PERREAULT Magazine NOV | DEC 2016 - Page 70


Elizabeth Gore*

Entrepreneur in Residence, Dell

How this South African woman entrepreneur’s efforts are changing our world

Can you imagine smoking two packs of cigarettes a day in your car, with the window rolled up, and your kids in the back? I hope not! Here’s a public health problem not enough people are talking about: indoor air pollution, which kills between 3.5 and 4.3 million people a year, most of whom are women and infants.

This is because about 3 billion people around the world—mostly in impoverished parts of Africa and Asia—still cook and heat the inside of their homes by burning coal, charcoal, dung, wood or plant residue, according to Vox. These homes often have poor ventilation, and the smoke can cause all sorts of respiratory diseases. Women and children pay the heaviest price from indoor air pollution, as they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood stoves than men. Researchers don’t even have a full understanding of the extended effects of smoke inhalation on children, which is extremely scary.

When I was in the Peace Corps, we cooked over wood inside, and I couldn’t take the smoke in my eyes—or my lungs.

Luckily, however, there are a few incredible products and initiatives combating this issue, one of which is Wonderbag, an insulated, non-electric bag that cooks food after it has been brought to a boil. It works like a slow cooker—continuously cooking food for hours and keeping it warm without needing fire.

Sarah Collins, a South African native, came up with the idea in 2008 when widespread blackouts were affecting her nation. Sarah brought her first bag to a grandmother, who earned a meager living selling food that she cooked all day over a wood fire as a caretaker for nine orphans. Wonderbag changed their lives completely. Within three months, the children only needed to gather firewood once a week, and they were all in school. They had money for shoes, and it was a catalyst out of poverty for them, Sarah says. She knew she was on to something.

* Elizabeth Gore is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell, where she drives initiatives that support Dell’s goals around helping small and medium businesses scale and prosper; fueling the expansion of global entrepreneurship and creating jobs that will drive the world economy. Gore previously served as the first ever Entrepreneur in Residence for the UN Foundation as well as Vice President of Global Partnerships where she founded strategic grassroots efforts such as Nothing But Nets, Girl Up and the Shot@Life.