Meet our Partners: Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust

8 November 2016

Sterile processing is a hot topic! Did you know the post-operative infection rate in West Africa is around 70%?* This means that people who are able to have surgery may die not from the surgery itself, but from an infection that could easily be prevented by sterilizing equipment properly. The GOOD news? We know some people who are working hard to change this!

Mercy Ships Canada has had the pleasure of growing our partnership with Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust (SPECT) and would like to highlight their recent work in Cotonou, Benin!

We caught up with SPECT co-founder, Olive Fast, who has returned from working with Mercy Ships in Benin, to hear how the Sterile Processing Course went.


“We had 60 participants, 41 from CNHU (the largest teaching hospital in Benin) in the morning class and 19 in the afternoon class from Menonton, St. Luc, CHU-MEL, and Bethesda hospitals. Each class was 3 hours in length and they ran over 10 days. The amazing thing we found was that almost all the participants came each day – they valued the training so much! There was

There was great discussion and they emphasized that they really wanted to know what was the best way to sterilize so they could work towards that goal. We had a team of 4-6 people involved at various times and received great support from the Capacity Building Office staff who printed off sign in sheets, tests, questionnaires, etc, as well as made sure we had a driver and vehicle as needed.


The participants were wonderful people who while wanting knowledge laughed readily and appreciated the opportunity to talk with each other and discuss ways to improve their work processes. Christina usually spends time working with the participants in their departments, however, she only had time this visit to do the education classes.

Suzanne Veltjens, a sterile processor, and nurse working on the ship, joined us for most classes and is spending 1-2 days a week until the end of December visiting participants. She will be working with them to meet the goals they set for themselves the last day of classes.”

Olive and her husband Dan became involved with SPECT and Mercy Ships Canada after their daughter Christina’s first stint volunteering with Mercy Ships in Sierra Leone.

Sterile Processing Course participants display their certificates.
Sterile Processing Course participants display their certificates.

After Christina had visited several of the hospitals’ sterilization areas she called home and said she didn’t know what to do but she had to do something. After talking with Jane McIntosh, she decided to start an organization. Realizing she couldn’t do this work alone, Dan and Olive agreed to work with her to see her vision become a reality. Olive agreed to chair SPECT and together we worked to find trustees – Jane being one of them.

Once we became a trust, we applied for charitable status and received it in record time. We then also applied for a Grand Challenges Grant (GCC) and received the grant 8 months after becoming a Trust. The year we became a trust I received a professional leave from my job teaching at Mount Royal University, so Dan – who loves to travel – quite his program coordinator job and we traveled” says Olive.

When Olive and Dan returned from traveling they had a lot of work to do with GCC and Dan got drawn into that work. Dan has continued to work with SPECT on a volunteer basis as it grows. Olive has been given a sabbatical this year and part of her commitment is to work part-time with SPECT to grow the organization.

Watch Mission Madagascar I and II to Learn more about SPECT’s work

*Studies conducted in LMICs (Abdulasalam et al., 2014; Ogwant et al., 2013; WHO, 2008) indicate that the percentages of SSIs are higher than in developed countries, citing rates from 10.9% to 70%.