The PAN Sewing Co-operatives

The Sewing Program is one of the longest-operating PAN programs.  Over the years many volunteers have arrived at Jardin Shalom accompanied by hockey bags filled with material and proceeded to hold sewing classes.  This has led in turn to the creation of sewing co-operatives at many churches in Nicaragua.

Dolores Uriarte supervises this program and each month she visits the co-operatives to see how the ladies are doing with their sewing and to teach them new skills.  At the end of the month Dolores writes a report which she sends the Apoyo leaders.

The following is an example of the activities for June 2023:

  • June 7 and 14 —  Visited the Roca de Salvación church of Pastor Ernan Silva, in La Concepción. With the sisters of that cooperative, we learned to make dresses with smooth fabric without zippers and also bell skirts.  We also innovated a short lengthened dress.  The sisters were very happy with the teaching.  They meet twice a week.
  • June 13 and 20 – Visited the church of Pastor Doris Moncada in the Llama de Fuego in Ticuantepe, Las Perlas community. Among the items made were cushions. They also meet twice a week.
  • June 21 and 22 — Worked with Sister Johana Torres in the Masaya Roca Eterna church run by Pastor Gustavo Ortiz. We made a man’s shirt, also skirts, blouses and shorts, all pre- ordered.  It was very interesting because we exchanged ideas and knowledge.  Some doubts were cleared up with the completion of the work.
  • June 23 —  Visited the cooperative of Sister Bianca Hernández from the Lumbrera Church located in Ticuantepe, the community of Dirita. We worked making toilet paper holders and also brush holders. This job was requested by my sister.
  • June 30 — Visited the Granada church of Pastor Alicia, third of the Nazarene, located on Calle Palmira. We made more blouses with striped acrylic fabric and also skirts for girls.  We also finished two quilts that had been sent by the Canadian sisters.

Writing to Wynne Ross in Canada Dolores added: We always work with joy and learn something. … I thank God first for working with you and also PAN Mission for your trust and support.

Don Vickers

PAN co-founder Don Vickers died peacefully on March 19, 2023 after a six year battle with Alzheimer’s – less than a month after his last mission to Jardin Shalom.

At a packed Celebration of Life service at Kortright Presbyterian Church (KPC) on April 29, former board member Larry Hurren recalled the many years he spent with Don in Nicaragua constructing church buildings and schools – “doing the physical work of mixing cement and stacking cement blocks.
“Whatever needed to be done, Don would and could do”, he said. Or, as Don himself said: “I’m in like a dirty shirt!”, often joyfully whistling while he worked.
One of four original KPC members sent to Nicaragua to investigate mission opportunities, Don served as a board member, treasurer and team leader after PAN Missions was founded in 1996. Don was also a truck driver for PAN Missions, Larry remembers, “driving a cargo van as far west as Windsor to pick up donations of all kinds, including medical supplies from doctors’ offices and hospitals, even hospital beds that we’d carry out to the car then unload at the warehouse in Guelph or in a barn at Drayton until they could be reloaded in a shipping container to go to Nicaragua.”

Born in Guelph but brought up in Sidney Mines in Cape Breton, Don returned to Ontario at age 19. Shortly afterwards he met Annette and after a long courtship they married in 1967. Beginning in advertising and moving to sales, over the years Don worked for several companies travelling the world, eventually starting his own company, Vickers Marketing in Guelph. The family home – 15 Bishop Court – became the headquarters of Pan Missions Canada, very familiar to many team members charged with filling multiple hockey bags prior to heading to Nicaragua.
With Don’s passing and Annette’s move to a new home, a chapter has ended in the story of PAN.

Hockey Bags

Whenever PAN Mission teams go to Nicaragua they are always accompanied by hockey bags.  Over the years these have been filled with a variety of items such as  clothing, dried foods, sewing materials, medical supplies and sports equipment.  The trip in February 2023 was no different, our bags especially focusing on baseball equipment, sewing materials and tools for the “Mr. Fix-It” team.  In addition we carried an assortment of medical supplies in direct response to a request from a former PAN staffer, Karen Turcios, who is now a volunteer Fire Fighter and is required to supply her own First Aid kit.

Glenbrook Presbyterian Church in Mississauga – a long-time supporter of PAN – took up the challenge  and within a matter of a few weeks raised $1,200.00.  This enabled the purchase of the full range of the items specified by Karen.  An overwhelmed Karen was presented with a bulging hockey bag of supplies when Annette, Don, Bruce and John visited her volunteer fire-station – the oldest in the country – at the end of the mission.

Also in many of the hockey bags were knitted teddy bears – created by the knitting and sewing teams in Canada.  These teddies were given to our translator Jonathan who took them to the Children’s Hospital, La Mascota in Managua where his sister works.  She was able to deliver them to the children waiting to receive treatment.


Bruce Compton’s report about the baseball/Bible teaching program.

Nicaragua Mission February 2023

Bruce Compton writes:

Our team of 10 – comprising  two from Kingston, five from Guelph, and one person each from Cambridge, Pickering and Mississauga — had three components: 1) teaching baseball and Bible clinics for children, ages 6-10; 2) a “Mr. Fix-it” team involved in repairing and painting the buildings in Jardin Shalom; and 3) a sewing/knitting team teaching skills to help women generate income for themselves and their communities.

It should not have been a surprise, but as God planned it, only the third one since Covid struck, gelled beautifully.

The baseball and Bible clinics started at 1:30 after school for the children. Katerina (Kat) and I helped the fixit team in the morning. Kat, in her third year as an apprentice plumber, proved to be a valuable member of both teams. This was her fourth mission to Nicaragua, the previous three, as part of the JOY Team.

The clinics started on Monday when 36 children arrived at Jardin Shalom to learn about God’s love and the Bible. For our first Bible story, I did the water in a ziplock bag demonstration, which focuses on trusting God based on the story of Jonah.   Day two focused on the water drops in a coin based on Jesus feeding the 5000. On Wednesday a skit, based on Matthew 25:37, was performed in Spanish by the MED (Ministerio Evangelisa Deportes), a group of young people from the Church of the Prophecy of God.  On Thursday I used a baseball as an illustration of how exactly and wonderfully made we are. On our last day, Friday, the children did a craft, writing their favourite Bible verse and why they like baseball. Each day after the clinics, the children were given a meal made by volunteers from the PAN de Vida church at Jardin Shalom. An average of 35 children attended each day.

PAN has a vision that in order to reach more children and youth and to use Jardin Shalom as the place to do that, it needs to have a concha built, a multipurpose area used for playing futsal (type of soccer) ,basketball, floor ball and even badminton.  Please pray for this special project in order to continue and improve the sports ministry.

I had the privilege to speak to a full congregation on Saturday night at the Church of Our Friendly God (with Jonathan as my interpreter). I focused on the question “what did Jesus do”, and how we can be leaders and examples in our community be doing the things Jesus did. It was a lot of fun.

We accomplished a lot in our 10 day mission. We give thanks to God for allowing us to participate in this mission of service and love.

The “miracle” Mr. Fix-It mission

The Improbable Mission Team

or should that be, The Miracle Mission Team

As so often happens at PAN, it all began with Annette.  Returning to Jardin Shalom in November, 2022 – the first time since Covid 19 struck – she was concerned about the  complex’s physical state. “We need a Mr. Fix-It team” she declared and, after receiving a 11 point costed list of items from Adminstrator Ernan, pledged $1,500 towards the required funds.  John, who had led a small build team from Glenbrook Presbyterian, Mississauga two months earlier and had been equally dismayed by the conditions, immediately matched it.

“I’m not sure why I felt I had to,” he said ”and, not being a skilled handyman, why I also felt compelled to join the team that was scheduled to leave in February.”  Indeed (as he was constantly reminded by the folks both at Glenbrook and Jardin Shalom!) he had made it clear in September that at age 80 he did not expect to ever return…

Planning a mission team usually begins a year ahead.  Therefore, getting a team together in a matter of little more than two months presented an extraordinary challenge – especially given its nature.  Ernan’s list included major repairs such as extensive roof leaks that required changing the gutter between the kitchen and dining area and repairing extensive water damage to the front of the chapel.

As Dawn, the only other person to initially volunteer her services, said: “I had promised my husband I wouldn’t be climbing any ladders to get on the roofs…”.  But then, just as he didn’t know what prompted him to become involved, John was minded to write to two farmers who had been with him on a PAN church build in 2018.  And, Glory be, one of them was available.  Not only that, Steven was delighted at the opportunity and asked if he could bring along his daughter Morgan.  If anyone had any doubts about her abilities, they were quickly dispelled on our arrival at Managua airport.  It was she who nimbly shot up the ladder at the back of the PAN van and promptly began stacking our heavy bags.

Our small team was also fortunate to secure the local services of Samuel Reyes, not only over the years a popular translator with team builds, but a skilled and hard worker.  As a result, in the space of only five working days we carried out major repairs and identified ongoing issues; for example, the dangerous electrical wiring powering the extension to the adjoining Pan de Vida complex.  (A professional electrician was promptly hired to address this concern and was to begin work the day we left).

In addition to the replacement of the gutter above the kitchen with a wider, deeper one (thereby hopefully preventing future overflow/roof leaks), we repaired the soffits and fascia on the dormitory building; installed new laundry lines (which included concreting the bases; and repaired the concertina kitchen screen (taking it apart, grinding it down for repainting and the installation of new mesh).

But clearly the biggest transformation was the chapel, one side of which had suffered severe water damage.  This we determined was the result of a design flaw, the header above the front entrance causing water to accumulate and pour down unrestrictedly. The header was torn off, new soffits and fascia installed and the building given a paint face-lift (a markedly different colour to the rest of the complex!). Now all remains is for a wooden cross to be affixed at the front.

Our “Mr Fix-It” list also included the need for plumbing repairs – and here again there was Divine Intervention.  It turned out that one of the baseball instructors, Kat, is a third-year apprentice plumber and she volunteered to repair several leaking taps and install new fittings.  Bruce, who was heading up the baseball program, also lent a hand grinding and Sharon, PAN’s ever cheerful Ambassador, was instrumental together with Morgan in repainting the dormitory wing.

Thus, what had seemed like “Mission Impossible” turned out to be yet another very successful team experience.  Perhaps Bruce, a former PAN director, said it best:

“What a blessing it was to serve with all of you in various ways on this, what started out as an (sic) very unlikely mission. But God’s grace and planning brought us together in a perfect way. Thank you all for your gifts. I pray that God will bring us together again to serve his people in Nicaragua. For He knows the plans He has for us.”


Christmas Craft and Bake Sale

Fundraising August 2020

I awoke early this morning and was thinking of Nica as I often do, hoping to return there as soon as it is possible. This morning however, my thoughts were focused somewhat differently.

We all went down to Nica this past January and saw our beautiful Jardin Shalom. We went right to work on our assorted projects and, little did we know that this would be the last team to go there for awhile.

In thinking back to what we accomplished, I see the lounge being repainted, repaired and many other projects that brought it up to a new standard to welcome not only teams but other groups that would use these facilities in new ways, such as Pastor’s conferences. You worked tirelessly in the heat I might add, and enjoyed making new friendships as well. I can see Kurt and Wes and Ron and Andrew sitting in the lounge having lunch and joking with Martha and Myrna.

I see Dawn and Andrew working in the heat alongside Mauricio, Joel and the construction workers to build the new Pastors’ house. A home for a family that has now established the Pan De Vida Church where they are now holding Church services regularly!

I see Suzie teaching her new student to crochet: now her student sends us photos of her work and it’s amazing.

Judy, you worked with the children and we loved to see your newest crafts!

As well, as many of us as could go to the Commit group’s project in Nandarola. We went with Dr. Doug Johnson and Janice to see their latest organic garden efforts. What a great experience! We saw the farm at the Disability Centre as well. We gave out hygiene kits there and the men were delighted. I can still see their faces.

For me, it was wonderful to see Yvonne and Wynne conduct the Women’s retreats with singing and sewing and so much more!! These women had been part of our Sewing Co-Ops and Delores, our sewing teacher made such an impression with the women! Delores has continued to teach the women every month….even now she is teaching them to sew face masks!

We were helped through all of this by Joyce and Tara and Barb and Larry.

The highlight for me was the Church service at the Feeding Centre where we took the local children, 80 to 100 of them, and, after feeding them lunch, while Jonathon told them the story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, we washed theirs and then gave them each new shoes and backpacks for school! Wow! Wow! Wow!

We packed up bags of food and gave them out to some of the local church families knowing that they were in desperate need. We built raised beds and filled them with vegetables for the Feeding Centre.

There was so much more, but my hope and prayer is that this letter will bring you your own memories of a beautiful time in Nica when so much was accomplished. God had given us this opportunity to serve and share with those in need and I believe that we all left part of our hearts there.

Thinking of you with love,



Holiday Market

Date: Sat. Nov. 09 – 9am-2pm

Location: Stratford, Spruce Lodge/Woodland Towers, 643 West Gore St., Stratford, ON. N5A 1L4

St.Mary’s Catholic School Listowel (Miles for Miracles)

Date: Sat. Nov. 02 – 9am-3pm

Location: 1209 Tremaine Ave., S., Listowel, ON. N4W 3G9

Holiday Market Nov 24th

Date: Sun. Nov 24 – 9am-2:30pm
Location: Lions Club – Arthur Arena – 158 Domville St, Arthur, ON. N0G 1A0