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.