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MEDA: thanks a million

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Grandparents’ bequest inspires new generation of Nebraska family

Women farmers in Ghana and international development interns will gain new opportunities to earn an income to support their families, and to enhance their career prospects, with a recent legacy gift to MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) from the estate of Willard and Elsie Penner.

Part of the $1.1 million bequest will support MEDA’s GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project in Ghana, aimed at improving food security for farmers in northern Ghana by helping women increase availability, access and use of nutritious food. The six-year project will reach out to 20,000 women and their families.

The Penner gift will also fund five much-needed internships for U.S. students. Internships provide graduating students with critical field experience for their chosen career. They are also an important talent pipeline for MEDA – seven current staff members began as interns.

The family is also creating The Willard and Elsie Penner Family Legacy Fund, to be invested for long-term impact. MEDA’s Sarona Risk Capital Fund (SRCF) provides early stage capital, an important source of funding for young companies. SRCF invests in promising companies in developing countries with prospects of not only financial success, but economic benefit to poor communities. Last year SRCF helped 14 million clients served by microfinance institutions and enterprises where MEDA has an investment.

“Both our parents and grandparents have been members and supporters of MEDA,” notes Matthew Penner. “They believe in its mission of helping people to support themselves rather than giving free donations. As a farmer, I’m now inspired to learn more about how farmers in North America can reach out to farmers in developing countries to help them on the road to prosperity.”

His sister, Elizabeth, who is starting a residency in internal medicine at Cornell University, recalls how her parents’ and grandparents’ commitment to help others through MEDA impressed her at a young age. Upon graduating from high school, Elizabeth gave some of her graduation money to MEDA. “Even then, I felt that I had been very fortunate, and knowing what I did about MEDA, I felt it was a very admirable organization with a great cause.”

The children of Willard and Elsie – Mary Scheve, Ann Foodman, and Roland Penner – hope that sharing the story of their family’s bequest will encourage others to consider how they, too, can make a gift that will keep working long after they’re gone to rid the world of poverty.

View the winning Time For Change video contest entry on the GROW project in Ghana. [http://vimeo.com/63088818 ]

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