MEDA makes engaging with young adults a priority

February 26, 2014 | Young Voices
Rachel Bergen | Young Voices Co-Editor

Ethan Eshbach is 22-years-old, a recent college graduate, and is the newest, youngest addition to the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) team.

The creation of Eshbach’s position—coordinator of young adult engagement—is the first step in MEDA’s initiative to prioritize the involvement of young people in the organization that seeks to create business solutions to poverty around the world.

According to MEDA’s chief engagement officer, Dave Warren, last year the organization realized it was “missing out” by not having the involvement of a younger demographic. “I realized it was one of our key needs,” he says. “Younger people are eager to get involved. Through Ethan’s role, we look forward to filling that void and providing additional opportunities to connect with our work and our values.”

In order to meet these needs, Eshbach, who graduated with a degree in communication from Messiah College in Pennsylvania, was hired a month ago. Now he is working as a consultant to the engagement team to focus on improving MEDA’s social media networking, creating programming especially for young adults and improving MEDA’s presence on Mennonite campuses across North America.

Eshbach says young people are the future of the organization, but a lot of them don’t know about MEDA or how to get involved. His position is an important step in raising awareness by meeting young people where they are. “What I’d love to see is a mutually beneficial relationship between MEDA and young professionals,” he says. “Young people have a lot to offer MEDA and I believe that MEDA has a lot to offer young people.”

Jono Cullar is one young adult who is benefitting from his involvement with MEDA.  The 23-year-old Conrad Grebel University College business student works as MEDA’s only campus ambassador. Cullar, who attends Mannheim Mennonite Church in Petersburg, Ont., promotes MEDA at Grebel events.

He also networks with young professionals to get them involved. Two of his friends, Drew Warkentin and Eric Tichbourne from Conrad Grebel, entered a MEDA video competition and won. “Marie and Liz’s Story” explores the theme of about the empowerment of women in business as a key to development.

“I think they’re going to be involved [with MEDA] for the foreseeable future,” Cullar says.

According to Eshbach, MEDA is hoping to hire more campus ambassadors as a part of its priority shift to focus on young adults.

 Prior to attending Grebel, Cullar did a year-long internship at MEDA Paraguay, based out of Asunción.

“My values directly align with MEDA’s values and I really appreciate and resonate with what they’re trying to do with using business practices to address social and economic issues,” he says.

Cullar hopes to start a business after he graduates next year and thinks the things he’s learning from MEDA now will help him in his future goals.

MEDA conventions are another way for young professionals to get involved with MEDA, Eshbach says. A student competition, for instance, allows business-savvy students to propose business plans to owners.

Cullar has been to the MEDA convention twice and participated in the student competition once. He pitched a business plan to Prairie Harvest, a business out of Newton, Kan.; however, his team didn’t win.

MEDA’s 2014 convention is taking place at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg from Nov. 6 to 9, and Cullar plans to be there.

Eshbach is proud to work for an organization so committed to engaging young professionals like himself. “MEDA is on the forefront of engaging young adults,” he says. “Not many charities or non-profits are doing this or are as excited about what young people have to offer.”

--Posted Feb. 26, 2014

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