Like Father Like Son

“To be able to have my son out here, you have a feeling of acceptance through a company. You have a real family orientated feel, you feel like you belong to something with Centra,” says Centra Installer Tim Sjoquist.

Tim and his son Noah volunteered their time to help install windows for the winners of our 2018 Centra Cares Home Renovation Contest. The duo spoke about their experience and the importance of family within a company. While on site, Noah learned a few tips and tricks from his father and displayed flashes of potential.

2018 Recap

The Centra Cares Foundation has raised $250,880 in 2018 and donated $158,254 to 20 charities throughout the year. We would like to thank all those that have donated to the Centra Cares Foundation and we are excited to continue to support communities across B.C. Take a look at a few highlights from earlier this year! Stay tuned for more!

Centra Cares Home Renovation Celebration

The Centra team celebrated in Victoria with the winners of our 2018 Centra Cares Home Renovation Contest. Families, neighbours and many members of the Centra family were in attendance, enjoying the day and transforming the look and feel of the Rankin & Nelson residence.

We are so grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to support and change the lives of a deserving family. We were overwhelmed with the strength of the local community and couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. Congratulations to Melissa Rankin & Josh Nelson!

Canuck Place Children’s Hospice

A few members of the Centra Cares committee had the honour to visit Canuck Place Children’s Hospice David Lede House in Abbotsford. The warmth, love and passion throughout the facility speaks volumes about the importance of Canuck Place in our community. Centra Cares presented a cheque to members of Canuck Place for $81,804.

The funds will go towards supporting the long term version of providing counselling and nursing services to many families. It was gratifying to listen to many stories and experiences about families throughout B.C. and we are so happy that this type of donation will support various services provided by Canuck Place. Take a look at our latest video where members of Canuck Place illustrate the importance of their partnership with Centra Cares.

2018 Centra Cares Home Renovation

We have our winners for the 2018 Centra Cares Home Renovation Contest! Centra would first like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate a family that they felt was deserving of new windows. We had over 300 nominations submitted, which made the decision process extremely difficult. We would also like to extend a huge thank you to Cardinal IG Glass Industries for donating the glass for these windows. Congratulations to Josh and Melissa and the entire family. Thank you for sharing your story.

Back from Haiti

Lana hanging out with the kids!

How can I accurately summarize travelling to Haiti and back again over 11 days, with 14 people by caravan, plane and hiking long trails without combing through each moment of every day?

It seems impossible, so I’ll highlight a few thoughts that seem top of mind;

  • Just go with it! ‘IT’ being new food, new places, new people and the unfamiliar.
  • Rain on a tin roof sounds romantic in novels but not when you know you’ll be sliding down a hillside the following morning on your way to breakfast or slipping and sliding when climbing to and from work etc. (mud, mud and more mud meant we had a few wipeouts!)
  • Kids are kids wherever you go & a smile needs no translation!
  • Let people surprise you, you’ll learn things about yourself and others you could never have imagined.
  • Our perception of “need” is incredibly skewed by circumstance. The short and simple truth is this: we have too much stuff and are not any happier for it all.

Group photo of our Centra Cares team in Haiti.

For the record, while I could have done without the tarantulas – I enjoyed every incline hike, muddy slide down a hillside and sounds of animals late and night and early in the morning. I slept better at our nights in the mountains then I ever do at home, even with all of our crew who competed for the title of ‘most unique snoring’.

The excitement that the children in the surrounding area of Marbial have for learning is beautiful and inspiring. The reality is that students walk upwards of 3 hours for the opportunity to get an education and it seems unreal in contrast to how school can feel like an obligation for many here at home. Fun fact: Since the students have to cross over the river several times on the way to school, they have ‘rain days’ similar to our snow days here at home. When there is heavy rainfall, the river runs too rapidly and becomes too high to cross and get to school.

If I haven’t lost you yet on my Haiti recap, I’d be happy to ramble for hours on anything you care to ask and tell you all about the most refreshing week of my life and how it happened while I was in Haiti with our new Haitian friends and the amazing people at Centra I get to work with everyday.

While we may have helped build two schoolrooms and a few other things, what we really built was a stronger team and new friendships. In some ways, for me personally at least, it seems I gained more than I gave back.

I’m incredibly grateful for the hardworking and compassionate people I travelled with and sincerely want to say “Thank You” to our hosts at FLCM for a memorable experience.

View in Haiti.

This update by Lana Gordin.

Haiti and the Vandermeers

Ed & Lisa Vandermeer with a young Haitian man.

You don’t know exactly what to expect when travelling to a very remote part of Haiti, but one thing is certain; there is comfort in travelling as a group.  The first new reality was hopping in the back of the big blue cage truck and getting transported through Port au Prince over the mountains to Jacmel, several hours away. Immediately we noticed that the uncontrolled traffic had a definite pattern; and that pattern was chaos. As we drove through the city we realized that life in Haiti is more about making it through today than planning for the future. After a couple of hours of steep hills and tight curves on one of the few paved roads, we arrived at Jacmel to be treated to good food, a swim and a comfortable bed. The next day was Sunday and in stark contrast to the dirty streets lined with garbage, there were hundreds of people dressed  meticulously in clean pressed colourful clothing making their way to Church.

All smiles!

After a few more hours in the back of the truck on a barely perceptible river rock road and multiple river crossings through water up to 3 feet deep, we could go no further except on foot. The next 1.5 hours of mountain hiking with packs weighing up to 50 lbs. took us to our destination. If that sounds easy, it wasn’t, but the setting was beautiful, and we found out that Lisa can out-hike Ed, and I will gladly let her.

Lisa hanging out with the Haitian kids.

We were shown to our newly built  bunkrooms with fresh sheets and pillows, block partition walls to an open ceiling, so we could all enjoy the loud snorers. We soon realized that it would be impossible to maintain good houskeeping because nothing in Haiti ever dries out unless it’s in direct sunlight, and we were there near the end of a rainy season.

One of the first things for John, Doug and I (over 100 years combined Centra experience) to do, was install some solar lighting; first in the bunkhouse, then in the building below that housed teachers, staff, kitchen and dining room.

Ed hanging out with the Haitian kids.

The following days were filled with hard work building desks, block walls, trusses, carrying mortar and bricks, playing with kids, swimming in the river and eating great food. For Lisa and I the absolute best part of the trip was to see how happy the kids are at the school. Many of them walk 2-3 hours each way, some even longer, and they arrive clean and smiling in their school uniforms, curious as to what the white people are doing there. Aside from the most fun thing of handing out Skittles everyday, some of Lisa’s favorite things were spending time with the kids, handing out lunch to the kindergarten classes, sneaking food to the dog under the table, and she even enjoyed helping the guys with brick work by stuffing paper in the gaps where the concrete leaked out. My favorite things about Haiti are the beautiful people, their ability to enjoy life with bare minimums, the way they care for each other, and the crazy way they drive in the city. It was also a really neat experience to watch as the hillsides came alive with local activities in the mornings.  We were all amazed that over 400 students attend the Marbial school because there is no town and we could never see more than a few houses at one time.

Ed hanging out with the Haitian kids.

We both greatly appreciated the hospitality we were shown at the base in Marbial, and the opportunity to help our new friend Milo continue his education. We value the relationships that grew and became more meaningful with our team members, and we pray for God’s blessing on the people of Haiti, that they will receive government that cares for them and leads them with hope for a better future.


This update by Ed Vandermeer.

Haiti Day 8: Blessed, Fortunate or Lucky?

Andrew Creighton working with the locals loading a wheelbarrow.

I first want to start by saying how appreciative and fortunate I am to have been invited to join this team! What an amazing experience! Thank you to my entire team for holding down the fort while I was away.

On this day we started a little bit late as we had arrived from Marbial the evening before after a long hike and drive down from the mountains. At the hotel we are treated well – a good breakfast and some café au lait to start the day.

We then headed over to the orphanage for our first day of work there. I found the home quite pleasant and clean. All the kids sleep dormitory style and I wonder if this helps create a sense of camaraderie and family – I am sure it does as they boys call each other brother and you can see how much they love each other. While we did work some, the highlight was a fun soccer game between the Canadian’s and the Haitian workers and boys – TRUE FUN!

Andrew Creighton hanging out in a classroom.

Then the school kids came home, looking sharp and dapper in their school uniforms. It was extremely charming when the girls welcomed us with a respectful kiss on the cheek to greet us hello. I also managed to sneak in some drumming with some of the boys where we had an impromptu jam session and Dan Holmes played the trombone. You really get to know someone and all their layers of personality and expertise on a trip like this. Dano (that’s what I and the boys call him) is quite the Renaissance man!

After all this, it was off to the city. The boardwalk was very nice – Jacmel is actually a nice city on the ocean. John and I had a pleasant stroll through the nearby neighbourhood and everyone was active and pleasant.

We then walked some of the older harbor front buildings. Some nice, old, restored colonial buildings mixed with some very dilapidated old buildings. Presumably some of this is still left from the 2010 earthquake. Certainly a different vibe from the rainforest in the mountains and much warmer, but not unpleasant.

As a group we walked through the ‘downtown’ area. There are lots of little shops; barber shops and beauty shops are common as appearance is very important as we’ve seen on our visit. Hike any city of this type and the streets are busy and full of bikes and cars whizzing by as there are no sidewalks and the streets are more than full! All in all I felt relatively safe and it was certainly interesting. Though 3rd world and seemingly a land of chaos there is an inherent structure to life once you start to get immersed into their world.

Then back to the hotel, where we had another lovely group dinner as was customary for all our nights, this evening, we were joined by our ‘sons’ who included Franck – who Dano, Lana and I have agreed to sponsor for his last 3 years of university. Franck is a wonderful charming boy who is studying Agronomics. Despite losing his mother when he was 8, and father when he was 9, Franck has an amazing sense of strength and courage and is committed to his education which will hopefully allow him to gain his place in the world. He’s now my Haitian son!

Franck was also a great sport, allowing me to practice my French and him to practice his English. Franck is also a great worker which is why I think we hit it off so well. He is very appreciative of the gifts he has been given by Marline and Daniel rather than focusing on his hardships. I feel grateful to have met this wonderful young man.

Andrew Creighton from BC Building Science.

So in all this has been a great trip and a great day. Tomorrow we go to the plage (beach en francaise)! Blessed, fortunate or lucky – whatever the word, I am grateful to FLCM and the Centra Cares team for a great trip!


This update by Andrew Creighton.
Principal, BC Building Science.

For those who do not know, I am not a Centra employee. I was invited on this trip because of the generosity of Jeff Foster and John Tilstra and the team. What started as a random conversation around a campfire on a cold February day, turned into a trip that is a chance of a lifetime, though I hope this does not end here.
Andrew Creighton is now an honourary Centra Cares member.

Haiti Day 6: Working on the classrooms in Marbial

Today marks our fourth day up in the beautiful mountains of Marbial. Coming into this trip I can honestly admit I wasn’t sure what to expect, but am incredibly happy that I followed through with it. The experiences to get to this point have been incredibly humbling and have put into perspective the things that can be taken for granted back at home. Every morning the teachers and children of Marbial will traverse through the mountainsides just to get to school and they look as clean and well put together as if they were airlifted in. Meanwhile I had difficulty not starting my day without mud covered legs and dripping with sweat.

As of this morning the walls of the classroom are mostly completed and are nearing being ready for the trusses and roofing. As last night there was a heavy rain and class was not in session today we began assembling the trusses in an empty classroom. Dan and Doug began by pre-cutting all the materials and marking out a jig on the concrete floor. As we started nailing them together a group of students who had been watching from a distance began to get interested and with happy faces wanted to help.

Even with my botched French we were able to get things moving and began to look like a true assembly line from Dan, Doug, the boys and myself. Damien (in the green) ended up proving he had great hand eye coordination and was a true contractor at heart by sending every nail through effortlessly. All in all we built as many trusses as the materials allowed and we were able to get everyone involved as well. This trip has been an experience like no other with an amazing group of people, I am ecstatic I was given the opportunity to volunteer on this trip and would do it again without question.

Until next time Haiti!

This Update by Kyle Herd.