Leamington group punches above its weight in support for MEDA projects

Bill Wiebe visits a MEDA project in Ukraine. Photo by Issak Harder.
Bill Wiebe visits a MEDA project in Ukraine.

This is the third in a series about MEDA hubs across North America. The hubs, more than a dozen volunteer-led groups, organize events and activities to build awareness about MEDA’s work creating business solutions to poverty, to network and to hear people share stories about faith, work and entrepreneurship as a calling.

MEDA supporters in Leamington don’t set records for frequency of meetings.

But no other hub comes close to matching this southern Ontario group’s financial support for MEDA’s international development work. Between 2018 and 2020, it raised over $571,000 for the Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project.

Some small gatherings and information meetings about MEDA were held in Leamington as far back as 2002, board member Laura Tiessen recalls.

The official group launched with a large fundraising event at The Marina, a major gathering place on the edge of Lake Erie, in the summer of 2009. Current hub chair Jim Konrad, along with his sisters Julie and Janet were invited to the event by their parents Rob and Lois Konrad, who have been long time MEDA supporters.

The annual summer fundraiser was the hub’s major event for a decade.

Other hub highlights are a business panel held every second year, plus fundraising to sponsor youth to attend convention and group trips to visit MEDA projects.

Recent fundraisers over the past three years in support of Ukraine efforts mark the second time the Leamington group has committed to supporting work in that Eastern European nation. Leamington hub has also raised funds for MEDA projects in Ghana and Myanmar.

Jim Konrad
Jim Konrad. Photo by Issak Harder

Despite the global pandemic, the hub held a successful event last August, raising $6,000 with its family friendly Move for MEDA event.

This summer, the hub will hold an upgraded version of Move for MEDA. It has selected 18 locations in Leamington and the neighboring small towns of Kingsville and Wheatley, creating an app-based passport scenario where family groups can get information about one of MEDA’s 18 current projects, checking in “in a COVID safe way.”

The week-long event, from August 7 to 14, will open and close with video messages from North American MEDA staff and the Ukraine team.

The hub is also combining forces with the Leamington Mennonite Home seniors’ facility to do a COVID-friendly, curbside pickup community meal. Konrad expects “hundreds and hundreds” of orders will come in to support the fundraiser. “We really feel this is going to be one of the best events we’ve ever done, in the midst of COVID.”

“We realized that we can still run very successful events, we just have to think outside the box from what we used to do from a fundraising perspective.”

Aside from Jim Konrad and his wife Mariel, other members of the Leamington hub planning committee include his parents Rob and Lois, Laura and Roger Tiessen, Shelby Foster, Jon and Jen Dick, Bill Wiebe, Abby Neufeld-Dick and Mary Fehr.

Neufeld-Dick and Fehr focus on connecting 18 to 35-year-olds with hub activities.

A focus on nurturing young leaders is a priority for the Leamington hub to get younger people involved, as “they don’t understand where they fit in there sometimes (in activities that historically attracted older people),” Konrad said.

Leamington’s next major commitment is fundraising for MEDA’s upcoming work in the Philippines.

“In the next three years, we expect to do the most aggressive fundraising to date,” Konrad said.

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  • MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty.

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