Pandemic Pivot: For Some, COVID-19 Triggers Positive Life Changes

Darryl Anderson
Management consultant Darryl Anderson turned his volunteer work for Mercy Ships Canada, which provides health-care services to some of the world’s poorest nations, into a full-time gig during the pandemic. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Disruptive, economically and personally devastating, inconvenient and in some cases life-altering and deadly: There is no question the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a massive toll.

But it has also spurred global collaboration to ­produce vaccines, forced people, companies and ­countries to innovate and change the way they operate, and fuelled discovery, all the while kindling in many areas a stronger sense of community.

For some, it has offered an opportunity for individuals to look inside themselves.

Darryl Anderson has made a career out of solving problems as a management consultant who specializes in logistics and maritime shipping, among other things.

But the 57-year-old, who had been serving as an advisor to the board of Mercy Ships Canada pre-COVID, found himself drawn into the charitable organization full-time and with both feet during the pandemic.

The organization, an international humanitarian group that uses hospital ships to deliver health-care services to some of the world’s poorest nations, was going through changes and didn’t have an executive director.

But it needed leadership in a crisis. Anderson’s volunteer work, life experience and proximity to the Victoria office made him an ideal candidate.

“I think I was the person living closest to the national office,” Anderson joked. “When COVID broke, they needed someone who could handle decisions and logistics.”

With the organization’s original ship, the Africa Mercy, having to wrap up field service early, someone had to work with Senegalese officials to release the vessel and send it to Europe, where it could be refitted.

“I’d been involved as a national advisor, but I never imagined I would be called into this line of work,” he said, noting the gig was supposed to get the organization through the pandemic, but has been extended.

“It was a job I wasn’t looking for, and that I didn’t know I wanted,” he said. Now he feels he’s on a new path, as the organization has big plans for expansion.

“Our goal is to triple the size,” he said.

Mercy Ships just took delivery of its new ship, the Global Mercy, which it expects to be outfitted and staffed for service next year.

Anderson said since taking the reins, he’s been immersed in the philanthropic sector, and has been humbled by the dedication of the people around him amid a trying pandemic.

“I think the pandemic has taught us how vulnerable we all are,” he said.

Anderson said the work has been fulfilling, though he remains stunned at the change in his daily routine.

“But when you’re all-in, there is no Plan B,” said Anderson, who plans to continue the Mercy Ships work, while maintaining some longtime consulting clients.

He said the COVID experience seems to have left people more willing to act and to lend a hand.

“People were thinking they can’t solve all the world’s problems, but they can be a small part of something to help others,” he said. “It has allowed people to recalibrate. They can work on making their patch of earth, whether it’s global or local, make their patch of earth better.”

The change also came at the right time. “I’m at the stage and place where I am able to give back,” he said.

While before, “giving back” may have meant mentoring people, “now it’s immediate with the organization”.

“My training is in choppy seas. I just didn’t know I would be navigating choppy seas in the charitable sector.”

Read the full Times Colonist article here >>

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