MEDA in the News

Spreading the word about GROW

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Sarah and Mary at Mile 0Source: "Spreading the word about GROW" by Rachel Bergen for the Canadian Mennonite

Former MEDA interns bike across Canada for Ghanaian women farmers

Mary Fehr just learned to ride a bike a few years ago, when she was 17. Now she and Sarah French are cycling thousands of kilometres across Canada—from Victoria, B.C., to St. John's, Nfld.—to raise money for Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) through its Bike To Grow campaign.

Fehr, 24, attends Leamington United Mennonite Church in Ontario. She met French, 25, in 2013, at an orientation before they embarked on MEDA internships. Fehr was bound for Tanzania, French was headed to Nicaragua. They both worked as impact assessment interns.

Even two years ago, Fehr says French was interested in doing a cross-Canada bike trip so she could see the rest of the country. "She kept talking about it. I kept avoiding the conversation," Fehr jokes.

After their several months abroad, the two decided to embark on the trip together. Almost immediately after the decision was made, they decided to take the opportunity to give back to MEDA and support women entrepreneurs in the process.

"We had both seen different levels of inequality with women during our internships, and how much of a difference MEDA's making. We wanted to give back," Fehr says, adding, "I was really shocked at how much of a difference [MEDA] made."

The women are hoping to raise $150,000 for MEDA's Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) program, a sustainable development program that helps women farmers in Ghana grow more soybeans and forge market links that increase their incomes.

By their first day on the road, the pair were almost a third of the way towards their fundraising goal. All monies raised will be matched nine times by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, meaning that if they reach their goal the total will jump to $1.45 million.

They also want to raise awareness about the work MEDA is doing in the world, and encourage people their age to get involved in projects that create sustainable development.

"Cycling really helps spread the word," French says.

After reaching St. John's, they will then finish their tour off at the MEDA chapter in Leamington, Ont., on Sept. 5. Along the way, they'll stop at the six other MEDA chapters across the country to give presentations on the GROW program and their campaign to support it.

To support the Bike To Grow campaign, and to follow Fehr and French's progress as they bike across Canada, visit www.meda.org/bike-to-grow. To watch a video of the fundraising cyclists, visit http://bit.ly/1LgJd1q.

Two Women Cycling to Aid 20,000 Women in Ghana

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Source: "2 Mennonite Women Cycling to Aid 20,000 Women in Ghana" by Aisha Abdelhamid for EdenKeeper

Cycling across Canada on a mission

On a mission to support women soybean farmers in Northern Ghana, two young women will undertake a four-month bike ride across Canada to raise $150,000. The money will go to Mennonite Economic Development Associates' GROW project in Ghana. GROW, or Greater Rural Opportunities for Women, is a six-year project to help improve the incomes and food security of 20,000 women and their families.

"Bike to GROW," the name of Sarah French and Mary Fehr's mission, is scheduled to begin on May 18 in Victoria, British Columbia, and conclude on September 5 in Leamington, Ontario. On their way East across the length of Canada, Sarah and Mary plan to speak with locals about Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), the GROW project, and their experience, making strategic stops at Mennonite churches, community centers, and MEDA chapters.

Not Your Typical 20-Somethings
Recently participating in a Mennonite Economic Development Associates intern program, Sarah French worked in Nicaragua on an agriculture project. Mary Fehr worked in Tanzania on a health project. Both saw the beneficial impact of their projects, as women were being helped out of poverty and they started looking for ways to become more involved.

Sarah remarked, "The GROW project is assisting 20,000 women farmers and their families to sustainably emerge from poverty. Mary and I wanted to support a project that focused on women because we saw the gender inequalities while on our own internships." Sarah continued, "It couldn't be more symbolic: Two women cycling across Canada representing independent, self-sufficient women."

Mary added, "I love to take on a challenge and prove to myself that absolutely anything is possible with willpower and determination." She added, "Sarah and I cannot fail, especially with the amazing support we've received. We're no longer just biking for ourselves but for all of MEDA, MEDA's supporters and of course, the women and families in Ghana."

Mennonite Economic Development Associates
Mennonite Economic Development Associates, or MEDA, was founded in 1953 by a group of Mennonite business professionals. An international economic development organization, its mission is to alleviate poverty through business solutions. Affirming that "all people deserve the opportunity to earn a livelihood," they furthermore believe that "unleashing entrepreneurship is a powerful way to alleviate poverty."

With a full range of entrepreneurial expertise, MEDA works in developing nations, partnering with the poor to start or grow small and medium-sized businesses. Focusing on women, youth, and the rural poor, Mennonite Economic Development Associates offer business training, technology upgrades, financial services, equity investment, and improved access to markets.

Sharing Life-Changing Stories Across Canada
Coordinator of Engagement Initiatives Ethan Eshbach said, "It's really inspiring to see Sarah and Mary's passion for how MEDA works and their determination to succeed for women in Ghana." Eshbach noted, "Bike to GROW has encouraged many people to join us in our mission to create business solutions to poverty. Anyone can help by offering financial support, a place to sleep or by organizing a local event."

Sarah and Mary both agreed, and pointed out how right it feels to use their ride as a chance to give back to the wonderful work that Mennonite Economic Development Associates does every day.

GROW Country Project Manager Catherine Sobrevega said, "We're so blessed and honored that women like Sarah and Mary want to support our efforts to empower women as entrepreneurs here in Ghana." Sobrevega spoke highly of the women of Ghana, saying, "These women work hard and persevere every day to provide for their families. You can see their smiles when they learn new things, produce a good harvest and have income because of our support." Speaking of Sarah and Mary, Sobrevega said, "It's exciting to know their life-changing stories are going to be shared across Canada. Our team will include both of them in our prayers. May they remain strong and safe throughout this memorable journey for GROW."

Amen! Watch for updates here on EdenKeeper of these two young women, Sarah French and Mary Fehr, as their "Bike to Grow" journey across Canada progresses.

Biking across Canada to support women

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Source: "Biking across Canada to support women" by Barry Bergen for the Canadian Mennonite

Two young Canadian women, Mary Fehr and Sarah French plan to spend the summer riding their bikes across the country to raise funds for the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana. The two spent more than six months as MEDA interns, Fehr in Tanzania, and French in Nicaragua.

After a year of planning, the 8,710-kilometre ride from Victoria, B.C. to St. John's, Nfld. begins this month. "Neither of us are bikers," Fehr says with a smile, "so we are learning some things about it this year." They hope to average about a hundred kilometres per day and without a support vehicle. Their budget of $8,000 each – which they worked to save this past year – includes ferry fees, the occasional night in a motel and plane tickets from St. John's to Waterloo, Ont., at the conclusion of the summer.

They plan to stop at every MEDA chapter along the way, challenging each chapter to raise $10,000. They also hope to share stories about the GROW program and personal reflections on their time as interns. They hope to inspire a new generation of young adults to become involved in development issues. MEDA's GROW project helps rural women in Ghana to grow soybeans. Through the formation of co-operatives, rural women negotiate a better price in the market.

When Fehr and French finish their summer ride for GROW, they both hope to find work in the field of international development.