What does it take to be on the Board of Centra Cares?

Our Centra Cares BOD is comprised of volunteers who have a passion for giving back. Their time is donated and many hours go into organizing our fundraising efforts and events. We want to take this moment to thank two important outgoing Board members; Emily Parson and Jeff Foster whose contributions have been many during their term with Centra Cares.

Jeff Foster

Jeff Foster

Emily Parson

Emily Parson

Dear Emily and Jeff, Thank you for your commitment of spirit and time!

Emily and Jeff’s impact on our local and global community through Centra Cares cannot be accurately measured or adequately thanked since the work they do is so far-reaching, their time is given freely and they ask nothing in recognition of what they do. Along with the other members of the Board, their time and dedication have allowed Centra Cares to support many local organizations, held successful fundraising efforts such as our Annual Charity Golf Tournament and made two mission trips to Nicaragua.

In 2013 Emily traveled to Nicaragua and in 2015 Jeff made a similar journey in hopes of helping those less fortunate.

Emily climbing a tree

In 2013 Emily was part of a dedicated team of Centra Cares Volunteers who traveled to Diriamba, Nicaragua to help less-fortunate families in need. This team volunteered in the small community of Mojica to help repair their local school, donated playground equipment and built a rancho community center.

Jeff Foster Reviewing Plans

Jeff Foster Reviewing Plans

In 2015 Jeff traveled with a new group of dedicated volunteers to Diriamba, Nicaragua where they donated their time to help build a health clinic in the small community of La Chona.

These charitable missions are an opportunity to make connections, form friendships and gain a new perspective on life. These trips take a commitment of time, money and a mindset of dedication and resiliency in the lives of those that sign on. And while it may seem that we give a lot to these communities, it is our Centra Cares volunteers who take away so much more than they could ever give in these experiences. In order to make a difference, it takes extraordinary team members like Emily and Jeff behind the scenes and on the ground willing to do the work.

Outgoing Board Members Emily and Jeff with re-established 2017 BOD

Outgoing Board Members Emily and Jeff with re-established 2017 Board of Directors. left to right; Rick Heinen, Bonnie Ahara, Emily Parson, Jeff Foster, John Tilstra, Nathan Veenstra, Carey Day (not pictured: Steve Ponte)

Sincerely,  your Centra Cares team.

Centra Cares Has Been Busy This Year!

Centra Cares has been BUSY this year! We have worked hard  to help as many charities as possible and we feel that the results are nothing short of AMAZING! Check out this month’s update on what we have been working on over the past few months:

Red Cross Relief-Fort McMurray

When images of fire burning through Fort McMurray filled our television sets we knew that we needed to help. Centra Cares immediately went to work raising funds to put towards the Red Cross relief efforts.

Centra’s manufacturing team raised a grand total of $376.25 all on their own. In addition, Centra Cares foundation donated an additional $10,000 to aid the Red Cross in managing the disaster relief efforts and fund in conjunction with the Federal & Provincial Governments.

With the commitment of the Federal Government to match donations, our total donation came to: $20,752.50!

Blind Beginnings


Blind Beginnings is a BC based organization that aids in helping youth and parents who are blind or partially sighted to participate in unique opportunities to develop skills, challenge limits and achieve their full potential! Centra Cares couldn’t think of a better organization to contribute to, and as such this past June we donated $1000!

La Semila Ministries


La Semila Ministries is an organization based in Nicaragua working to reach numerous families within the local community by teaching them sustainable living and developing viable agricultural and business plans. They also work to mentor individuals and to introduce them to the Gospel. La Semila and Centra partners together once a year for an annual trip to Nicaragua to aid in their mission – but we also wanted to help them through additional funding. This year we donated $5,000 to aid in the continuing of their ministry!

Hope Haven Guatemala


Hope Haven Guatemala’s mission is to aid those in international countries, to assist them in overcoming their disabilities, and providing them with sustainable means of housing, independent living and social welfare. Centra’s $5,000 donation will assist in continuing their mission of distributing wheelchairs, installing solar lighting systems and building homes.

Nicaragua: Project Complete and Reflection

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Wow, our team managed to complete everything we were tasked to do, and then some (minus a couple rooms of electrical). This was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of. I strangely loved the grueling work and getting my hands dirty, especially in mixing cement. I also got to happily engrave ‘Centra 2015” in the concrete walk way. It was incredible to see all the children around us every day, taking the shovels out of our hands and wanting to help. Even with the language barrier, we could tell they were so happy we were there and wanted to help us. It felt so great knowing Centra was a part of this clinic project that will help many people for years to come when complete in early 2016.

It is crazy how fast and stressful  life can be sometimes for us here in Canada.  Being in Nicaragua reminded me that sometimes, one just needs to slow down and appreciate the things that matter the most; the love and support of family and the community around you. I envy the Nicaraguans ability to adapt and be resourceful in a simplistic life, with little to no technology or machinery, as they know no other way.  Even though they do not have access to an abundance of food or water (two things that we take for granted every day), they are so happy and always greeted us every day with smiles on their faces and let us into their homes to just look and see what it was like to live there. Wally and Esther with La Semilla Ministries are so inspiring, and what they do in Nicaragua helped me really appreciate life in a whole different way. I am very grateful to John for including me on this trip.

Jessica O’Brien


Nicaragua: Why you need to be There

20151106_085638When going on a trip like this you often get people asking you, “Why don’t you just send money down to these people instead of spending part of it on a flight and accommodations for yourself? Also aren’t you taking work away from the local people?”. Possibly at first thought you may agree, wouldn’t my money go further if I didn’t have to buy a flight and food? Am I actually taking away from these people by going down myself?

Anyone can tell you donating your money to a good cause is a great idea but until you experience what it is you are donating to, there will always be a level of doubt about your choice to give your hard earned money to people you’ve never met.  This is where being “there” (wherever “there” may be”) starts to answer and change the whole question.

Think if someone were to mail you money to go out for lunch by yourself versus that same person coming to your house, knocking on your door and taking you out for lunch and paying your bill. Which do you think is going to impact your life more as the person on the receiving side? Also, as the giver which do you think is going to be more meaningful and lasting experience? So obviously having someone take time out of their life to come and do something for you, even as simple as play soccer or build a medical facility, is going to affect you in a greater way.

But wait what about those poor people and the work you are taking away from them? As North American’s it is hard for us to imagine the reality that 80% of the world is living in. We assume everyone has a nice house, a car to go here and there, extra money to buy Starbucks, but this just isn’t the case. These are people who work to afford food and not much else. They are often walking miles to get fresh water, food or to get to the main road so they can take a bus to town where these things are available. There is very little luxury in their lives. You find very quickly that you want to work but they want to help even more.  By working alongside them you are showing new ways of building or even just seeing life and in no way taking away from them.

By going on trips like this with Centra, I have seen the power of being there versus just sending my money. The people, your money is helping, get to put a face and name to the help they are receiving. As well as the fact, that a person would take time out of their life, away from their family and money out of their pocket to help, gives them encouragement and value. Being there, experiencing what it looks like day to day for them, seeing all the amazing areas of strength, happiness and success they have and being able to add to that in a small way is immeasurable. These people who often don’t travel farther than their own village or possibly the next village know very little of the outside world and being able to bring part of it to them so they can move toward a life of more than just survival is a wonderful thing.  We all need to feel valued in life or what’s the point in fighting through the hard times.

Organizations like La Semilla Ministries need monetary help but almost more than that need people to come share in the work and education for local communities to have long term growth in these areas. It was an honor to travel down to Nicaragua. With access to medical help many of these people will be able to live more full life and through the continued work of La Semilla Ministries they will also gain access to work and food to further their lives.

Aaron Stockton

Nicaragua : Making Progress

Today we had a great day of production on the clinic!  The concrete crew poured 75 % of the sidewalks, The interior wall crew are almost done the walls and the roof crew completed framing and installed 50 % of the metal roofing.

Carl stood on the peak celebrating as Jer installed the last screw!  It has been quite humid the last two days but all the crew continued to push hard for a timely completion; Centra Cares Baby! 😉

I am very proud of how all the crew have worked so hard. The school kids from the neighborhood are always hanging around and trying to help; they like nothing better than to be allowed to contribute. As soon as they are finished they run back to their friends just beaming with pride that they got to help.

All the people are so friendly here. We are always greeted with a smile. After we wrapped up today one of the LaSemilla staff took us on a walk thru the village and asked if we could see a farmers farm. We were granted a full guided tour. He was very proud of what he has accomplished.

If it doesn’t rain he packs water in on his back! There is no machinery involved. It is hand sowed and the crop is taken off by hand as well. It is then packed up the hill. We were all rather breathless by the time we walked back up the hill. The farmer does this everyday. We could see that its a constant job trying to keep the jungle at bay, lest it take over his land. This farmer works with LaSemilla and their crop assistance plan.

Overall it was a great day. Its difficult to narrow it down to a few words what we experience each day, there are so many!


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Jeff Foster

Nicaragua: Final Good-bye’s

A job well done by the Centra group in Nicaragua! Everyone of the locals had dispersed as we cleaned up on the final day.We say goodbye to the one boy  hanging around waiting to play a final game of soccer…Only to  realize there were many more boys waiting around the corner for the same thing!

We had enjoyed soccer games and mixing with the kids throughout the week so it was  an odd, bittersweet feeling leaving them.

We can only hope and pray  that they too will have an opportunity to get an education and to have continued health care from our new clinic we built for their future.

Adios, for  now to our Nicaraguan friends.

Corinne Tilstra


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Nicaragua Day 5: A Learning Experience

Today was unlike any other day on this tour so far.

We witnessed a “Checko” (boy) get lowered into a garbage hole, about twenty feet deep, with belts from all his buddies. He lost his soccer ball in the hole. It was quite a site to see!

The boys first tried to lower Clarke into the hole, but he refused to help them out with getting there ball (I don’t know why he didn’t want to get lowered into the Garbage hole by belts, I mean it could be an experience right?)

The hole is where the school children/teachers put their garbage. There is no usage of garbage cans as everything is just thrown on the ground. Everything.

It is quite a nice country, today we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to tour a farmer’s field. This farmer’s field was on a side of a mountain, nothing like the farms we have here in the Fraser Valley.

In order to make the steep landscape work for them, all the crops in the field are first rotor tilled, then seeded, and then watered and sprayed of bugs, and then finally picked. All by hand.

Nicaragua is beautiful, and I have enjoyed getting to know the culture and the people, but it does seem as though it is at least 40 years behind, technology wise. Everything is done by hand, horses are their “engine power”; it’s like stepping in a time machine of sorts.
Back to the soccer ball predicament…The boys ended up finding there ball, but not before the one boy took a dive into the hole when a belt broke! Luckily they are very humorous, light-hearted people and they shook it off with a few laughs. Before you knew it the soccer game was right back on!

Joel Tilstra


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Nicaragua Day 5: “Human Backhoe”


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The alarm goes off and it is time to get up and start our fourth day in Nicaragua.  My years of education in Canada to become a Chartered Accountant has landed me the starting job as the human backhoe in Nicaragua (irony at its finest no?)

My first responsibility was to dig a five foot hole for the septic.  One of the local moms observing brought over her daughters to help… before I knew it they had bumped me out of my job and were digging at a much faster pace!

Looking for a new job I was quickly appointed as a landscaper to clear all the debris and weeds for grass and a sidewalk.  By this time, a few local children had gathered around as our work site is on a school property for children up to grade six. They were all so eager to help out!

To show my appreciation I handed out some candy…and boy did that start something! Before I knew it we had children from everywhere eager to help out.  Looking for work again I was then appointed to use my first power tool to drill bolts onto the galvanized steel for the roof, my use of this tool eventually led to me (using for the first time) a skill saw.

The excitement and challenge of learning new things is amazing but what I have found to be the most amazing is the warmth and friendliness of the Nicaraguans. Everyone I have met has been very willing to allow us into their lives, to see their homes…and their pets! One family even had a baby monkey.

Their enthusiasm and willingness to help out is fantastic,  and these will be my fondest memories I take home with me. This is what makes it easy to get out of bed and get back to work no matter how hot it is or how much my body aches from being a “human backhoe”

Jeff Clarke



Nicaragua Day 4, Part 2: FOOTBALL!!

First full day of work in Nicaragua could not wait to go to sleep, and was actually nodding off during our evening round table after dinner after a full day of work in the sun. Part of our round table after dinner is to talk about the things we accomplished during the day and to talk about our goals for the next day. One of the things that was recognized on day one was how each of us mingled with the locals when they came around to see what we were doing and that we would like to organize a soccer game with the kids at the end of day #2. The plan was that we would try to organize a game at the end of our work day around 3:30. This was something that really interested me and that I was looking forward to all day.

The location that we are building the clinic at is on the school grounds so there was a lot of kids around with many kids hanging out after their school got out at 12:30. The boys that stayed around, ages 6 – 12, really wanted to get involved in what we were doing and were trying to communicate with us as much as possible. After working in the 34 degrees weather all day I was ready to get a jump on that game and call it a day. After taking off my tool belt I looked at the boys and said football, the Spanish word for soccer and the excitement that they showed was really awesome. Next thing I knew there was kids coming from everywhere and we were kicking the ball around.  The kids were then looking to me to organize a game so what I resorted to was to have everyone through a shoe into the middle, this was tough to get across to everyone as I do not know Spanish so I did a lot of pointing and animating with my hands.

Once I had the 12 kids put in their shoes I through 6 to each side including mine and within 5 minutes the game was on. Wow, some of these kids could really play!! After 10 minutes two of the older boys stopped the game and were trying to tell me something, “granda” “granda”. I though they wanted to make the goals bigger because our game had some many kids now playing so I was nodding. One of the boys knew I was not understanding what he was saying so he grabbed my hand and starting leading me towards the front of the school, that’s when I grasped that they wanted a bigger playing area.

Once we got around to the front of the school we re-organized the teams because we now had over 20 kids and the game was on again. All of these kids loved to play the game even though we were not really playing in a field that I could imagine a game happening in, grass up to a foot high, cement sidewalk through the middle, and very uneven ground.

My 8 year old son plays soccer on every break at school and I would really like for him to see how these boys, who are relatively the same age as him, are able to play the game that they love not matter what they were playing on. At home we have cut grass, goal posts, new balls, and they have none of this, but still are able to play the game with passion. This was a really great way to end the work day and I am sure most of these boys will be hanging out tomorrow afternoon to have another game.

Mark Brandow