A Life As A Human interview with Jane McIntosh
Jane McIntosh has always had a passion for carrying out the work of transforming lives, so much so that she traded in her home on Pender Island, British Columbia for one of a different kind – the Africa Mercy, a giant hospital ship that delivers free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Jane signed up with non-profit Mercy Ships for a two-year term. As a volunteer, Jane needed financial support, which came in the form of a wood chopper, Pender resident David Howe. David helped her by chopping wood and selling it by donation. Other island residents rallied together, giving financial contributions, offering their own fallen trees, eventually forming an alliance called “The Charity Choppers” which after Jane’s return, has continued to support other crew members and day workers onboard the Africa Mercy.
LAAH: What exactly is it that you did?
JM: I volunteered for two years on board a medical ship called the Africa Mercy. We docked at ports in Sierra Leone, Togo and Guinea, West Africa. We provided free operations to those in need in those countries. I worked as the Operating Room Sterilizing Team Leader. I headed up a team of five West Africans. We sterilized instruments for six operating rooms which provided thousands of operations during the Africa Mercy’s ten-month visit to each country.
LAAH: Why did you do it and what is the motivation or passion that kept you going?
JM: My husband and I were doing volunteer service for another NGO when he was diagnosed with cancer and we had to resign. One and a half years after his death I decided that to have stopped that volunteer work was like ‘unfinished business’ for me. At that point I found Mercy Ships and was soon on my way to West Africa for two years of volunteer service.
What kept me going was the commitment that I made, and my desire to see it through to the end.
LAAH: Do you feel that what you have done has made a difference? If so, can you explain how?
JM: It was amazing to be a part of daily miracles onboard the Africa Mercy. To see and know that you had a part in improving and changing someone’s life forever for the positive was truly a privilege.
LAAH: Who were your allies and supporters in this enterprise?
JM: A group of wood choppers on Pender Island, British Columbia were my supporters. They encouraged the people of Pender to donate trees to be cut and chopped into firewood. Those that did not have trees to donate purchased firewood to fund my two years of volunteer service onboard the Africa Mercy.
LAAH: Do you have plans to grow your involvement, to expand the scope of your project? If so, can you elaborate on these plans?
JM: No, my time onboard is now finished. I have maintained connections with many folks from West Africa and try to find support for individuals and projects there.
Jane was a mentor to a young woman from Calgary, 26-year-old Christina Fast, who has volunteered with Mercy Ships as a sterile processor over the past four years.
Jane encouraged her to start her own non profit, which she did. It is called Sterile Processing Education in Developing Countries (SPEDC). This NPO helps prevent infection and pandemics, ensuring that quality and safe medical attention is provided to people in need.
The vision of this organization is to provide education, through classes and hands-on training, to those who are working as sterile processing technicians in countries with limited educational resources. SPEDC will work in partnership with Mercy Ships and the ministries of health in developing countries to assist in improving sterilization techniques and provide education in related areas.
The non profit Green Angels (Charity Choppers) on Pender Island, which started because of Jane, heard of Christina and sent a check for $10,000 to a local Saanich lawyer which covered the complete cost of registering her NPO.
We are hoping to interview Christina in the near future.
LAAH: Like anything in life worth working for there must be difficulties and struggles too. Can you share with us what have been your greatest challenges?
JM: My greatest struggle was upon my return to my life in Canada. I went from living with 450 people – to living alone in a house on 1.33 acres on a small island in British Columbia. I lived two years witnessing medical miracles, and having opportunities where very little time, energy and money could change someone’s life. When I returned home, it seemed that nothing had meaning.
LAAH: How can people help you?
JM: Think of me and hope that I can find new meaning in my new life.
Please watch this very powerful video.
Why Mercy Ships Serves the Forgotten Poor in Africa
The Life As A Human team thanks Jane McIntosh and Mercy Ships for the amazing work they are doing and for giving us this interview. If you know them, or if their work has touched your life or inspired you in some way, please leave them a comment.
We know they would love to hear from you! And be sure to visit their Visit Mercy Ships website!
Photos of Hasanatu by Deborah Bell – All Rights Reserved
All other images by Mercy Ships – All Rights Reserved