Threads - Dec 2023 Christmas Giving

table of Christmas giving project cards

Manitoba — Dec 2023

menu_book Podcast/audio

Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge talks to Jason Dueck, along with MCC Manitoba staff about the Christmas Giving guide.

Threads is a 15-minute radio program featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of each month.


Audio file

Kyle Rudge (00:02):

It begins with a single thread, woven through other thread, and then another and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another, just like it. This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread.

Welcome to an MCC Threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. The snow has fallen and it's here to stay? Maybe? I mean, this past week I saw green grass on my lawn, but I think we could safely say it's winter now, at least enough for me to feel the Christmas spirit starting to well up. I don't know if I get bonus points or street cred for this, but I'm pretty much done my Christmas shopping already. That's not the norm. I'm just kind of proud of myself for having all my ducks in a row this year. Speaking of ducks. No, no. That's a terrible segway. Let's try this one. However, there's bound to be one or two gifts I've missed, and we'll have to figure out last minute, enter the Christmas giving guide from Mennonite Central Committee. I don't know, maybe the ducks was better, but hey, it's Christmas. Each year we speak to someone from MCC that has actually been to the projects in the Christmas Giving Guide and have them tell you the story that they saw.

Jason Dueck (01:41):

I'm Jason Dueck and I'm a communications specialist for MCC Canada. I work out of our Winnipeg office.

Kyle Rudge (01:47):

Jason is one of the writers from MCC Canada, and he was one of the people who saw firsthand a few of the projects mentioned in the guide. Before I started though, I asked him if perhaps there was a particular gift in the guide that was true to his heart, a gift that he'd love to give or have given to him.

Jason Dueck (02:02):

Absolutely. I mean, again, like there, there's no bad choice. <Laugh> There's never a bad choice in the MCC holiday guide. There's no, there's no bad things to just give here. But I will say this, I'm a musician. I'm from a family of musicians. Music is a huge part of, even just Christmas. That's a huge part of how my family celebrates the holiday. And so if you look at your giving guide, you'll see that one of them is for music lessons. And that really, to me, that's like a super personally valuable thing to do. Obviously there are places in the world where like immediate needs are very high. But it's easy to forget that music is such a cultural and interpersonal way of expression that I really love the idea that there are partners out there who are saying music is as essential to long-term success in these places because it gives people an opportunity to engage in something like creative and beautiful and between more than one person. It's collaborative and there's something, so, I don't know, something so beautiful about, like, these are songs that are passed down from generation to generation. I mean I won't speak for for all, but when I get to hear hymns that I know the church has sung for, for centuries, there's something so grounding about being part of the connection to people who have been in my culture, in my faith for a lot longer than I've been alive. So as fun as the chickens and goats and you know, other cute animals are I have to say that to me, the idea that we can support someone have the chance to connect to their culture through music is like really meaningful to me.

Kyle Rudge (03:57):

Well, one of the others that I've seen here, and I know that you were a part of this, is in El Salvador, the planting of a garden. Help families grow more food in sustainable ways and we've got a nice picture there of a couple that are in a garden. Tell us a little bit more about the experience you had. What this looked like when you were there? What did it smell like?

Jason Dueck (04:18):

So this was, this was wild. So I'm born and raised in southern Manitoba, so like prairie farm country. So to me, I'm used to seeing what I'm used to farmland looking like, which is huge swaths of flat land with combines and like farm equipment. And then we were in rural El Salvador on these small farms on literally the sides of volcanoes. And when I was told that they were on the sides of volcanoes, I'll tell you my, the picture in my mind was very cartoonish and like a truly cartoon volcano and that's not really what it is. They're these huge mountains. They're incredibly lush up the sides. But these farms, like the farmers in this picture, I spoke to them and they showed me around their garden and, and their farm and it's on like a 20- to 30-degree incline, which doesn't feel possible, and and part of the work MCC does, (our partners do, I should say) with these farmers is you have to learn how to plant crops in such a way that the water, when it rains, doesn't just wash everything away. So to answer your question, the smell, it smelled like walking into a greenhouse. It was so lush. And like they were showing us these a few things they had just done the harvest of the tomatoes, so we didn't get to see these big ripe tomatoes, but they were doing these peppers were in season. So we walked by these rows of these just like orange, like you've never seen before. Peppers growing on this volcano. They're showing us how they do this. And, and this couple had built a little, almost like a small pool at kind of the top of their property where it had been levelled.

So they had collect rainwater up there and not have to hike a watering can up and down this slope every day. And when we got there, they had this really beautiful display of all their vegetables that they had. They had made for us to show us all the things that they harvest. And they were so excited to just share with someone like what they do there and how much they love this. They had adult kids who they had farmed with them their whole lives, and now were kind of out on their own. So it was just the two of them. And every day they had this farm to take care of and it gave them some sense of you know, of seasonality and what to do. And it was so, for me especially, like I said, I grew up around farms being only this huge scale thing. So seeing like, this is someone's farm, this is that couple's farm.

Kyle Rudge (07:04):

The way you speak about that, it feels like that, that idea of sense of pride of joy that is found within that. But what about things like livelihood? Like how important to their overarching existence is a garden like this?

Jason Dueck (07:19):

Oh, it's essential. Like the area we were in at least is fairly high in poverty. And the reason that people live on these volcanoes is because they've been pushed out of wherever else they might be living. And so they're often people who haven't had a great deal of access to education or other ways of learning skills to earn money. So these farms and the support of MCC's partners to help them understand how to farm effectively and how not to lose crops and how to grow, how to plant diverse crops so that if one crop fails, they they haven't lost a whole season. All that leads to them being able to sell that food either to their neighbours or in markets or however they have access to it. But that is their, I don't quite wanna say it's their only option, but they have very, very limited other options if they didn't have this kind of way.

Kyle Rudge (08:18):

Hmm. Well, what does it mean, I'm looking at the description. It talks about these to exchange seeds, build seed banks and helping restore biodiversity and preserve indigenous crops. How does that have an impact on their story or overarching feels for these?

Jason Dueck (08:34):

That was a super cool thing too. The seed exchange. So the partner that's helping operate this in this area, they, I think it's every, it's either every month or every other month, but, but a few times a year they bring all the farmers that they support together and they do a seed exchange. It's almost like they also have a seed bank, but it's a way for, you know, these farmers on this part of the mountain are growing, you know let's say peppers and lettuce and cucumbers or whatever. Then they can exchange some of the seeds that they've gotten from growing that with other farmers and build much higher biodiversity. This is a part of the world where there are like dozens of varieties of corn.

Jason Dueck (09:22):

I learned more about corn than I thought that you could know about corn. It was incredible because again, here where I live, corn basically looks like one thing. It's that corn on the cob, right? Yellow corn. I know there's more kinds of corn, but I've never had to think about it. And we got down there and on this display that they had made for us, there were, I think at least six different, and like, not just shades of yellow, red corn, orange corn, yellow corn, sort of yellow corn. And they were telling us like, okay, so this one is the best for grinding if you wanna make your own tortillas. So this makes the best dried corn for cornmeal, and this one's really really good for like eating off the cob and this one's really good for, you know, for X and for Y and for z.

And that, that part of the world is, is known for a variety of indigenous varietals of corn. And the more that they can access those varieties, especially when it's not them just buying seed, it's them like doing the farming getting seeds from that process and then sharing it just means that the, I mean, I'm not a farmer, but I know that biodiversity is good and they were such good examples of that because they were able to grow stuff that is meant to grow there and not being kind of forced to grow in an environment that isn't, hasn't come up around it. And it was clear like the success that they're seeing on these parcels of land that to an untrained eye, like mine seemed like how could you ever farm here? They were succeeding in impressive ways.

Kyle Rudge (10:58):

I'm envisioning similar, like when I was a kid and you had like the hockey card exchange where everybody's kind of gathering around and Oh, Manuel's got the, he's got the orange corn, man, you gotta go talk to Manuel.

Jason Dueck (11:13):

I honestly, it, it felt, it wasn't unlike that because like I said, I, I wish I could remember the names of them, but I don't speak Spanish. And those, those words came in and left my brain pretty quickly. But some of the red corn, it looked like, I can only imagine having seen it on like very unedible store displays, but it looked, it was delicious.


Kyle Rudge (11:40):

About a week ago, I made my way to the MCC office on Banntyne and grabbed myself a holiday beverage from Sam's place. Not entirely relevant, but I cannot express how incredible the chocolate orange mocha was from Sam's place. Anyways, while I was enjoying my coffee, I flagged down several MCC staff workers and asked them what their favorite Christmas gift giving guide gift was and why.


Darry Loewen (12:03):

I'm Darryl Lowen, I'm executive director for MCC Manitoba.


Kyle Rudge (12:06):

So what is your favorite gift giving guide item and why?


Darry Loewen (12:09):

The Gift in this year's guide that has my attention is the one that provides to keep girls in school in Bangladesh and elsewhere.


Kyle Rudge (12:18):

And why is it?


Darry Loewen (12:19):

In terms of the access to education and opportunity in education, girls are underrepresented and they're at greater distance for education. So you, I really, I really love that.


Rebecca Engel (12:31):

My name's Rebecca Engel and I'm the program coordinator for Sam's Place.


Kyle Rudge (12:35):

So what is your favorite gift giving guide item and why?


Rebecca Engel (12:38):

I think that mine would be the music lessons you can give as a gift because it just, honestly, music brings so much joy to people, so why wouldn't you give that as a gift on the Holidays?


Kerry Saner Harvey (12:48):

Hi, my name is Kerry Saner-Harvey. I am the program coordinator for the Indigenous Neighbors Program here. And my kids every year love to pick out something that they want to gift. And this year they picked out one, they wanted to pick out a rabbit to gift because we have a rabbit at home and that's really important to them. And they also wanted to give the gift of music lessons in Palestine. I've been talking a lot about the realities of what's happening in Gaza. And so they've been really interested in that and also they care a lot about music and they love music and so music lessons, so they want to give that back.


Ebony Repeta (13:21):

My name is Ebony Rapa and my position is Data Administration Associate. It changed recently. My favorite gift is Keeping Girls in School because I'm passionate about empowering women, and this is a great way to do that.


Joni Sawatzky (13:39):

Joni Sawatzky. MCC Manitoba Executive Office Administrator. My favorite gift giving guide item is the Sewing Machine. And because sewing is so empowering, you learn new skills, you can make clothes that fit you, that fit your family. Yeah, it's just kind of the gift that keeps on giving in a lot of ways.


Kyle Rudge (13:57):

From music lessons to piglets, from ducks to wells, from eco-friendly stoves to meals at schools, there's a gift for everyone on your list. To see them for yourself, to read the stories attached, to see pictures of the people and the projects that are being helped by your donations. Head to MCC Threads is produced by KR Words with story assistance by Jason Dueck. And thanks to all those MCC staffers who were willing to share after I knocked on their office doors asking about the giving guide. Merry Christmas everyone. I'm Kyle Rudge, and this is MCC Threads.

Transcription provided by Temi.