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 FEL Desert rugged DAM Photo







Jordan is an amazing country of stunning beauty. An oasis of stability in a region where armed conflict is a regular occurrence, this desert nation hosts the second-largest number of refugees per capita in the world.

Like the old story about engineers pronouncing that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly, first-time observers watch and wonder.

As printed in The Marketplace March-April 2019

March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #Balance for Better.
Balance is not a women’s issue, but rather a business issue, the campaign suggests. “Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”
Creating business solutions to poverty by providing economic empowerment to vulnerable populations, including women and youth, is a major focus of MEDA’s work.

If there was an award for perseverance in presenting at a MEDA convention, Rose Mutuku of Smart Logistics Solutions would be the hands-down winner. Mutuku, a MEDA lead firm partner who flew in from Nairobi to be part of several panel discussions in Indianapolis (see story, pg. 12), showed up under extremely difficult circumstances.Mutuku and Ghimire shot for Roadside StandRose Mutuku with MEDA staffer Nikesh Ghimire

A few months earlier, she suffered a manufacturing accident, breaking her arm and hand in more than 20 places. Despite being in considerable pain and requiring some assistance, she cheerfully took part in tours, conversations and multiple presentations over the weekend, then travelled on to Ottawa for sessions with Canadian government officials. You can watch the latter presentation on the web, at

Former Canadian governor general David Johnston gives a shout-out to Waterloo County values of collaboration, sharing and mutual aid in his new book Trust (see review, pg. 20).

In a chapter entitled Be a Barn raiser, he notes that: “Neighbors who help each other with no expectation of immediate return build more trusting communities.”

As president of the University of Waterloo, Johnston and his wife Sharon owned Chatterbox Farm, a 100-acre property and horse stable north of the city. The Johnstons were impressed by the giving nature of their Old Order neighbors. “When a spirit of barn raising exists in a community, the community is a trusting one and, as a result, a strong and resilient one,” he writes.

“All community members trust in the knowledge — grounded in generations of experience — that they will step up to help a neighbor in need, and that their neighbors stand ready to help them if and when their time of need arrives.”
“While the Mennonites’ method of community self-reliance is founded on faith, it is one that neighbors in any community can emulate.”

Just prior to leaving Waterloo for Ottawa in 2010, the Johnstons helped to create the Barn Raisers council, a group of community leaders who met regularly to focus on long-range projects to improve community health. That effort also spawned an annual Barn Raiser award to recognize local leaders who demonstrate that community spirit.

MEDA’s new president

Incoming MEDA president Dr. Dorothy Nyambi (see profile, pp. 6-7) brings much relevant experience to the post that will serve the organization well in coming years.

Bilingual in French and English, she is well connected in the international development sector. She has considerable public speaking experience, both at conferences around the world and service clubs across Canada. During her time with the Canadian Executive Services Organization, she recalls speaking in Red Deer, Alta., Nunavut in Canada’s north, and St. Catharines, ON, to name a few.

Two of Dorothy and her husband David’s three children share her interest in medicine.

Their oldest son, Trevor, is a nursing student. Daughter Agatha works at an HIV research program in Toronto. Youngest son, David Jr., is a financial analyst with the Oshweken First Nations reserve, not far from the family home in Ancaster.

During a conversation with her shortly after her appointment, I was impressed by her thoughtful responses to a range of questions. While she thinks that “there is no one organization that has all the answers,” she also believes that not enough people know about MEDA.

She is clearly a collaboratively minded leader. When asked about leadership, she quotes the president of Rwanda, who when asked what he would do if he was (Facebook founder and philanthropist) Mark Zuckerburg, replied, “I don’t want to be Mark Zuckerburg. I want to create thousands of Mark Zuckerburgs.”

She appreciated the thoughtfulness of that answer, recognizing that more can be done by many people working together than as one person alone.

The Nyambis have lived in Canada for 17 years, first in the cities of Markham and North York in the Greater Toronto area. They moved to their current home 1.5 years ago.

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Vanessa HoferVanessa HoferBrnjas head shotChris BrnjasMEDA recently hired two people for its fundraising team, one an existing staffer who will be familiar to some supporters, the other new to the organization.

Vanessa Hofer, who has worked in MEDA’s Lancaster office since August 2017, assumes the new position of associate development officer, working with mid-level US donors. Hofer, a Goshen College grad, is an actor who has also worked as a theater instructor, writer and editor.

In Canada, Chris Brnjas joins the Waterloo, ON office in a similar associate development role. Brnjas, a Conrad Grebel University College alumnus, previously co-founded the Pastors in Exile non-profit, which works mostly with Mennonite young adults.

He has also worked at the Centre for Community Based Research as a research assistant and at Grebel as the interim student services program Assistant. -MS

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Sarah Kessy, founder of Tanzanian food products manufacturer Halisi Products (see pg. 14) is an amazing woman, one of many people you will benefit from hearing at MEDA’s annual convention in Indianapolis in November. A MEDA tour group that visited her facility in January was both impressed and surprised by what they saw. With all of the product lines being processed at the facility, where does she find the time to raise chickens that run around the property, or deal with the fish pond, a member of our group asked.

Both of those initiatives, unrelated to Halisi, are there to show her workers that it can be done and encourage them to start their own home businesses, she replied.

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Sam PasupalakMany successful entrepreneurs can tell stories about failures or setbacks that preceded their eventual success. Sometimes the scale of the difference between the two can be breathtaking.

david johnstonDiscussions about the effects of innovation and technology on society can draw sharply contrasting reactions, depending on the context.

For every example of promise of helping people’s lives there is a tale of peril, often resulting from unintended consequences.

I recently heard a cybersecurity expert warn that unless proper controls are put in place for appliances connected by the internet of things, hackers may one day use your toaster for an electronic attack.

In the information technology world, the dominance of a handful of companies means that “never before have we been confronted with megalithic corporations owning so much of our daily experience,” says Loren Padelford of e-commerce firm Shopify.

IMG 3178As printed in The Marketplace - May/June 2018

For people scratching out a living subsistence farming, climate change isn’t some abstract future theory. It’s already having significant, often detrimental impacts on their livelihoods.

Farmers in Kenya and Tanzania (like Martha Kisanga, profiled on pg. 13) find it increasingly difficult to grow crops without irrigation. Many can’t afford the means of doing so.

As Printed in The Marketplace – March/April 2018

Here are some observations about a recent trip to East Africa to visit MEDA projects in Kenya and Tanzania. Stories about these projects will appear in this issue and the next.

East Africans must, of necessity, be among the most entrepreneurial people in the world. A pleasant shoeshine man encountered in the airport in Addis Ababa has taught ancient history at the post-secondary level for 16 years, but finds it easier to support his spouse and four children by cleaning loafers for travellers at $2.99 US a pop than hoping that his teacher’s salary will arrive.



The most humorous, also somewhat sad, story told at MEDA’s recent convention in Vancouver came from presenter Tareq Hadhad, who is featured on the cover of this issue. Hadhad, who was pursuing medical studies in Damascus before his family was forced to leave Syria due to the civil war, recalls being told that in Toronto, it is safer to have a heart attack in a taxi than in a hospital. Why is that, you may ask? It’s because 90 per cent of the cabbies in that city were physicians in their homeland, but are unable to get their credentials recognized in Canada, Hadhad was told. Here’s hoping this very intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken young man gets back to studying medicine sooner rather than later.

As printed in The Marketplace - Jan/Feb 2018

Ray Dirks, a Winnipeg artist and gallery curator who has designed these pages for more than 32 years, was recently honored, along with a long-time colleague, by Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor for advancing interreligious understanding.

Several speakers at MEDA’s November convention in Vancouver drew attention to one of Jesus’s most famous admonitions.

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - November/December 2017

Businesses have been practicing corporate social responsibility for over 500 years, The Atlantic magazine argues. “The Ben & Jerry’s of Medieval Times” story says that while benefits corporations (B Corps.) — companies whose mission includes the welfare of their workers, society and the environment — only caught on in 2007, there is considerable evidence of “compassionate capitalism” dating back to the Middle Ages.

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - September/October 2017

While putting together the cover package about Audrey Voth Petkau and TourMagination, I came across an article on Christian Week’s website that touts the spiritual benefits of travel. In the piece, Benjamin L. Corey argues that travelling exposes us to the fullness of God’s creation and can expand our heart’s capacity to love others.