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As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Close to 60 people from across southern Ontario spent five days in mid-July hiking the southern section of the Bruce Trail to raise money for MEDA’s Nigeria Way project.

MEDA has a five-year project in Nigeria’s Bauchi state to promote youth entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment. The Nigeria work, which began in 2017, is a $15 million project funded largely by Global Affairs Canada, with a $1.1 million contribution from MEDA.

The group, which covered over 60 miles (100km) of the trail in southwestern Ontario’s Niagara region, included over 10 different companies. Those firms provided support to their staff to participate. The firms are members of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association (OLTCA).

Most staff at OLTCA seniors facilities are caregivers, predominantly women. MEDA’s Nigeria project, with its emphasis on economic inclusion and reduction of early and forced child marriage, resonates with the staff of the various participating firms.

The Nigeria Way project aims to increase the contribution by entrepreneurs and small-scale businesses, particularly those run by women and youth, to Nigeria’s economic growth.

This was the second summer that supporters hiked a portion of the trail as a channel for corporate philanthropy and employee engagement and a fundraiser for MEDA. Over the past two years, hikers have raised more than $175,000 CDN (almost $135,000 USD) for women’s economic empowerment projects in Ghana and Nigeria.

“We are so grateful to peopleCare, ProResp and the other companies who joined in this year,’’ said Helen Loftin, MEDA’s senior vice-president of marketing, who was one of the hikers. “We admire that they are engaging in corporate philanthropy that shares their companies’ values with those of their employees.

“The trekkers were wonderful to hike alongside. We encourage other firms to consider how they too might combine corporate giving with staff development in such an inspiring and fulfilling way.” ◆