Mikestrathdee’s Blog


For a greener future
June 26, 2018, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Business, Environment, Recycling, stewardship, Theology, Uncategorized

 

For a greener future

As printed in The Marketplace – May/June 2018

Kitchener group helps build more sustainable communities

By Mike Strathdee

Kitchener, ON — Mary Jane Patterson takes a long-term view when she describes the work of the environmental charity that she heads.

“It grows out of caring,” says Patterson, executive director of REEP Green Solutions. “Caring is in our vision. We believe by acting today we can leave our children a community that is more sustainable, vibrant, caring and resilient.”

A Catholic who is active in her local parish, she sees her work as being grounded in an expression of her faith. “There’s a sense of social justice in environmentalism, and recognizing that we have an impact on others in the way we live our lives. That is also faith-based for me.”

Patterson left a career in television production to enrol in a master’s degree in Environment Studies at the University of Waterloo in 1999. The environment faculty was using home energy evaluation software to do residential audits. Patterson was one of two people hired for the Residential Energy Efficiency Project (REEP). Audits cost only $25 back then, but drumming up business wasn’t easy in the early days, even with on-campus acquaintances. “People started ducking when they saw us coming down the hall,” she recalls.

Two years later, she became REEP’s manager, part-time at first. As the organization grew, it moved off campus, incorporated as a non-profit, and a few years later, became a registered charity.

Brendan and water tanksBrendan Schaefer, REEP House Facility manager, talks to a group about harvesting rainwater.REEP Green Solutions now provides services in many communities adjacent to the region where it was founded. It is one of a score of environmental organizations that are part of Green Communities Canada, a national association of community-based groups working with homeowners, businesses, governments, and communities for a sustainable future.

A nimble, highly entrepreneurial organization, REEP Green Solutions is often exploring new areas to provide service and generate funding for that work. About half of its budget comes from fee-for-service work and contracts with municipalities to provide services such as domestic water-use audits.

In addition to home energy efficiency audits and providing advice about worthwhile improvements, REEP Green Solutions advises homeowners on water conservation, RAIN Smart landscaping to manage runoff, waste reduction and related education around environment issues.

Storm water management is increasingly a concern for cities across North America. U.S. organizations working to educate people about best practices in this area include Blue Thumb in Minnesota, Riversmart Homes in Washington D.C.- Maryland, RainReady in Chicago, and the Watershed Management Group in Phoenix.

REEP Green Solutions operates and maintains the REEP House for Sustainable Living, a century-old property in a Kitchener residential neighborhood that has been upgraded to top level (LEED) energy efficiency. The site is a demonstration property where people can view several types of insulation, ground source heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures. Patterson is pleased with “all the things we show in the house that you can do in your own house (to reduce energy consumption).”

Solar panels, two large rain water cisterns that are used to flush toilets and irrigate plants around the house, and permeable paving are features of the property.

REEP House is also home to tours of school and university groups, as well as lecture series dealing with home energy use, upgrades and a variety of topics related to sustainable living, including green burials and electric vehicles.

The latter speaker series was “the beginning of opening our mind up to a broader vision of what we offer to the community.”

Wanting to reach people who aren’t homeowners, REEP launched a Zero Waste Challenge in 2016. This annual event asks people to try to send less waste to landfill. For five days, participants use a mason jar to hold all home garbage that would be destined for the trash. Refusing or reducing packaging, recycling and composting are all steps toward that goal.

RainGarden 33“The more we make requests of our vendors, the closer we will get to zero waste.”“The more we make requests of our vendors, the closer we will get to zero waste.”

REEP Green Solutions partners with Sustainable Waterloo Region (a group that helps businesses become more energy efficient) and the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge in Ontario in a collaboration known as Climate Action WR. That group will present a plan to area governments this spring on ways to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels by 2050. Several other Ontario communities, including Toronto, Hamilton and London, have already set similar targets.

Patterson has seen her organization change and expand in reacting to what people say they need, or what municipalities or utilities are doing that they can support. Some programs have come and gone, including solar assessments, audits of church buildings, and helping rural landowners ensure their wells were being safely maintained (in response to a water contamination crisis in Walkerton, a rural Ontario community.)

New areas of emphasis include green infrastructure, helping people to put native plants in their yards and plant trees. She hopes the program will help people know what species to plant, where to put them and how to keep the trees thriving on their property.

REEP Green Solutions is as much part of a broader movement as it is a purveyor of individual services. Patterson acknowledges that staff efforts are multiplied by the support of a network of engaged volunteers, including the organization’s board, local students and community members. Even REEP’s volunteer co-ordinator is a volunteer. “This is work that is really meaningful to all of us working on it.”

Patterson is encouraged to see senior levels of government paying attention to climate change, “looking it in the eye and figuring out what we have to do.”

At the same time, while senior governments come and go, “the municipal level is where it’s at. This is where the work continues. That is really inspiring to be part of, and to see.

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A flavor sensation
June 26, 2018, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Agriculture, International Development, MEDA, Uncategorized

A flavor sensation

1 IMG 9413
Vanilla beans provide an above average return for Tanzanian farmers.

Tanzanian firm partners with MEDA to grow farmers’ income

By Mike Strathdee

This story first appeared in the May 2018 issue of The Marketplace magazine

MOSHI, TANZANIA — Juan Guardado has abandoned several careers that could have made him quite well-to-do.

Money has been less important to him than making a difference and improving people’s lives.

“You have to think about what your legacy is going to be,” Guardado said of his abandoned career paths during a tour of NEI, the extracts firm he co-founded in 2011. “I definitely don’t regret it.

“When I go see the farmers, some of them just run out and give me a hug. A lot of clients in consulting don’t necessarily do that.”

NEI (Natural Extracts Industries) is a MEDA partner that is working to raise the living standards of thousands of Tanzanian farmers, primarily by teaching them how to grow organic vanilla.

Guardado was born in El Salvador, living there the first four years of his life. After college in the US, his early career was in the computer graphics industry, working for Matrox Graphics and NVIDIA Corp.

Wanting his legacy to be something more than pixels, he worked for McKinsey’s Business Technology Office in London, England, focusing on management consulting in the areas of health tech and health systems.

Discussions about becoming a partner at McKinsey’s didn’t seem fulfilling either, so he moved to Tanzania in 2010.

NEI came into existence the following year. His partner, Silas Losinyaari Noah, oversees the firm’s supply chain team, does government liaison and acts as legal secretary for NEI.

For the first three years of the business, NEI focused largely on training farmers and planting vanilla.

All but two of NEI’s 30 full-time and two part-time employees are Tanzanian nationals. Guardado expects the firm will grow to 50 staff this year.

More significantly, NEI plans to double the number of farmers it works with by the end of 2019. They currently have relationships with 3,000 farmers, about half of who are actively harvesting.

1 NEI Juan tells his story

Juan Guardado tells the NEI story to MEDA staff and supporters.

Juan Guardado pic by Mike Strathdee

“If you’re going to do economic development, it’s going to be in agriculture,” he said. “Seventy per cent of the people are employed in agriculture in some way, 30 per cent of the GDP comes from the agricultural sector, so clearly, that’s where it’s at.”

But he didn’t want to work in commodities. “In commodities, you’re fighting for the pennies. And yes, there is big volumes, but what we’re trying to do here is the opposite — we’re trying to push the price up for the farmer, give them an income.”

Giving farmers an income means a better-than-average return. NEI’s top-performing farmers last year earned $1,500 US for their vanilla beans.

That’s significant in a Tanzanian context, a doubling of purchasing power for some. A 2015 United Nations report suggested that the average small Tanzanian farm was only .9 hectares (just over 2.2 acres) and produced food worth $790 a hectare.

Knowing that he is creating value for the farmers, and that they appreciate those efforts, is deeply satisfying for Guardado.

While he recognizes that NEI has a long way to go, he feels the firm is already having an impact in a very tangible way. “I’m not just going to trade the vanilla. I’m going to try to add value by making the extracts.”

Initially, the firm sent small volumes of pods to online retailers in the US. Gradually they got more orders from Europe. Then orders switched to Indian Ocean islands, including Mauritius, during a crisis in Madagascar, which was a major vanilla supplier. Those buyers wanted extracts. (NEI currently produces vanilla, orange and cocoa extracts.)

Later, they turned their attention north as they began getting interest from online retailers in Europe.

When he and Noah started NEI and decided on their business focus, they found vanilla being grown, but very little of it. That forced them to focus on establishing the value chain, a slow process.

From 2012 to 2015, they barely had any harvest, spending their time working with farmers, planting and training. Over the past three years, they have seen steadily increasing production. NEI’s 2017 vanilla harvest was 2.5 times the previous crop.

This year, they expect at least doubling of production from newer farmers, and a lot more from producers with more mature vines.

1 NEI logo

NEI produces organic vanilla extract.

Last year was pivotal for NEI, as a luxury ice cream manufacturer found the company and said they wanted to direct source NEI’s vanilla. Luckily, NEI had implemented a traceability platform that allowed them to identify where shipments come from after registering farmers on mobile tablets.

“The value proposition for the ice cream manufacturer was clear: high- quality, unique flavor profile, full traceability, and because it’s direct, at a lower price than they were getting in the US.”

The ice cream manufacturer, which he cannot identify, has a deal with Sam’s Club, a major US retailer, for at least 2.5 million litres of Tanzanian direct-sourced vanilla ice cream. That product should be on store shelves this spring.

To meet this demand, NEI has been increasing the number of farmers they work with and ramping up efforts to increase production from existing producers. They hope to get organic certification for their products this year.

As they work to scale production, NEI has reduced its processing time for extraction from 15 days to six days.

They currently operate in four regions of Tanzania, unique among vanilla processors. Eventually, they hope to expand to two more regions.

Other future plans include expanding into cocoa. Recently, NEI has had inquiries from Japan, Germany and Turkey.

The vanilla extract market is very opaque both in terms of pricing and volumes, Guardado said. Global demand ranges from 3,000-7,000 metric tonnes, depending on the source.

Media reports in Canada this winter suggested that a global surge in the price of vanilla will push prices to record levels, as much as 20 times what it sold for only a few years back. Part of that is blamed on a 2017 cyclone hitting Madagascar, a world-leading vanilla producer, destroying a third of their expected 2018 output.

Guardado suspects a cartel in Madagascar may be holding back supply to keep prices high.

But he thinks demand is growing as major food manufacturers — Nestle, Unilever, General Mills and Hershey, to name a few — have all switched to natural ingredients or are in the process of doing so.

As this trend increases, the market for vanilla will split into niches. “Nowhere do I see slack in actual demand.” ◆



Growing vanilla in Tanzania
June 26, 2018, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Business, Environment, gardening, Uncategorized, Work

Growing vanilla in Tanzania

2 Rehema and Martha KisangaRehema and Martha Kisanga grow over a dozen different crops on their three-acre farm.

MEDA partnership helps with irrigation, training

2 polinating by handVanilla flowers must be pollinated by hand.As printed in The Marketplace – May/June 2018

Like many Tanzanian farmers, Martha Kisanga has a lot on the go.

She grows a dozen crops on her three-acre property in Lyamungo Village in the Machame area of Tanzania.

Squash, corn, yams, coffee and bananas have been among the mainstays until the last few years, when she began growing half an acre of vanilla.

She has three dairy cows that supply milk for her household plus a bit more to sell to neighbors. The primary value of her cows is in the by- product. Cow dung provides a free source of fertilizer to promote the growth of various crops. She needs to buy more cows to have enough fertilizer on hand.

Kisanga is also a lead farmer who has received training from MEDA partner NEI (story on previous page). She works with other farmers in quarterly training sessions that include best practices in planting, use of mulching and bio-pesticides, reducing harvest losses, and where to take beans after harvest. She is paid for her time, which includes recruiting new producers, and has an incentive to ensure farmers she works with do well, receiving a percentage from their production.

She harvests between 15-20 kilograms (33-44 pounds) of vanilla pods annually. Vanilla is by far the most lucrative crop of the many she grows. Top quality beans, 17 centimetres (almost seven inches) or larger, fetch $30 a kilogram. Smaller pods sell for $20 a kg. Martha earned about $400 US from the vanilla she sold to NEI in 2017.

2 Neil Ashworth deputy supply chain manager for NEINEI staffer Neil Ashworth works with farmers.Vanilla has to be pollinated by hand, producing one bean per flower, a labor-intensive process. The plant flowers for three months. Six months later, the harvest starts, continuing between July and October. Vanilla vines are not terribly thirsty. But they do need a regular drink, about a litre of water per week. That’s increasingly a problem in some parts of Tanzania. There is a short rainy season of a month or two from the end of November to early January, followed by a couple of months without rain. A longer rainy season begins in April. Then it gets really dry again in September and October. Many crops can’t wait that long for water.

2 IMG 9426Harvesting rainwater for dry season irrigationClimate change is leading to more erratic weather patterns. Some years the short rainy season hardly comes at all. “Every year it’s different,” says Neil Ashworth, NEI’s deputy supply chain manager. “Some years you have heavy long rains, and other years, you miss the short rains completely.”

Getting water from a nearby river is neither practical nor sustainable.

That’s where MEDA and NEI come in, by helping farmers like the Kisangas harvest rainwater from the roofs of their homes into large plastic collection tanks.

The project will supply 300 farmers with tanks, giving them a dependable water source during the dry months. “The more that we can supply (with barrels), that have no access, or very little access to water on the farm, it makes a big difference for them, not only in terms of vanilla, but other crops,” Ashworth said. “They are able to water in the dry season. It helps them with their income.”

MEDA also does training to promote capacity-building. NEI provides vanilla cuttings to farmers, covering 80 per cent of the cost. Farmers pay the other 20 per cent. A two-metre vine takes four years to reach a harvest. ◆



Climate and Coffee – Kenyan firm helps farmers grow beans amidst changing weather patterns
June 26, 2018, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Business, Environment, gardening, Generosity, Uncategorized, Work

Climate and coffee

CDD WORKER WITH SEEDLINGS 3 Women make up most of the workforce at Caffe Del Duca’s seedling nursery. Photos by Mike Strathdee

Kenyan firm helps farmers grow beans amidst changing weather patterns

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace – May/June 2018THIKA, KENYA — Arabica is the most popular coffee variety in the world, accounting for three-quarter of worldwide production by some estimates.

It’s also something that future generations will have to do without due to climate change, a Kenyan coffee expert suggests.

“Eventually, this type of coffee will disappear,” Elio Lolli predicted while giving a tour of his coffee plantation to MEDA supporters earlier this year. “It’s not (going to be) economically viable.”

Lolli, director of Caffe Del Duca, is looking for ways to develop new coffee varieties that will be able to thrive in the changing weather conditions.

A woman mixes coffee beans that are drying on long tables in the sun.Caffe Del Duca, located in Maboromoko- Thika, 26 miles north-east of Nairobi, works with thousands of farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to source quality coffee, roasting the collected product for local and export markets.

Through a recent partnership with MEDA, the company will work with 1,000 new farmers and 100 micro-enterprises in Western Kenya over the next two years, targeting an equal number of female and male entrepreneurs.

cdd OWNER SMILINGElio LolliLolli’s father came to Tanzania from Italy in 1954 to work in coffee, planning to stay for two years. “Since then, we’re still here.”

Throughout his working lifetime, Lolli has been involved in growing coffee and making machinery, including pulpers that reduce water consumption.

Climate change is a concern that forces the development of new coffee blends, including Italian blends. “We are actually seeing the climate change,” he said.

Caffe Del Duca used to get a late crop in November or December. Now they get the crop in May or June “which means the quality is going down, not up. Any good food or fruit, it takes a long time to ripen.”

In addition to declining quality, “it’s getting more difficult to produce because of the climate change.”

Finding the right moisture levels for coffee is challenging. If there is not enough rain, the beans become too light, Lolli said.

If there is too much rain, the coffee berries (also known as cherries) become diseased.

A woman mixes coffee beans that are drying on long tables in the sun.Historically, Kenya has had two distinct coffee crops, Arabica and Robusta, says Leonard Murwayi, a value chain specialist with the firm. Farmers have been marginalized as Kenya imports Robusta, so Caffe Del Duca is working to increase the domestic supply of Robusta.

Robusta coffee has generally been less favored than the Arabica. Robusta is more bitter and less flavorful than Arabica. Espresso in Kenya and Ethiopia has historically been 70 per cent Robusta and 30 per cent Arabica, according to Caffe Del Duca’s web site.

Over the past four years, the company has been working to create a nursery to cross-pollinate and create a Robusta coffee that is water resistant and high production.

Caffe Del Duca has 14 employees, two-thirds of them women. Women have better manual dexterity than men, making them better suited for working with seedlings, Lolli explains.

The partnership with MEDA will help Caffe Del Duca gain improved access to local, regional and international markets and strengthen the business capacity of the 100 entrepreneurs (coffee vendors) it works with.

It  will also train farmers in post-harvest operations for improved quality, using collection points and helping groups to acquire drying tables.  Soil conservation activities such as protecting water catchment areas will be stressed to prevent soil erosion.

A gender consultant will be hired to train both men and women on equity leadership, decision making, business development and financial literacy, including bookkeeping and tracking money. CDD will help entrepreneurs get the public health licences they need to enter the coffee business and assist some of them in buying subsidized coffee-making cans.

Some farmers will receive assistance in purchasing pruning tools, sack sprayers and affordable fertilizer.

Kenyan coffee growers prune their plants, something that is foreign to Ethiopian farmers. (In an unrelated consulting project, Lolli is trying to teach sustainable farming practices to Ethiopian growers.)

One part of the MEDA project targets one of Kenya’s most vulnerable populations — widows who are farmers. Caffe Del Duca will help widows to set up five demonstration farms and nurseries.

CDD SEEDLINGSCaffe Del Duca grows up to 100,000 coffee plants a year to produce disease-resistant varieties.Vulnerable widows have been identified by CDD and MEDA as a specific group that  will be targeted within the overall client population, says Lloyd McCormick, MEDA’s country manager for MEDA’s M-SAWA (equitable prosperity) initiative.

“Western Kenya was hit hard by the HIV and AIDS epidemic of the recent past, thus leaving a significant number of widows,” McCormick said. “The project will help a number of these widows access better livelihood opportunities (including) farming and small-scale vendor retail.”

Each new farmer needs five seedlings and a tree to provide shade to get into coffee production. Coffee bushes are intercropped with both food crops and shade trees. Plants take two years to mature enough to produce and will yield for five years.

A coffee bean (or cherry) is a seed of the coffee plant and the source for coffee. It is the pit inside the red or purple fruit.

CDD’s nursery grows plants from cuttings and seeds, producing up to 100,000 plants a year, focusing on varieties that are resistant to several diseases. “As the climate gets warmer, it (coffee plant) is more susceptible to leaf rust,” Lolli said.

Climate change is also increasing the size of insect pests. As temperatures increase, yields drop. Yields were down by 50 per cent in 2017, he said. “The taste varies from the date of the rainfall.”



Challenges amidst business boom
June 26, 2018, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Business, business incubator, Generosity, stewardship, Uncategorized, Work

Tech innovators, charities need to understand each other to tackle social problems

As Printed in The Marketplace – September/October 2017

Rapidly increasing wealth and inequality in North American high-tech hubs is forcing charities to reach out to technology entrepreneurs for solutions to societal problems as well as donations.

That new, uncomfortable reality means that both sides need to understand each other’s challenges, a forum on technology and inequality in Kitchener, Ont. heard recently.

The event was held at the offices of Vidyard, a fast-growing firm which provides a platform that helps companies analyze the performance of their online sales videos. It was organized by FaithTech, a nascent movement operating in three tech clusters across Canada (Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto and Vancouver).

FaithTech provides a place for Christians working in the technology sector to share their stories and think about ways to apply their talents to pressing social issues.

Speakers at the event came from both the social service and technology sectors. They included:DSC 0082John Neufeld holds a 3D-printed car in his office. His agency partnered with tech employ- ees to provide 3D-printing camps for low-income youth. Photo by Gail Martin

  • John Neufeld, executive director of Kitchener-based House of Friendship, which serves over 42,000 low-income men, women and children throughout Waterloo Region.
  • Christian Snyder, head of community relations at Smile.io, a Kitchener firm that manages corporate rewards programs.
  • Stephanie Rozek, executive director for Hive Waterloo Region, which works to teach digital literacy skills and to build diversity and greater inclusion within the tech sector.
  • Fizsum Areguy, who works with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute researching the use of tech with health care.

FaithTech founder James Kelly, who moderated the event, recalls being told that in California’s Silicon Valley, home to many of the world’s largest tech firms, “you can taste the difference between the rich and the poor when you are there.”

Waterloo Region, home to one of the fastest-growing tech clusters in the world, could become the Silicon Valley of the North, he said. “The question is, will we like it (if the inequality accompanies the economic growth)?”

Under-representation of women and minorities in tech jobs, sexism and housing affordability as sections of the city undergo gentrification were the most frequently-named issues by an audience of 120 people, most of them young and employed in the tech sector.

Inviting the tech community to be part of community conversations around inequality requires adjustments by both parties, said Neufeld (who is a past president of MEDA’s Waterloo, Ont. chapter). “We don’t know what we are doing. We don’t have a template, we don’t have a formula for this.”

One of the disconnects that must be overcome is the inability of social services organizations to move quickly enough, and the need for tech firms to slow down, Snyder said. He experienced that first-hand in a previous job working at an organization that serves refugees. A large Kitchener tech firm volunteered to help his employer solve a problem, but could only devote resources for a limited time. The refugee organization couldn’t react quickly enough, and “eventually, it came to naught.”

Other conversations have borne fruit. Neufeld was invited last Christmas to the Accelerator Centre, a University of Waterloo-based incubator for tech firms, to thank them for donating to his agency. He challenged tech entrepreneurs to consider running computer coding camps for bright youth in low-income neighborhoods.

After his talk, some people came up to him with a counter-proposal. “We can’t do coding camps, but we can do 3D-printing with you,” employees of a 3D-printing firm told him.

Last summer, the company did a pilot 3D-printing campaign at a community centre in one of the region’s poorest neighborhoods. Neufeld is optimistic the idea will spread.

“I think we’ve got something good here that we can co-create,” he said, while acknowledging that success will require difficult conversations, “hearing things that we don’t want to hear.”

Systemic solutions take time, “which is counter-intuitive to how tech works,” Areguy noted.

Snyder agreed. Community development in the tech sector is difficult work with data-driven engineers, he said. Those professionals typically work in two-month sprints, and are oriented toward objectives and key results (OKRs). But relationships aren’t OKRs. “If you do work in tech, don’t think about relationships as OKRs,” he said. ◆



The Marketplace – November December 2017 issue
November 8, 2017, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Marketplace November-December issue is now online. Fascinating stories about business incubators, a company that is working to rid the world of landmines, and news about MEDA initiatives. Have a look at the link below (and contact me if you’d like to receive the print edition:

http://www.meda.org/latest-issues/439-2017-6-nov-dec-themarketplace

 

As always, comment about the magazine are welcome



Cyclists hit Myanmar for fundraising trip
November 7, 2017, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Charitable Giving, Generosity, Uncategorized

This article appeared in the November, 2017 issue of Faith Today magazine.

http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20171112?pg=13#pg13

Photo is by Steve Sugrim

Laverne Brubacher doesn’t consider himself an avid cyclist.

Before beginning training for this fall’s adventure, the longest bike trip he had ever done was 25 km.

But this month, the 73-year-old St. Jacobs man is one of 17 Canadians and three Americans who are riding 355 km through Myanmar in support of impoverished women farmers, people they have never met, in that South Asian nation.

Sixteen other people, mostly from the U.S., are exploring Myanmar on a bus tour in support of the same fund drive. Each participant has committed to raising at least $5,000. Brubacher set and achieved a goal of raising $10,000.

Overall, the Myanmar On the Move trip, sponsored by Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) raised $600,000. Waterloo-based MEDA is a Christian international development organization that works to provide business solutions to poverty. It currently has projects in 62 countries, including Myanmar.

Myanmar On the Move is an initiative of MEDA’s Improving Market Opportunities for Women (IMOW) project targeting rural women, providing them with market connections and prospects for employment to help them grow with their country.

That project will help 25,000 women farmers get their products to markets, something Brubacher calls “a pretty compelling thing.”

He is particularly impressed with the fact that all donations to the project are multiplied almost seven-to-one by Global Affairs Canada for a total value of $4 million.

Several of the participants are making the trip a family affair, including spouses or children. Leamington pastor David Dyck is riding with his son Andrew.

The cyclists’ adventure includes one day of trekking and 5 days of biking. Distances for cycling days will be 55km, 70km, 55km, 70km and 105km.

“The only thing that I’m concerned about is the 105 km one day,” Brubacher said of the prospects of visiting a part of the world that has seen a lot of political instability in recent years.

The retired renovator, former owner of the Menno Martin company, is active in leadership in many charities, as well as his home congregation. Fitting for a man whose business card read “chief servant.”Laverne-Brubacher-4