Why I Went to Africa
I’ve mentioned a time or two that Brian and I had the opportunity to travel to Africa earlier this summer. I’ve been waiting for just the right time tell you about it.
Now is the time! And I am so excited. Like, my stomach is in knots kind of excited.
This trip to Africa, well, it was life-changing in the most non-cliche sense of the word, I promise. And I’m not saying that just because I was able to taste a cocoa bean fresh off the tree (it was squishy and slimy, FYI).
Being in Africa literally changed my perspective on so many facets of my life. I knew it would be amazing, I just didn’t realize quite how impactful it would be. The 30+ hours traveling home, I kept grabbing my pen and notebook from my bag and writing down thoughts and impressions about how to reorder my life when I got home. There’s a whole set of pictures/stories surrounding the overall craziness and excitement of us actually being in Africa (I could never quite get over how the people there carry everything so gracefully on their heads) – including what we ate! – but today I want to talk about the main reason we were there.
I’ve agonized over this post, hoping that as I try to give you a summary of the incredible people we met, the feelings and passion I have for what’s happening there in Ghana will come through despite the somewhat sterile environment of the internet (I wish you could just all be in my living room right now watching my slide show of pictures; of course I don’t blame you for that little jiggle of relief you are feeling right this second for avoiding the 1000+ picture marathon – you are forgiven).
Over the last nearly decade of blogging, I have been blessed beyond measure as this website has grown beyond what I ever could have expected. Truly. What began as a personal blog with maybe two visitors a month (me and my mom!) now has millions of readers worldwide. I feel so blessed and sometimes still a bit shell shocked. Thank you for being here and continuing to support me through your readership and kindness.
For a long while, I’ve wanted to find a meaningful way to give back – to somehow express my gratefulness for all that I’ve been blessed with. This trip to Africa was timely in so many ways (personally and professionally), and there’s no question in my mind that right now, this is my way to give back and raise awareness for a cause that has become so dear to me.
Why We Went
Brian and I flew over to Africa with a non-profit organization that we’ve known about for several years: Mentors International.
In a nutshell, Mentors goal is to end poverty through self-reliance.
In an expanded nutshell, Mentors is changing lives by providing education and microloans to clients (90% are women!) who want desperately to change their circumstances (and in most cases, to be able to educate and empower their children and grandchildren). Mentors operates in many countries, including Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines, and they’ve done so for many years. However, their work in Ghana just started last year (thanks to doTerra’s Healing Hands Foundation).
Brian and I had the unique opportunity to travel to Ghana and see firsthand how this microloan program has affected and benefitted hundreds of Ghanaians in the year and a half they’ve been in operation. Because most Ghanaians don’t have access to viable financial solutions (we’re talking banks that charge over 70% interest – yikes!), many of Mentors’ clients in Ghana have doubled and even tripled their income with the help of the microloans. What’s absolutely astounding? Mentors Ghana has a 100% payback rate throughout all of their clients. That’s insane! (In a very awesome way.)
Those facts are all pretty cool, but don’t hold a candle to what it meant and felt like to meet these incredible men and women in person.
While we were there, several hundred Mentors’ clients gathered for a cultural celebration one of the first days we were traveling through the villages outside of Accra (near Abomosu); these joyous people wanted simply to say thank you to Mentors for how the microloan program has changed their lives for the good. Look at all the gorgeous dresses! While many of these people live in extreme poverty, they still dressed up in their finest clothes to come celebrate.
I can honestly say I felt truly honored to be among them; I’ve never met a prouder, happier people in my entire life.
The minute they realized I was there to take millions of pictures, they went absolutely crazy (especially when they figured out they could see their pretty faces on the back of my camera after I took the picture – it was awesome).
Mostly, today, I want to tell you about two of the remarkable women I met in Ghana. I could tell you dozens and dozens of stories, but these are the two that have stayed with me most of all.
This lady! She’s inspiring beyond words. Naomi lives in the tiny village of Apampatia and is serious and soft-spoken. When Naomi was a small child, she developed an infection that crippled her legs and back. In Africa (and anywhere), this poses a lot of difficulties, but later in life, Naomi found herself as a single mother responsible financially for her daughter, several grandchildren, and her own ailing mother. She literally had no one to fall back on.
Desperate to find a way to provide, Naomi, with the help of her daughter, approached several banks in Ghana asking for a loan to start a business selling drinks in her little village. All of them said no. They were clear that they didn’t feel she would be a suitable client in light of her physical disability. Incidentally, most banks in Ghana charge upwards of 70% interest on a given loan with additional collateral – a daunting financing prospect to say the least.
Months later, Naomi’s daughter heard that a group called Mentors was holding business education meetings in a nearby village. She went and came back with the news that Naomi could apply for a loan through Mentors if she attended the education classes. After her daughter communicated with Mentors about Naomi’s desire for a loan, the loan officers decided to come to Naomi and began meeting with her one-on-one in order for her to prepare to receive a loan.
That was last year.
Naomi’s first loan was for the equivalent of $125 US dollars. She repaid it in half the time (three months instead of six months). She used the loan to stock her small shop with drinks for her village. She has since received several subsequent loans from Mentors – and she has paid them all back in full. Among other things, she’s used the money to buy a secondhand refrigerator so that not only can the villagers buy a drink, they can now get a cold drink (a novelty in many parts of Africa).
Now, she’s using the loan money to provide mobile banking to her remote village (this is the way many Ghanaians pay their bills and receive money, even in the villages). Once shunned by her own community, Naomi’s shop is truly at the heart and center of her village. She is a leader in her community and even employs two other villagers, in addition to her daughter, to work for her.
When asked how Mentors has helped her, Naomi told us that no one else ever believed in her and her ability to be succeed, but Mentors did (and still does). She said: “If I can change the way I live, anyone can.” And I believe that. I left feeling so inspired by Naomi’s courage and filled with gratitude that Mentors decided to give her a chance. Not only has she changed her own life, she now has a way to send her children and grandchildren to school and hopefully end their family’s circle of poverty.
If I had to pick a favorite Mentors’ client (that would kind of be like choosing a favorite child), it would be Gladys. Her soft-spoken but determined manner touched my heart. Gladys lives in the village of Sankubenase.
A refugee from Nigeria, Gladys never finished her basic education because her father wanted her to do house work instead of go to school. When her husband died, Gladys found herself completely alone to care for her family. In addition, she had a sister who also died, leaving Gladys to care for her niece, as well as her own children.
Working on credit from Ghanaian banks, Gladys opened her shop to sell homemade bread. She had been operating it for years without making hardly any profit, thanks to those exorbitantly high interest rates, leaving her and her family in desperate circumstances. When she found out about Mentors, she couldn’t wait to start attending business education classes and apply for a loan.
Mentors taught her to manage and save her money. After receiving her first loan, the equivalent of around $100 US dollars, and with the advice from the Mentors’ loan officers, Gladys began to sell drinks with her famous bread. Villagers began expressing an interest in chilled drinks, so she used savings and a second loan for a refrigerator and more flour for bread.
Gladys’ bread now supplies six villages! It is literally known for kilometers around that she has the best bread in all of Africa (Brian will attest to this; he downed a whole loaf by himself). Gladys makes a whopping 1,200 loaves of bread every couple of days and always sells out. Currently, she, along with the villagers she employs, bakes the bread in an old mud oven. Her dream is to save enough money to buy a more modern oven and open a larger shop. She is also determined to someday mill her own flour to avoid having to go to town to buy it – and she wants to be able to employ more villagers.
Gladys was visibly emotional as she spoke to us. You could tell from every word she spoke that she was humbled and grateful for Mentors and the chance they’ve given her to be a successful business woman. She expressed several times how thankful she is for the business education classes Mentors provides and how much they’ve taught her. Her life was destitute and hopeless before but now, she has so much hope for the future.
When asked what she would say to those people who have donated to the Mentors Ghana project, Gladys, with tears in her eyes, said “I would say may God bless you. May God bless you as he did Abraham with infinite blessings. I would say this if I could see these people.” No pleas for more money, no requests that people continue to donate and give, just a simple hope that God would bless them.
This faithful, resilient woman inspired me in so many ways.
So Many Others
I could tell you about so many others – like Agnes who wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning to sell pastries so she can send her younger siblings to school and Alomenu who was living off of 75 cents a day when all she wanted and needed was $50 to set up a roadside table to sell bread and oatmeal to provide for her child and mother – the number of determined women (and men) who have risen out of poverty already with Mentors Ghana is remarkable.
There’s more than 800 more stories from clients in Ghana that could be shared; each are equally inspiring. The sobering fact is there are hundreds more men and women in Ghana waiting to change their lives in the same way through Mentors (literally, they are on the waiting list) but they can’t do so until more funding becomes available through donations.
I left Ghana feeling immensely grateful for all the privileges I have that often go unnoticed because they are just there. Clean water. A full pantry. A house with windows and more than one room. It’s still hard for me to understand and come to terms with the disparity between my life and the lives of these inspiring but destitute villagers that I met.
The amount of money I regularly spend at Costco is the average starting loan for a Mentors client in Ghana. About $125 US dollars. That’s enough to completely change a life of one of Mentors’ clients in Ghana! That thought still kind of blows my mind – and has made me try to be much more intentional and aware of how I spend (and give) my money.
A dollar is not just a dollar to Mentors.
One dollar will give back hundreds of times as it is loaned out and repaid. Enyonam Mensah-Dotsey, the incredible man who leads Mentors Ghana, emphasized this to us many times. One dollar can do so much in Ghana and will continue to give over and over and over. I’ve seen it in action there in the villages of Ghana – it is truly amazing what these dollars are doing.
Can we help? Can we make a difference in Ghana?
I think we can. Actually, I know we can.
How amazing would it be if Mel’s Kitchen Cafe readers banded together to provide 100 more loans for villagers across poverty-stricken Africa?
We are all in different circumstances with different abilities to help, but if you are able, will you give?
Even a dollar.
Every dollar will make a difference to someone in Africa waiting to change their life with the help of Mentors International – and they can’t do it without our help. If every single one of my readers gave ONE DOLLAR to Mentors, the total would skyrocket into the millions (insert major goose bumps).
I think we can handle 100 new loans. Don’t you?
That’s $10,000. It makes me incredibly nervous to even suggest it…to throw that amount out in the wide open and not reach the goal, but I believe in us as a community of caring people who want to make a difference, and I think we can do this. 100% of the donations will go to Mentors Ghana. Yessss!
UPDATE 10/16: It’s unbelievable to actually type this but over the last several months, between the donations here and with the sale of my eCookbook, you have generously donated just over $50,000 to Mentors! Can you even believe it?? I am excited to share some stories of what your money has done. Stay tuned!
And this is just the beginning of how we are going to give back. Check back tomorrow; I can’t wait to tell you more. I have a feeling it is going to be incredible.
157 Comments on “Why I Went to Africa”
How did I miss that you went to Ghana?? I think I must’ve started following your blog shortly after you took this trip! I love your blog, everyone thinks I’m such a good cook and I attribute it all to Mel! My kids ask me all the time before we eat, “Is this mel’s?” Cuz they’ll be unsure if it’s not!
Anyway, I love this post! My friend moved with her family (with 5 of their 10 kids!) to Kumasi, Ghana in 2017 and started up Families Mentoring Families. They work to provide literacy centers with real books and also do microloans. Then they felt like they needed to open a Family Restoration Center and now they work with Operation Underground Railroad to help restore families who have been separated due to human trafficking.
I was so blessed to go with my two teenage daughters to Ghana in 2019, and we were able to help raise $25k for the center. My friend has now been living there for 4 years and they were so thrilled to hear kumasi was getting an LDS temple.
I felt the same as you -that this was a life-changing trip, and I loved how faithful, happy and god-loving the people were, despite their poor circumstances.
We need to talk.
I am a fan of your blog. I use it all the time! But this post especially caught my attention. I travel to Sankubanase this August. The foundation I volunteer for is taking safe water education to vulnerable populations. Even when water access is improved contamination is rampant and the sweet people still die of waterborne disease. We work with World Joy Ghana and founder of LDS Charities Ike Ferguson.
Part of our program is to invite charity driven individuals to travel with us. Their contribution supports the safe water program for a whole year in the villages we visit. We are trying to recruit volunteers for our Sankubanase, Ekorso, and Assamama trips coming up this year. We have a active thriving program in Wekpeti and wish to expand into the rest of the Atiwa West District.
One thing we are definitely lacking is great images to use for social media and for a recruitment video we are creating. You also have an awesome following, some of whom may be interested in helping the people of Ghana and other parts of the world. Can you contact me?
I would love to see if we can collaborate to bring health and progress to this and other villages.
Thank you so much!
While you were in Ghana did you visit Tamale and is it a poor area of Ghana? I have a very good friend who lives in Tamale and would love to know more about Tamale. Thank you
I didn’t visit that area – sorry!
Yay for Ghana! I went two years ago to visit my parents on their mission. I was able to bring all of my family, and we had such a beautiful experience. Wondered what part you went to (did I miss that?) We went to Accra and Cape Coast, I’ve got lots of posts about it on my site. Such loving people there.
Hey Kristen – we went to the same areas as you! But we also spent quite a bit of time out in the bush (Abomosu area). What a neat experience to bring your whole family!
Hi, Mel. I am now just reading your Christmas post which lead me to this post. Both, I must say, brought me to tears. Tears of joy knowing we both share a Savior in Christ Jesus through faith in Him, tears of conviction of being so myopic in my own daily life as I struggle working full time, being a mother and supporting my husband through seminary as he studies to be a hospital chaplain, and (back again) to tears of joy reading these inspirational stories of these women and witnessing how the Lord is using your influence to help bless others. Besides these women, you TRULY are amazing. Over the years I have enjoyed reading your blog (the only I follow), you are my comic relief, my source of all-wonderful-food, and in my hall of fame of fabulous- awesome mothers. I needed to read something like this today to get me out of my rug, help remind me to count my blessings and in turn bless others. When I am able I will be donating to mentors. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do and sharing this opportunity to make make a difference.
Ah, Sofaia – your comment was so heartfelt and sweet. Thank you for bringing tears to MY eyes. Your words were much needed today.
You are incredible dear Melanie! What an inspiring report on your African adventure. It’s probably not as great as being in your living room with you, Brian and those marvelous kids, but I loved reading about it. Thank you for being such a marvelous woman, always reaching out to help and serve others including us. We love you!
This is awesome! I myself own my own business and it has blessed my family. I just donated and will be putting a link to them on my website so others know about them. Thank you for posting about this and inspiring others.
Thank you so much, Chrystal!
I would love a post about some of the life changes you want to implement after such an amazing experience!
Do you have an update on how much was raised? The last update I saw was from 8/25 at about $23K.
This microloan concept is amazing, and I know more than one group is able to change families and lives for better with such a simple concept. Thank you for inspiring people to help and bringing light to the need.
Hi Karen! Yes, the latest total I heard from Mentors was $32,000! I’ve been trying to post on Facebook and Instagram when I get new information on donations received.
Hi Mel, I am late to the party but was just able to donate. I am so inspired by your service and loved hearing about your trip. Thanks for all you do.
Mel thank you so very much for this inspiring post and for putting to work your power for good. You have blessed my life and the lives of so many – thank you!!
Thank you, Kellie!
The experience that you shared, and the opportunities you are facilitating for these women is truly inspiring. The vibrance of the clothing they wear, the joy on the faces of all who you featured in the photos made me feel like I could reach out and touch them. Thanks for you honesty and goodness. This is a bit off topic and I don’t want to distract from the warm and tender feeling of the story but since I love photography, I wanted to ask what kind of camera and lens that you used for the photos that you captured. 🙂
Hi Ellen – thanks for your comment! All these pictures were taken with my Nikon D7100 and the 24-70mm lens. Hope that helps!
Mel you are AMAZING!! I love you inspiring people to bless others! I had tears running down my cheeks reading this today! People are so good to give!! We have been so blessed. We just need to stop cleaning toilets and grocery shopping and vacuuming and running errands and take a moment to share what we have a be GRATEFUL. Thank you!! You have inspired me to be better! I hope we get to meet one day. ❤️
I would love that, Ashlee! And I agree, sometimes we just need to STOP and feel blessed. Thank you!
No words! None! But if my heart could talk it would say so much. I triple double quadruple loved this. Thanks so very much for sharing and giving us the opportunity to help out! Amazing!!
I love ya, Brittney!
Oh my darling friend! You are so awesome!! I love this post! You inspire me! One of my sons best friends (my honorary 6th son) is currently serving a mission in Ghana. We love to get his weekly emails and are so touched by the pictures and stories he has to share of the wonderful people there. Thank you for the links to this wonderful organization! I am excited to help and be a part of something so good! xoxoxox
Thank you so much, Melanie! Miss you. 🙂
Oh Mel…this makes me cry! Amanda mentioned your trip to me a couple of weeks ago and I loved reading about it. This is one of those times that I wish I had unlimited money to donate. What a worthy cause. I’m soso happy that they connected with you because of the reach that you have. You are making such a difference. xoxo
Thank you, sweet Wendy!
A friend of mine just shared your blog with me recently, and this is the first post I’ve ever read of yours, and I am just completely inspired and moved by this experience you just shared. What a wonderful organization to support, thank you for sharing your story, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of it! Thank God for blessing you with the gifts you have to do it! 🙂
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Lori. I appreciate your kindness!
This is so amazing Mel! I went to Ghana on a medical mission about 8 years ago and your pictures brought it all back to me. What a wondeful experience! Thanks for giving us all the opportunity to help this cause.
Thanks, Marci. 🙂
Mel! Oh wow. I have a lump in my throat. This was such a heartfelt, personal post sharing with all of us how passionate you feel about a wonderful cause. THANK YOU for sharing. I’m honestly thrilled to know about Mentors and the good they are doing, the hope they are bringing to others. It feels so good to get out of our selfish lives and get involved in supporting a good cause – it’s refreshing and exciting and meaningful. I absolutely loved this post. Thank you for caring enough to notify all of us that WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, and inviting us to join you in this effort! I’m so excited to be a part of this!
Thanks for sharing these stories. I love seeing that your goal has been exceeded by far! This definitely says something about you and the trust we all have in you.
Thank you, Page – it has been really humbling to see how generous everyone has been.
I think I was your third blog reader! You have been my go to place for meal inspiration for at least 8 years. I love your recipes, your writing style, your beautiful pictures and your honesty. I feel thankful to have made a small contribution to such a great cause. Thank you for sharing this opportunity!
You’ve been around a long time, Shannon! I think you deserve some kind of award. 🙂
I’ve been to Ghana twice. Once with my parents as missionaries and once with my husband. It’s an amazing place with humble people. It makes you grateful for what you have and also teaches that you can have real joy with very little. So glad you had the opportunity to go.
Thank you for sharing your experience and passing on information about this noble charity. I can’t tell you how much you have touched my life with your recipes and your stories- I talk about you like a close family friend and almost all of my meals come from your recipes now. I am shocked if I find someone who doesn’t know about Mel. I was so touched by the stories of these women and would be honored to help them, but also feel honored to be a part of Mel’s group and to do something to help you after you have done so much for so many of us. Thank you Mel! (another inspiring book to read about the economic situation in Africa is ‘I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives’. So touching the difference one person and small donations can make)
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Emy. I’m excited to read that book, thanks for the recommendation!
thank you, Mel, for posting this! I was lucky enough to hear Muhammad Yumus speak years ago and I thought the concept of microloans was utterly brilliant. I’m happy to donate:)
(Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006 for their work to “create economic and social development from below”.)
That would be an amazing experience!
Such a cool story. I have a daughter who served her mission in Zimbabwe Africa. 97% unemployment rate. People starving and barely making it in life, but they were the happiest people she has ever known. She too has cool stories of these fine people in Africa who just want an opportunity to work. Any chance of this organization heading Zimbabwe way?
That’s a great question, Jill. I haven’t heard if they have plans to expand to Zimbabwe but maybe someone from Mentors could check in and let us know? I’ll find out!
I am in! Just bought my e-book and will be sharing on my FB pages! What a great cause. Thank you for letting me be a part of it!
Thanks for this post! We donate through another micro loan company for third world countries called Kiva. It’s so neat to see your first hand experience of how ithese organizations and donations change lives, so thanks for sharing! (Just bought your cookbook. :))
I love that there are other organizations doing this same thing, Lindsay!
Thank you so much for bringing awareness to us, you are Awesome! All your readers are awesome too, there’s so much good in people, we have come together for a great cause. Things like this lift up my hear and bring joy! Thanks, Mel!
Me, too, Jocy. Me, too!
And I just set up to give monthly to Mentors!
Oh my goodness, Kay – that’s amazing! Thank you for your generosity!
Mel you are awesome!!! Thanks for letting us be a part of something good:) You made me smile this morning!!! xoxo
So happy to hear that, Lisa!
Thank you so much for using your blog as a platform for good! Just writing a few paragraphs and posting some pictures has changed the world for so many people! Count me as one of the givers! Thank you again for making us aware! I’m also going to share to my Facebook page!
Thank you so much! I was immediately struck by this and have since donated on behalf of my parents who always wanted to serve a mission in Africa but because of health reasons are here in the US instead. It’s also their birthday month. I love all of the beautiful pictures of these beautiful people. You are such a source of inspiration both in and out of the kitchen. Thank you for sharing your goodness with us.
Your comment gave me goose bumps, Susan…you are so sweet to donate on behalf of your parents. What a thoughtful gesture!
What an inspiring story, Mel. It gave me the fresh perspective that I need today. I frequently struggle with feeling like we have so much (too much?) here in the U.S., and I always want to help in other countries but am not always sure how. What a blessing for you two to be able to travel there and see firsthand what a difference Mentors International is making! When I come across programs like this one, and coming from a trusted source, I know in my heart this is where I want to give some money. Thank you!
You completely sum up my own feelings, Melanie!
Mel, thank you for sharing your experience with us! I so needed to read this today, I was frustrated and feeling down because we had a toilet leaking in our powder bathroom, unbeknownst to us because it was leaking under the floor, and today I had disaster clean up guys at my house tearing our my ruined woods floor from the bathroom out into my entry way, taking out the toilet and sanitizing the concrete underneath! Now I’ll have exposed concrete for a couple of weeks while we wait for insurance adjusters and all of the repairs to be done! And our water softener broke so that was another pricey repair, and in the same day! I was having a pity party and then I read your post. Talk about perspective! Thank you, I needed reminding of how truly blessed I am! I am astounded by those women, I can not fathom baking all that bread in that mud oven or living in those conditions. It is definitely hard to wrap our brains around why we have so much and they have so little. But it’s even more amazing the joy that shines in their faces, they are all glowing! The children are so beautiful and look so happy! Your photos are beautiful. I was happy to make a donation and I think you are so so awesome to be brave enough to use your blog for this.
Oh, Josie – I don’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed! Don’t discount how hard life can feel sometimes. But I know what you mean about a perspective shift. The day we got back from Ghana, our dishwasher broke and our washer was having tons of problems and for the first time in forever I was like “eh, no biggie.” I wish I could feel that way all the time! Good luck getting your house back in order. 🙂
Mel, Thank you for telling us about Mentors International and giving us the opportunity and satisfaction of donating as a group. It is great to know that a micro-loan can make such a difference in someones life and that the money can be used again and again. It is nice to feel like I can contribute and make a difference.
Thank you, Robin!
I am so proud and inspired by this story, Mel. I’m honored to be able to help in a small way. What wonderful stories by beautiful, incredible people! I couldn’t believe how full of pure REAL joy so many of them seemed to have. Love this post and can’t wait to hear more and would love to continually help.
Thank you, Sally – I saw your share on FB; you are the best!
Mel, you have blessed my life and my family’s life so much with your recipes that I am happy to donate to any cause you see fit! 🙂 What a great experience for you. Thanks for sharing it with us.
That means so much, Jacqui – thank you!
I have never really made an online donation like this before. Partly because it was never clear what the money would be used for or how the organization was run. But, I trust you Mel. I trust the food that you share to taste good, and so I trust your first hand knowledge of this organization. Thank you for sharing with us, your readers, about your experience in Ghana and Mentors International.
Why thank you, Lady Susan! I totally know what you mean (I’m not an over eager online donator, either). I appreciate your willingness to support and trust me!
The security guard at my children(former) private school is from Ghana.
It was fascinating to hear him talk about his homeland.He was very honest about the problems.
Thank you for moving (us) your readers to open our hearts and wallets.
After all you give already, in sharing one great recipe after another!
Mel, after having followed this site religiously for 6 plus years, this is one of my favorite posts. Way to go!
I have always claimed yous my virtual bestie and this just sealed the deal! You amaze me!
🙂 Thank you, Julie!
What an amazing experience! How did you get connected to have that kind of opportunity?
And of course, thank you so much for sharing your amazing talents! Your blog is my go to for dinner almost everyday, I always can count on your recipe turning out!
Thank you, Tierra! Brian’s brother has worked with Mentors for a long time and introduced us to them several years ago.
Mel, thank you for sharing your story about your trip to Ghana. My heart was so touched by the stories you shared. What an incredible organization Mentors is and what they are doing is truly remarkable. I have such a soft spot in my heart for people from other countries that struggle every single day and have so little. I have three adopted siblings; a brother from Korea, a sister from Guatemala and another sister from India. I can only imagine what their lives may have been like had my parents not adopted them, so I am always more than happy and willing to contribute to an organization that is all about helping others have an opportunity at a better life. Thank you♡♡♡!!
What a special family you have, Jodi! I can only imagine the perspective it has given you in life and I agree wholeheartedly with you that I have very tender feelings for cultures and people that have to work so hard for their very basic needs. Thank you for your comment!
Mel, I am more than happy to contribute to this great cause. I made an epic trip long ago to China to visit and take donations to orphanages that were overcrowded with little baby girls. That trip totally changed my life in more ways than one. I adopted one of those little girls. That led to the adoption of two more babies from Asia. Your recipes have helped me feed my family and I hope all your readers’ contributions help families in Ghana. Teresa
Teresa! What a wonderful comment. I can’t believe how your initial trip to China ended up changing your life and family! Thank you so much for sharing!
Yours is the one and only food website I check every day, not only for your delicious and inspiring recipes but for your uplifting and grateful outlook on life, as well. How fitting that you have shared your cooking and homemaking talents in order to benefit all of your readers, and now many of the Ghana Mentors recipients are learning to utilize their cooking and homemaking talents in order to benefit their families, friends and communities. Bravo!
Is there a Mentors address and a way to designate a “Mel’s Kitchen Cafe” contribution for those of us who prefer a check and snail-mail?
Hi Linda – great question! For snail mail, here’s the address:
65E Wadsworth Park DR, STE 207
Draper, UT 84020
On the check in the memo area write “Mel’s Kitchen Cafe” or include a note. It’s a small company and it will get to the right place. Thank you so much!
Mel, you are amazing! First, you are my food idol – you have helped me simplify and enhance my meal planning in so many ways. Now, you have shared about this amazing organization empowering underprivileged women, something I truly believe in. And you made it one easy click to donate to this worthy cause. Keep being you, Mel! You are inspiring and I am truly grateful for your blog and all that you are sharing.
Thank you so much, Kathy!
Thanks so much for sharing! I was all teary eyed through the whole post. I hope someday I can do something like this and bring my children along as well. We truly are blessed!
Brian and I said that so many times while we were there, Diane – it’s probably unaffordable for us, but it would be a dream for us to bring our children there with us someday!
I love doTERRA!!! Thank you for sharing your story <3
Thank you, Monica!
My parents moved to Ghana last week to help run a higher education program with their church. I’m so excited to be a part of this! Thank you for being brave and sharing this story;)
Wow, Melissa, I bet they’ll have some amazing experiences to share!
I happily donated to this amazing cause and in your honor. You’ve given me and my family so many delicious recipes over the years so I am happy you asked for such a selfless way to celebrate your readers and your success. Congratulations. I do believe you’re over your 10K by now!
Thank you, Kate! And yes! As of 1:22 p.m., the grand total is $11,753. I can hardly believe it!
Love finding ways to help in Africa. My neighbor started a foundation in Kenya called Shamba foundation. It helps educate and feed children in orphanages. Simple ways to help are so needed in countries like this! Thank you
That is truth, Natalie! “simple ways to help are so needed” It’s hard not to want to do something when we learn about and realize the circumstances in Africa. Thank you for sharing! I love that your neighbors’ foundation helps the children.
I tried writing you a private email, but couldn’t get it to submit. If this is a duplicate, I apologize! I am having my first novel published in September. It’s through a small publishing house and the book won’t make a lot of money, but it is a dream come true. My husband and I have been blessed with many opportunities and great education and I’ve been feeling for some time that I wanted to give opportunity and education to others because I know it changes lives. After reading your post about the Mentors program in Ghana I have decided to donate all my proceeds from this book to them. It won’t be much…like, really, not much at all. I wanted to write and thank you for posting this–it’s exactly the type of group I was looking for.
Oh my gosh, Emily. Seriously, I don’t even know what to say. I have a new, fresh round of tears streaming down my face. That type of generosity and selflessness is unbelievable. Thank you so much. So, so much. I know the folks at Mentors will be humbled to know about this as well. I will search for your personal email in my inbox (if it sent) and respond to you personally, too. Thank you, Emily!
Reading this made me cry too! Emily D, I’m glad you had to share this in a comment because this warms my heart! There are so many wonderful people in this world!
Love you, Erin! I meant to text you and let you know I had finally posted about our trip to Ghana. I’m so glad I was able to tell you about it in person.
Since reading your post I’ve been reading everything on the Mentors International website. I’m so impressed with the program and the concept and the results. One can’t help but rejoice with the hardworking people who have received training and microloans and are now able to provide for their families and employ others as well. Such value and dignity in that!! Thank you for letting your readers know about this. I feel as if every dollar given will multiply exponentially! (And I think your $10,000 goal will be blown out of the water.) :o)
Oh, Barb, that’s exactly how I feel! Every dollar will give and give and give. Thank you for your comment and support!
Warning: Post will make you cry your eyes out! Thanks for that 😉 Those women are gorgeous! I love these pictures and stories. Off to Donate. Thank you! You’re amazing, Mel!!
Thank you, Laurel! You are so sweet…
This may be slightly off topic. My oldest went into the MTC this morning and through my tears I’m trying to fix dinner. I love your blog and needed your broccoli salad recipe. The story about Ghana was the first thing I saw. My son Garrett will serve in Ghana for the next 2 years!! Reading this story about hope and change where my son will now live is exactly what I needed today. Thank you for your goodness. I’m so happy to donate & watch this progress! Maybe Garrett will visit some of the same sweet people you did!
Oh my heavens, Jenni. Tears! Tears for you! Tears for everyone! I would be a mess in your place…and I cannot believe the timing that he left this morning and will be serving in Ghana! I cannot wait to keep in touch with you; if he ever serves near Abomosu (and meets the incredible Abu family), he will undoubtedly cross paths with many of the people we met. Hang in there! 🙂
Thank you for sharing this. It really touched my heart today.
Thank you, Tracy. 🙂
What a perfect day to open this email! We just donated as this cause ROCKS! I have been to Africa in my 20s and had been looking for a way for our kids to give back and they have had some gorgeous success with an annual shave ice and baked good stand- run and operated 100 percent by kids! The first year my then 10 year old daughter and her bestie made $100
And they bought fabric and sewed 40 adorable dresses which were taken my our friend to her village in Rwanda and handed out to girls of all ages needing a cute dress to wear to school. Last year the girls made $300 and bought a ton of school supplies which was taken to the school in the same village. Tomorrow is year 3 and they are planning on buying toothbrushes and paste for the girls in the village as teen drop out is huge due to teeth decay and tooth loss. We will show the girls your post and I bet they would go bananas at choosing Mentors next year- so exciting! I will send you some pics of the dresses and school supplies being handed out on Rwanda- they are freaking adorable. Even kids can make a difference! Ps. Your Brookies are a hot seller at the shave ice stand and are being baked as we speak! Xoxoxoxo
Rachel! You tell your daughter and her friend how impressed I am with them! What an amazing thing they are doing, especially when most kids their age would want to pocket that money FAST. I would love to see pictures; please send! You are amazing…and so is your daughter!
Mel, is this similar to Kiva.org? Thanks for writing and sharing your heart!
That’s a great question, Janel, but I’m not familiar with Kiva.org so I’m not sure. Sorry about that! I know there are many microloan programs world-wide so if Kiva is involved with that, I’m sure it’s somewhat similar.
This was so inspiring and beautiful. Had me in tears also thinking about all the blessings I take for granted. Happy to contribute to such a worthy cause! Thank you for sharing and for all you do! Love ❤️
Thank you, Apryl!
Mel- I want to be just like you someday. I have always raved about your site to everybody I know. This just confirms to me you are amazing is all aspects of life. I’ve always loved the micro loan program but have never looked into donating, until today. I donated today because it’s an amazing program and you’re a wonderful person. Thank you for everything thing you do and being such a great example to me.
Jana…thank you! That was so kind of you to say. I’m pretty certain you wouldn’t really want to be like me if you knew me in real life, but thanks for making me feel good today. 🙂 I’m so happy that people are able to learn more about microloans…it’s amazing the good a small amount of money can do!
Thank you for introducing me to Mentors. What a blessing they are and will be to the people you came in contact with. Will the money raised through you go to the folks in Ghana/Africa or to other developing countries?
All to Ghana, Debbie! Which makes me very happy. 🙂
I cried all the way through this post. THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity to give money to a noble cause. Please keep this site up as I would like to donate again when I get paid next week.
God bless you, Mel.
Oh, Amy, you are so kind. Thank you!
I have tears in my eyes. Your post about these noble, joyful, beautiful people touched me deeply. I have been so blessed and am so grateful for opportunities to reach out to others. While traveling to Africa isn’t something I can manage, I can certainly make a donation which I’ll do happily because I trust you and I long to help in a meaningful way. Thank you Mel!
I don’t comment a lot – I think you’re probably way too busy to read anything I have to say but just know I love your blog, make your recipes daily, think the world of you and love your posts about your family and your life. Thanks for sharing so much of your world with us! You have made a difference in our home.
I always love seeing your comments, Holly (and I read every one so never hesitate to let me know what you have to say!)…thank you for your kindness!
Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing program! Your post has touched my heart! I am full of gratitude for all my blessings, and happy to make a small contribution to bless others. It is so wonderful to read about GOOD in the world!
Yes! There IS good in the world. Thank you, Molly!
How strange… I posted a few minutes back but it didn’t show up. Hopefully this won’t be a repeat. In any case, thank you for sharing your heart and the details of your trip! A few years ago, my family (husband, myself, and 3 daughters) made a humanitarian trip to Guatemala. Although the cultures and people are different, so much of what you wrote brought me back to that trip. It was life-changing, and this post just reminded me of the profound gratitude we all come home with for clean water, reliable electricity, modern medicine, and more. The people were so humble and yet so happy. So many lessons to be learned from them.
I donated, and can’t wait to hear the progress. Thank you for blessing the lives of so many! Not only does my family adore you for the recipes you share, but I appreciate the way you share your heart and life’s experiences along the way.
I’d like to donate, but this website is not secure and I will not give my credit card number through any site that doesn’t have the little “lock symbol”. Why take the chance?
This is a fantastic charity, it has a 4 star rating (which means everything is above board and the money actually goes where it’s supposed to, they don’t have a significant amount of money wasted in operation and they don’t overpay the board of directors.)
When this security issue is fixed I will be happy to donate!
Hi Sherry! I’ve already emailed Mentors about this; I appreciate your concern! The website is 100% secure in terms of payments but I understand the need to see that visually.
It is a secure site – if you look at the full url you see that it is https:\\
https uses SSL security and is the gold standard for e-commerce as well as any site that needs to protect data. If you look at Mel’s (and most bloggers) url, you will see that it is http:// You can google https vs http
Additionally … the lock icon is browser specific and I’m not sure what else. For example, if I hope https://mentorsinternational.org in Chrome or Edge, I see the lock icon briefly. I don’t see it at all in IE11. When I open melskitchencafe.com in any of the browsers I don’t see the lock at all.
Obviously, everyone must do as they feel comfortable, but I look for the https on any site where I’m giving something like credit card or banking info..
Thanks for chiming in on this, Liz! I have to leave that part up to Mentors (to put an icon on or not)…you are right, the website is secure (based on the https:) but I understand people’s need to see a visual reminder. Mentors is a very small non-profit organization with limited resources so they may not get the site updated with the lock symbol today – I hope people know that I would never recommend anything that wasn’t 100% legitimate and secure and hopefully that will carry forward the donations. Always love your thoughts and help, Liz. Thank you!
We spent a month studying Africa last year and I would love to have an opportunity to see all that you did. We read several good books but this summary of your trip brought it home and made me emotional. If my small donation can make this big of a difference, then yes. These people are actually trying to improve their lives and getting a “Mentor” to help them be successful. A little passion, a little advice, and a micro loan …
Incidentally, did you know that this post is not showing up on the home page? I had to go into the Strawberry Cream Puff Cake recipe, then “arrow” over to the right/go to next post, to get here. Just FYI…
Strange, Alicia – it’s working for me on both my browsers…you might try clearing your browser cache and see if that helps? Thanks for the heads up in case anyone else is having the issue.
You’re right… that was it! I actually couldn’t even see your reply until I checked your site from my phone. I am not a techie, but appreciate your help. I am loving reading all of the comments. <3 Although I've followed you for years, this has to be one of my favorite posts.
Mel, thank you so much for sharing this with us! 4 years ago my family and I went on a humanitarian trip to Guatemala, and although the cultures are different, your pictures and writing brought me back to the overwhelming feeling of gratitude I experienced following our trip for clean water, medical care, reliable electricity, and more. It was a life-changing trip not only for my husband and I but also for our daughters.
I just donated. Can’t wait to hear the updates on the goal!
My parents are missionaries at the Accra Ghana temple right now, and they have shared stories about the incredible sacrifices that people make to get to the temple. Thank you for sharing your experiences and giving me a warm feeling for the good that still is in our world.
I remember you telling me that, Erin – I bet they are having so many amazing experiences there.
Mel – thank you so much for this post! I truly enjoyed reading these women’s stories and feel very humbled myself. I made a donation because I trust you as well and am glad we can all come together to help these men, women, and children who are not as fortunate as others.
On a separate note, just wanted to thank you for all the work you put into your blog. I don’t often comment but have been following for years. I love reading your stories about your family and trying your wonderful recipes. I know it is a lot of work (I have 3 kids myself) but really appreciate being able to check your site for recipes or to see what is new in your world.
Jenn! Thank you on all counts. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart.
Heh heh…just donated as a birthday present to myself. 😉 Thanks for sharing your experience–your photos are beautiful and inspiring…so well done. Thank you for letting us “meet” these lovely people. I’m glad to find out about this opportunity to help in such a simple yet concrete and trustworthy way! I hope you will keep us all posted on how the goal progresses. I have a feeling that you might exceed it? I’m hoping so!
Ah, that would be amazing, Nicole…and yet, I am so grateful for EVERY donation, even if the goal isn’t met. And Happy birthday! What a kind gesture!
I was hoping for a little thermometer or something to let me know how close you were getting to your goal. I hope you keep us posted on the progress. I went to Kenya about 9 years ago and you are right, truly life changing.
Me, too, Angela! I’m hoping Mentors is getting something up and running on the site to let us know how close we are getting – I agree, I’d love to track the progress! Either way, I’ll be updating my post with how it’s going when I find out from Mentors.
What a wonderful and inspiring post, Mel! I am so happy to know about Mentor’s International. I have heard of the micro loans but am ashamed that I did not take the time to find out about helping in that way. Like Cherie, my first thought was “this is the way to help … teach fishing not just give fish!”
The photos are stunning and what impresses me particularly is how full of joy everyone looks. They may live in a way that is hard for us to comprehend and even makes us feel sorry for their poverty, but on the other hand they look to be full of love and happiness and beauty – such beauty! My hope would be that all that they have is added to and nothing taken away. And for all of us, not only a recognition of what we have, but an appreciation for what we have as well as the kind of contentment and joy on all of those faces.
Love your insightful comment, Liz. I, too, was overwhelmed with how much joy the people we met in Ghana had. It was amazing.
Wow, so nice to have a first-person perspective. I’ve heard of these kinds of loans but never saw them in action. The question that I always come back to, however, is where are all the men? Fathers, grandfathers, brothers? Why do 90% of the loans go to women? I am geniunely curious, and am so glad that the loans are helpful to those that need them.
Great question, Heather. I think much of that has to do with culture (perhaps it’s different in other countries), but in Ghana, it seems as though many of the women are single moms (either through abandonment or being widowed) and they recognize they need help to provide for their families.
Thank you for sharing this! What an awesome program and an amazing experience for you. Eric came home from a work conference a few weeks super excited about a class he attended on humanitarian trips with a medical emphasis. We have been looking into them more and just applied for our passports last week. Can’t wait!
So excited for you, Jackie!
Thank you for a great ‘share’. I already have a window open for MI and will be looking into it to make a donation. I LOVE organizations that help those who want to help themselves – it’s a soft spot for me – I feel its so much better to teach fishing than to give fish.
I totally know what you mean about the “fishing” thing, Cherie. Thanks for your comment!
This is so inspiring, Mel! Thank you for telling us about it and giving us the chance to contribute!
Thank YOU, Catherine!
Mel, thank you for sharing this with all of us. In the past few years, I have heard (on the radio) and read (in magazines) more and more about microloans and how they, as opposed to straight financial aid, are the proper way to help the people of developing countries.
Have you ever heard of the book “Dead Aid,” by Dambisa Moyo? She’s a Zambian-born economist. I have heard her interviewed a number of times on the subject, and it’s astonishing how simple a concept it is—but jarring how we haven’t fully committed to the switch from aid.
I made a donation, because I trust you and you touch my heart. It’s as simple as that!
Nicole, you have no idea how much this means to me. Thank you so much for your support and for trusting in me. I’ve heard about that book and with your recommendation am excited to read it. I never knew I could be so passionate about microloans but I am! Thanks, again.
Thank you for using your site for outreach for such a noble cause. I too struggle to balance my blessings with my conscious–I have so much compared to those who have so little. I am also a busy 30-something parent and you have made my little donation very convenient! Thanks again. I love this site–for the recipes, but also for the personal stories that I can tell you just want to touch people’s lives.
Thank you so much for saying that, Mel.