Fast fact: Alena Yoder loves to read.
Each book on her coffee table has a purpose. There’s the “capacity-building book.” There’s the “challenging book.” There’s the fun, easy read, which for Alena, is likely to be a memoir.
And then there’s the constantly growing stack of “to-read-soon.”
“I’ve always been an avid reader,” Yoder said. “I love stories...the stories of people, of what they do and how they think...of other places. It’s easy for me to get caught in other worlds.”
Her love transcends bedtime ritual and rainy-day hobby. For Yoder, stories have guided her from point A to B throughout her life.
It was stories that helped her transition back to the United States after spending six years of her childhood in Kenya.
It was stories that motivated her to study history, English and gender studies at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU).
And it was stories that drew her to her work post-graduation as Cohort Projects Coordinator at the Center of Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at EMU.
“Go with the flow”
With a vision for preparing, transforming, and sustaining leaders to create a just and peaceful world, CJP offers graduate-level courses and trainings in peacebuilding, restorative justice, organizational health, development and trauma awareness and resilience.
Yoder was initially hired to work with the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program.
It felt like a natural fit; Yoder worked closely with a group of women from Kenya. She even had the opportunity to make a visit back to her childhood home.
When grant funding concluded for the program at the end of 2017, Yoder shifted her focus to project development and grant writing.
“I go with the flow and fill the needs that are here,” she said.
Now, her time is primarily spent researching for new opportunities that align with CJP’s mission.
Even within this evolving role, Yoder connects her work back to her underlining passion.
“One of the things I’ve learned about proposals and concept notes is that what you want to do is tell a story--the most captivating story--because you want to get the funder’s attention,” Yoder said.
Fusing passions to create MEDAx
Yoder’s connection to MEDA is an unraveling story of its own.
Though she can’t pinpoint exactly when she first connected to the organization, she remembers her now-husband, then-boyfriend, texting her from a MEDA convention he attended while in college.
“I remember that because he texted me, ‘Malala Yousafzai’s dad is at this convention. I think you would love it.’ At that point it was already obvious I was interested in working with women and exploring women’s strengths,” she said.
“This is my first real connection [to MEDA],” she said.
“I wouldn’t have necessarily thought MEDA would be my platform,” she said, “But I’m starting to feel ownership in this MEDAx initiative.”
She continued, “Through our conversations I’m recognizing that okay, maybe I don’t have a business background, but look at what else I can offer.”
“I think Roxy has so much to offer,” said Yoder. “I am so excited to see what she brings to the panel and the atmosphere at-large.”
The story continues
Though a bookworm introvert, Yoder is quick to tell you that she deeply values collaboration and relationship building.
She sees MEDAx as an opportunity to offer just that to the next generation of changemakers.
“The networking possibility and potential—that’s always been a part of MEDA Convention and what MEDA Convention does—but I think when you put a bunch of younger people together, there’s a different type of drive or energy. Ideas can intermingle. That’s fun, that’s exciting, that’s relational.”
She continued, “Who knows what stories we can build out of that?”
Ready to take the next step? Register HERE.
Want to join Alena on her Fall 2018 reading journey? Here are a couple of her reccomendations:
- Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
- The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr
- Any books by author Wyoming-based British-Zimbabwean author Alexandra Fuller, but one in particular that I love – Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman