Sarah Collins: She’s Cookin’ Up Wonder in a Bag

April 20 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Survival of the Fittest

In the Discovery Channel reality series Naked and Afraid, two contestants are—you guessed it—naked and afraid. Stay with me; there’s a point to this! The contestants must survive for a few weeks, and always top of mind are finding a good place to create a shelter, finding a water source and starting a fire.

I have no doubt I wouldn’t even make it through the naked part and couldn’t start a fire to save my life. But when it comes down to the real reality—you know, the one without iPads, leather jackets, pizza delivery and running water—this is what surviving as a human entails. Just think about that for a moment. Would you survive under such trying conditions?

Ladies, today, let’s all beef up our real-life survival skills, whether it’s learning how to change a tire or light a fire without matches, or even buckling down on your emergency savings fund.


Though it’s been said many a time, it’s worth mentioning again that there are millions of people in the world who go without the luxuries—and even the basic necessities—many of us take for granted.

When 589 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity, finding a way to heat food and water is essential. About 80 percent of this population, many of them women, relies on biomass products like wood, charcoal and dung in order to cook, a dire situation that results in one-third of those people being undernourished.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Sarah Collins, Founder and CEO of Wonderbag

There are some dedicated women working to solve the world’s incredibly complex hunger issues, including today’s Woman to Watch. It all started when Sarah Collins couldn’t sleep. It was in 2008 in South Africa, and rolling blackouts darkened the city of Johannesburg.

Sarah grew up in rural, apartheid-era South Africa, and spent much of her life working in AIDS orphan clinics and in government, as well as in environmental conservation and advocating for women. She knew Africans and the needs they faced.

By the late 2000s, electricity in South Africa was unreliable, usually only available for a few hours once every several days. During that 2008 blackout, Sarah had an epiphany. She sprang from her bed with an idea she was certain would change the world: the Wonderbag, a one-of-a-kind, heat-retention cooker.

Here’s how this revolutionary, non-electric invention works: Once potted food is brought to a boil, the pot can be placed in a Wonderbag, a fabric bag filled with repurposed foam chips that slow cooks food for up to 12 hours without the use of additional fuel. A real recipe for change, the Wonderbag also keeps food and beverages cold, can make yogurt, cook rice and even proof bread.

Best of all, Sarah’s innovation is changing lives. By reducing the need for firewood collection and usage, and time spent cooking, the Wonderbag empowers women throughout Africa to participate in more activities outside the home, thereby enhancing their quality of life. The Wonderbag also alleviates their exposure to smoke inhalation and reduces the risk of burns. And it saves water, reduces carbon footprints and minimizes deforestation.

The invention’s success led Sarah to start the Wonderbag Foundation, through which a bag is donated to a family in Africa for every bag purchased in a developed country. Since the company’s inception, Sarah has sold or donated more than 700,000 Wonderbags throughout Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

Sarah’s new goal is to sell 100 million Wonderbags worldwide and help more than a billion people. But ultimately, she wants to empower the women of the household, who she calls the heart of the community, and by doing so, genuinely change the world we live in for the better.


Who knew a middle-of-the-night idea could create such a social impact? But as Sarah Collins herself says:

“If you have a passion for what you do and the determination to succeed, then you can take on anything and conquer the world.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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