Melody MacDuffee

I was raised with a strong service ethic, but didn’t find my niche until, at 55, I traveled to Ghana, where I taught West Africans to make jewelry out of their traditional beads. Afterward, to try to help alleviate poverty there, I founded Soul of Somanya, an organization offering training and employment at a living wage to the area’s disadvantaged youth.

I've loved every minute of teaching in the rainforest under the trees, living as they live, with no running water, no vehicle, intermittent electricity, and limited phone and Internet. Now I'm also teaching myself a wide range of skills on the run — marketing, PR, accounting, trans-Atlantic shipping, volunteer coordination — everything needed to run a small nonprofit.

My brain is getting the most exercise it's had since grad school. My spirit is being fed in a whole new way. For the first time in my life, I’m doing something significant and ongoing for others. I've found my niche.

Fun fact: Melody's achievements can point the way for fellow residents of her home state of Alabama, which ranks No. 47 on American's Brain Health Index.

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