MEDA volunteer auditor reflects on work in Ghana

Larry Hogg"I support MEDA's values - rooted in the Christian faith - and its mission to create business solutions to poverty. Jesus taught his followers that we ought to care for the poor and those in need. – MEDA's work is a practical, sustainable response to that."

Larry Hogg wasn’t sure what to expect when he signed up to be a volunteer auditor with MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates). He’s had an interest in, and been a fan of MEDA – its values and mission – for a while, so when the opportunity came up he thought he could learn more and see a different part of the world.

The accountant from Stouffville, ON, has been a MEDA supporter since 2009. He was researching microfinance and learned more about an organization he’d first heard of through reading The Marketplace magazine at his church. He’d expressed interest in going on an audit trip, but the timing had never worked with the accounting cycles at his busy bank job.

Then he met for coffee with MEDA resource development officer Marion Good, and he learned a trip to Ghana scheduled for February had been pushed to March. A couple of days later, MEDA internal auditor Susan Schmitz called him. “Susan and I chatted, and by the time I was off the phone, I had pretty much decided I wanted to do it.”

In quick order, Larry was led through the steps in preparing for his trip. “I was really impressed by how organized MEDA’s communication and guidance was in that respect. Corina (McGillivray) sent an application for a visa and security briefing, since there is some degree of risk, as well as an application for the role.

“I had been to Africa before; in 2008, my brother and I and our wives travelled to Botswana and Zambia, where he had served as a doctor for two years at a local hospital. That trip gave me some idea of what to expect.

“Susan provided other relevant information and Scott (Ruddick) called to give me a security briefing. MEDA’s security consciousness was evident from the use of Travel Tracker (consolidated organizational travel tracking software) and the support of in-country staff.”

Larry’s training and experience in auditing and accounting equipped him for the role. He didn’t get into the field or have a chance to meet the women soy farmers in the project, he said, “but it’s surprising what you can learn from an organization’s records.

“I was able to observe firsthand that MEDA has a culture of internal discipline regarding the use of donor funds, just due to the fact that MEDA is willing to take volunteer auditors along. The key word is transparency – a quality that I respect. That is evidence of honesty and integrity – good qualities for an organization to have. The experience validated the trust I already had in MEDA.”

As a Christian, Larry has contemplated his purpose on earth. “We’re all unique as individuals and God has a unique purpose for each one of us – our experiences, abilities and personality. Why MEDA resonates with me is its emphasis on business as a calling.

Highlights of the experience?

“One highlight was meeting the people in Ghana. – As a work colleague of mine would say, ‘It’s not only the climate that’s warm, it’s the people too.’ The staff at MEDA’s Tamale office were gracious and welcoming. And I got to know some new people.

“Susan made the trip a great experience; she’s energetic, professional, down-to-earth and deeply committed to MEDA’s mission – a good ambassador for MEDA. And (Ghana country manager) Catherine (Sobrevega) ... I was so impressed. It takes a lot of courage to go to some of the places MEDA works, like Pakistan, Libya and Afghanistan.”

Larry was also happy to know that the Government of Canada is a major donor to the GROW project: “It made me proud to be Canadian and see our tax dollars being used in such a worthwhile way.”

He’s interested in going back to see GROW’s field locations, to see how modern techniques and tools are replacing traditional ways to increase efficiency and yields. But for now, “I’m thankful to Laura, my awesome wife of 33 years, who, along with Susan and Marion, encouraged me to go.”