cooks. I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.