MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field
Mary Fehr is from Leamington, Ontario. She is the youngest daughter of Abe and Lisa Fehr, and leads an active life. Mary played junior ice hockey in Boston, which led her to Nichols College. At Nichols, she studied marketing and communication and starting thinking about how she could integrate her studies into her life. Shortly after graduating in 2013, she traveled with MEDA to Tanzania for nine months. It was here that her interest in international development began. Towards the end of her internship, she and Sarah often asked each other "What's next?" According to Mary, "It only felt right to use this ride as a chance to give back to the wonderful work MEDA does every day." She is excited to embrace the adventures and challenges this trip will present knowing that Bike to Grow will help women around the world.

Northern Ontario





As we sit here looking at Georgian Bay, I am in disbelief that I made it through Northern Ontario. For me, the ferry from Manitoulin Island to Tobermory was a major milestone in this journey. I thought if I could just make it there, I could see myself making it to St. John’s. We will still have challenges and we will still have hard days, but from here on out, I can look back and remember all that I have overcome thus far.As we enjoy a much-needed day off at Cyprus Lake in Tobermory, listening to the waves crashing against the shore, I reflect on so many amazing experiences I have had in the last three weeks. As we crossed the border to Northern Ontario, I felt my stomach tighten into a million knots. We had been warned about the shoulders on the road, the bugs that never go away and the crazy truck drivers that will drive us right off the road.Somehow though, they forgot to tell us about the unimaginable beauty of Lake Superior and Lake Huron. There was beauty in the natural scenery we were surrounded by, there was beauty in the hearts of everyone we met and there was beauty in the company of our fellow cyclists.Through Northern Ontario, there are not too many choices of routes to take, so we seemed to run into different cyclists, all with their own story. The most amazing part of this whole journey to me is how everything seems to happen exactly when it is supposed to. There is no question that God is listening to everyone praying for us. As we were entering into what I expected to be the scariest part of the whole trip, we connected with the perfect people to keep our spirits high.First, it starts with a plan of where to camp for the night, then a spot to meet up for the next night. Suddenly, we’re figuring out what our next week will look like together. Surrounded by beautiful, inspiring people, the days seem to fly by and before we knew it, we were on the ferry to Tobermory.With too many stories to tell, all I can do is thank all of those people that I met along way who kept me going one more hour, one more day and one more province. The closer we felt to each other, the more we were able to open up. All of us needed to find this new community for different reasons: Some for a day, some for a week and some for the whole province. The goodbyes were never fun, but the memories made are ones that are making this into the summer I had always imagined...full of funny stories, tough challenges and new friends from all over.The hills were big, there were a lot of bugs and the shoulders weren’t great, but none of that seems to bring us down from the best summer of our lives. Northern Ontario has taught me to be patient, to let go of what I cannot change and to trust that I will be okay. When I am able to let go of my fears and worries, I find ways to overcome challenges that I never thought imaginable. As we treat ourselves to a day off in Tobermory, suddenly St. John’s doesn’t seem so far away.
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Prairie Times: Mary Fehr

MEDA followed up with Bike to GROW to find out how they’re fairing at the end of the Prairies– Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This time, Mary shares her insights...How did biking in the Prairies compare to biking in the Rockies?It was wonderful. I finally feel I have a rhythm. I get into my cadence and I can just cruise and let my mind wander. I now feel at peace enough that my bike is going to hold together and I can enjoy the beauty of the fields around me.How well has your body and mind adjusted to this daily physical endurance?My body has been feel great, a few sore knees and a few scrapes but nothing to complain about. My mind is loving it. The prairies may get boring in a car but on a bike, each new field is a new excitement and the sky is forever changing and shaping in different ways.What has it been like spending every day for almost two months with Sarah?Amazing. I don’t know that there is anyone else I could do this ride with. We don’t get along and agree with each other every step of the way, but we work through and communicate about everything. We are aware of each other’s moods and are learning what we both need in different situations. For instance, I know that Sarah’s mood is directly correlated to the speed she is biking: When she is in a good mood, I can never catch her, but when she is tired or hungry or frustrated, I am able to stick with her or even worse... pass her.How has it been connecting with MEDA supporters and introducing others to MEDA?I don’t know what were going to do after this trip because no one will be asking what we are doing and why. I love when I get to share the work of MEDA and my personal experience as a previous intern. It is so easy to share our goal and look to get others involved because I am so passionate and confident that the money is going to improve so many women’s lives.How is cooking for yourselves on the road?This is interesting. We are very different eaters. So far, there has been many small towns that we can usually plan lunch around but come Northern Ontario, we will be doing much more of the cooking ourselves. I am sure we will have many conversations about what we both need to function in the best possible way. We will both compromise so that each of us has the fuel we need to get through the next day. Then, when we see a restaurant, we’ll indulge.Is it hard biking carrying all of your own gear and belongings?At the beginning, I couldn’t believe how heavy it was but now, I feel empty without it! It has become so natural that I don’t even notice it anymore, unless I pack up to quickly – in which case I am usually heavily left or right sided, and I notice that almost immediately.How often do you stop for breaks during the day?We try to stop every hour just to stand up, maybe eat a snack and make a little pit stop on the side of the highway. So in the Prairies, it has been every 25km.What do you do when you don’t have a pre-arranged place to stay?We would camp but more often then not, we have met people along the way that have offered us a place to stay or to connect us with someone in a future town. We are incredibly lucky and supported!What do you do on your days off?Laundry and rest. We are usually pretty exhausted on our days off that we don’t have much time for other activities but we did get to a Rodeo in Regina that was amazing!What is one new thing you’ve learned about yourself?I have learned that my mood is determined based on my electrolyte level. As I become dehydrated, I find myself getting upset at things that are really not an issue. As soon as I am able to get some electrolytes back in my body, those same issues no longer frustrate me. I am sure Sarah has learned this about me far quicker then I did but we both have an understanding. There is “hangry” and there is “angry” – both are valid emotions.
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Tent poles


Riding away from Kelowna was a bittersweet experience. After enjoying a wonderful day off, it was incredibly hard to leave. However, Sarah and I were both incredibly excited to spend the next few days camping. British Columbia is well known for their beautiful provincial parks and we wanted to experience the province at its best.After much discussion as to where we should ride, we rode off from the Kettle Valley Trail that goes from Kelowna to Castlegar. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail is an old railroad that takes you on a journey with breath-taking views while following Highway #33. We were overwhelmed with so much joy on the start of our ride. It was a perfect start to the day.As we rode, the trail started to get a little tougher and a little wet from the rainfall the night before. Even though we had to walk through some big puddles and our tires slipped in the sand every so often, we were still having a generally positive day. I mean, we were surrounded by nature and what else could we ask for? The first 40km, that took us most of the morning, was much slower than our normal pace, so it seemed the only logical thing was to find a way back to the main highway. After a few wrong turns and some wasted time, we changed our minds again and decided to continue on the Kettle Valley Trail. It would simply be a few more hours of grinding it out, but we would get there.I jumped ahead of Sarah to avoid a big puddle when I heard Sarah shout, "Mary! You're missing a bag!" As I checked my panniers and my dry bag, I noticed our red tent pole bag was missing and I had no idea when I last heard the rattling. There was no other option – we would have to retrace our steps to find the bag. We were getting flustered and I could not believe how careless I could have been. We rode 20km back on the trail, stopped a group of four wheelers and asked for them to look for tent poles on the trail. They agreed to run them back to us if they found them. It had been a while so our hope that they would find them had quickly disappeared, right as we heard the first few claps of thunder. The perfect start to the day shifted very quickly.We went back to an intersection, to flag down a car for some help and some options. As we told him our situation, he informed us that he was a manager of a local resort. He explained he was setting out signs for a group of students who were biking down the Kettle Valley Trail today and staying at his resort. Hoping they would find the tent poles, I gave him my number to get in contact if that was the case. We then continued to the next closest town, Beaverdell, now in pouring rain.Feeling completed defeated and overwhelmed, we finally arrived in Beaverdell. We quickly found a place to stay, as there were only two options and we couldn't make it to the next town until the following morning. We sat down to eat the last of our food and talk about the frustrations of the day – communication is key.Our new plan was to order some new poles and have them shipped to the next destination we could get them. As I called our tent company, they let me know a new set of poles would be $195.00, much more than either of us anticipated. I hung up the phone, unimpressed that I would probably just have to accept the charge to get some new poles if we wanted to camp at all this summer. I went back to the table with Sarah and told her the unfortunate news when I noticed a voicemail – it was the kind fellow we had met on the side of the road. After much too long of an introduction, he finally announced the tent poles had been found!!The support vehicle for the teachers had wanted a little exercise after waiting for their students all day and decided to go look for them! They found them about 10km up from the road where we turned back and would come early to Beaverdell the next day to give them to us. I was in touch and so thankful to the staff in the support vehicle and we made plans to meet the following morning.As we waited at the local ice cream parlor/coffee shop, we couldn't believe how lucky we have been this whole trip. We are overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of others. I cannot thank all of you enough who have prayed for us over the past few weeks on the start of our journey. I have no idea where we would be if it weren't for the incredible power of prayer.The past few days camping have been an adventure all on their own, with so many great stories. We have met incredible people, enjoyed some quality time with nature and loved every second of it. Oh, and now we put our tent poles in Sarah's bag...
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Meet the Riders: Mary Fehr


MEDA recently asked both Bike to GROW cyclists 10 questions about themselves, their fellow rider and the upcoming experience. This time, Mary shares her answers...What place are you eager to see?Nova Scotia/ the East – it will be my first time out east.What are you not looking forward to doing?Biking in traffic in the Prairies.What are five words you'd use to describe Sarah?Optimistic, energetic, thoughtful, lovely and hangry.What's your favourite thing about Sarah?Her big and many dreams!!What's one thing Sarah doesn't know about you?Nothing... we have pillow talk every night... we talk about everything!What's your go-to pre-ride snack?PB&B (Peanut butter and banana).What's one piece of equipment you can't bike without?Bike shorts!What's one new thing you've learned about biking?How to cross the road when riding with clips.... And not fall in the middle of the intersection.Who's your biggest supporter?My family – both my parents and siblings have been giving me unbelievable support that makes me excited everyday to conquer this challenge!What are you most excited about for Bike to GROW?To be continually inspired by everyone I meet along the way. Everyone has their own story and their own challenges. Hearing how they overcame or learned from them always motivates me to do and learn more.
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Pre-ride jitters

The knots in my stomach have taken away my appetite. My head spinning with thoughts about biking and packing have made it difficult to have conversation about anything other then biking. My legs are full of energy that it makes it hard to sit still for even a small amount of time. It's safe to say my pre-ride jitters have set in.I had a coach once tell me, "It's okay to get nervous because it simply means you care." That statement has never felt truer in my life. As I gear up to leave for Victoria, I find myself thinking more and more about those women in Ghana; the women that fight everyday, working long hours and under the hot sun all day to provide for their families. Compared to all the work they do, biking across Canada doesn't seem like that big of a task. Focusing on these women allows me to push the nerves down and find the courage to make this happen.My life has been full of calculated risks; I have never been challenged in a way that I actually questioned whether or not I could accomplish my goal. Biking across Canada is different – I have to find a way to get my legs to continue pushing me across the country for that is the only way I will get from Victoria to St. John's. The thought is scary, and makes me question whether it is actually possible. Yet, this is also what makes it exciting. I am motivated by the fact that I'm in control of my own future. I will find a way to get my legs to push me across the country.I am, however, not alone. I have found the most incredible support system throughout this journey. For an extrovert like myself, this is what keeps me going day to day...it keeps me putting on my cycling shoes everyday and getting on my bike. I have said it again and again but I have this gut feeling of confidence. I am confident Sarah and I will find our way to push ourselves across the country because we have so many people believing in us from all over the world. We have been blessed with inspiration from so many and encouraged from everyone's kind words. It helps us to remember we're not biking for only ourselves, but for something so much greater. We are biking for the women in Ghana because it is their hard work that has empowered us to make a difference.So yes, I have quite the pre-ride jitters, but I have no doubt that Sarah and I will bike across Canada. After all, we have the support of MEDA and all that comes with it drafting the wind in front of us. I am so proud to be apart of this amazing team all working towards the common goal of women economic development.
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8,710km

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"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." Of all the times in my life my coaches have said that to me and my teammates, it has never rung truer then today. Biking across Canada it by far the most challenging thing I have ever embarked on, a large part of the reason I decided to join Sarah on the trip. However, recently this challenge is working up my nervous energy more than ever before. I worry about the Rockies and how were ever going to get up it. I worry about those days where it feels like just nothing is going right and I worry that Sarah is going to blow me out of the water! With all these worries, the only thing that keeps me moving forward is the many people helping and supporting me with my training.I wanted to get an early start to the training, so last August I joined a local "spin class" lead by Dan Quick. My friend, Kate Wiens, had been going for a year before that and had already learned so much. So every Tuesday, we meet up and sweat more in one hour than I thought was ever possible. Dan is working so hard to teach me the proper form for maximum efficiency. As he has done many tours before, he knows the many challenges and mental deficiencies that one must train for and learn to overcome. Each week when we arrive, he has a different ride mapped out – many are from the tour de France, where we learn what it's like to ride far and straight, then take a turn and conquer a steep climb. Many of which, make me wonder, what in the world I was thinking when I decided to take a bicycle across Canada...8710km.Before Christmas, I was taking the spin class and simply trying to stay in shape. Instead of a New Year's Resolution, I knew the start of the New Year was the start of my focused training. I signed up for a gym membership, which I knew had a professional cyclist as one of their trainers. Once signing up, I looked into getting a few personal training sessions where she could show me effective ways to build up the most important muscles for a cyclist. After a consultation with the manager, he told me that Sue, a professional cyclist, was extremely busy but would find a way to make it work because she was so excited about the project. Sue has been an excellent motivation for both fitness and mental toughness. She pushes me hard to work through an extra set, or shortens the break time between sets, all while taking the moments to talk through some emotions I may feel and ways to cope with the long silence giving me nothing but time to talk myself out of it. We work through the fears, anticipation and societal expectations that women cannot train as hard as men. In only a few sessions, I have already noticed myself stronger physically and emotionally.The best way to build that confidence is to actually do what you are afraid of. Since it is too cold to bike outside right now, I have a trainer set up in my basement so I may actually ride my own bike and get used to that saddle. I try to get on it at least three times a week, to get adjusted to using my own bike. Thanks to Kate and her family who let me borrow it during this training period. I'm looking forward to getting to ride outside a few times before we leave.With the lessons and support from Dan and Sue, as well as the encouragement and support from friends and family like Kate and my parents, I am able to push aside those fears and worries. Cycling is 5% physical and 95% mental toughness – learning to clear the negative and make room for the positive is half the battle. As I spend these last three months gaining strength and preparing to bike across Canada, I'm building the confidence that will only prepare us to conquer this challenge. I mean, really... 8,710km, that's only 100km per day, 20km per hour for 5 hours.
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MEDA Convention Reflection: Thank you for the support

I had heard a lot about these "MEDA Conventions" before and after working as a MEDA Intern in Tanzania for 9 months last year, I knew that I wanted to attend. However, I never expected to have that chance to speak at one. So November 13th, 2014, I was off to a place I never thought I would be going in November...Winnipeg!I arrived a little early, so I had some time to settle in before all the hustle and bustle of the conference began. For once it started, I felt like there was not a minute I was not intrigued by an amazing speaker, listening to some informative seminars, eating with the most interesting people or relaxing with some new friends. I don't think my smile left my face. It was undeniably one of the most highly influential weeks in my life.When Sarah and I decided to bike across Canada to raise money for a MEDA project, we never expected any of this, that is what is so incredible. The MEDA conference was nothing short of that, absolutely incredible. We were meeting MEDA supporters from all around the world with this undying passion for the work MEDA does every day. As an intern, I was lucky enough to see the work first hand but that is what surprised me so much, most of these people had never even visited a project but yet they trusted their donations and support were being used in the best way possible. I am learning that is what this organization is built on, trust. Trust between the employees and their beneficiaries, trust between the offices and trust between the organization and their supporters. At the MEDA convention, I realized just how much trust everyone had in this amazing organization.Every time Sarah or I walked to the conference floor, someone introduced themself and wanted to hear about the bike trip, offer us a place to stay, join us for parts of the trip or thank us for what we were doing for MEDA. For me, that was the most memorable part of the conference. The support we received from everyone at the conference and MEDA has been absolutely incredible. I am still in shock about it all. When committing to this bike trip, I thought we would be able to make a small contribution to a MEDA project, this however has turned into a much more than we ever dreamed of all thank you to the support we have been given from MEDA and their supporters. So to all those that we met or haven't met yet, you are giving us the motivation we need that will take us across the country, you are our inspiration. Thank you.The Friday night, we had the opportunity to listen to Ziauddin Yousafzai speak at Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Sarah and I were so excited, we decided to leave a little early to get the best seats in the house, and that is exactly what we did. Sitting second row, front and center, not only were we able to watch closely as he delivered his message but we also got to see the compassion in his heart as he listened to the Canadian Mennonite University's choir sing, enjoying every single note. I was mesmerized listening to such an inspiring individual with so much to teach us and only an hour to speak, I tried to take in every single word. When Mr. Yousafzai was at the podium, the silence in the room of 500 people gave me goose bumps. It's an incredible thing to see an individual who has been through so much more than I can ever imagine, light up the room with his smile. It was certainly a night I will not forget and he and his family are certainly a family that will continue to inspire me. This was just one of the many moments throughout the MEDA convention that fueled my passion for international development.I was amazed by the MEDA convention but when I look back on it, I'm not really sure why – that's who MEDA is, that's what MEDA does, they empower people. I will forever be grateful for my opportunity to be a small part in the difference MEDA is making in so many lives both overseas and at home. I want to thank MEDA for continuing to live so passionately. In today's busy society, it's easy to get distracted and focus on small details, the MEDA convention is a reminder to live for the big picture. The MEDA convention left me feeling more inspired and determined than ever. Before the convention, my biggest fear about Bike to Grow was that we would not make it across the country. With the support of MEDA and their community, that is no longer a fear of mine. I am determined, I am inspired and I am passionate about all that MEDA does and that alone will give me the power I need to bike across Canada.Thank you MEDA and MEDA community, you are fantastic.
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