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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.