Opinion: Celebrating one of Delta's innovative community leaders

I’m continually impressed by the contributions of the many talented people in our community. For decades Jane Devji and her husband Amin have enriched the lives of seniors and, in particular, those living with dementia.

Jane took a big risk after graduating from secondary school, leaving her small town of Mwanza, Tanzania to study registered nursing at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. Her family was not supportive of this choice, but Jane was determined to succeed. She graduated from nursing school in 1964 and found steady work in Nairobi. In 1970 she married Amin, and they welcomed their eldest son Salim a year later.

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Fearing civil unrest in Kenya as troubling events unfolded in nearby Uganda, Jane and Amin decided to find a new place to live. Jane heard there were lots of opportunities in Canada, and the couple submitted an application to Canadian authorities. They were able to immigrate to the United Kingdom in 1973 and create a comfortable life in Redding, England. But deep down, Jane still felt she belonged in Canada. She persevered through the process and the family arrived in Canada in 1975.

Life in their new country wasn’t easy for the Devji family. Jane’s nursing papers were lost in transit, and she found it impossible to find work as an RN. Amin also had trouble finding work, taking jobs out of town which was stressful for the family. They considered moving back to the UK, but decided to stick it out for a few more months. The situation turned around, and Amin found steady employment with Columbia TV while Jane worked in a nursing home.

Jane heard on the radio there were two care homes that had been put up for sale, one in Richmond and another in Delta. Jane and Amin would end up purchasing Ladner Private Hospital in 1976.

Jane wasn’t satisfied with the facility as it stood. Instead, she dedicated herself to renovating and enriching the space to provide the best care possible to residents. Amin built a large commercial kitchen and additional patient rooms. They also welcomed a second son, Aly, in 1979.

By the late 1980s, they gained support from the Municipality of Delta and the B.C. Ministry of Health to build a one-of-a-kind care home for those living with dementia. I’m proud to say that my father, Ian Paton Sr., was their next-door neighbour and supported their efforts along with many others in the community.

In 1991, the Devjis opened the Delta View Habilitation Centre which would eventually bring Jane international recognition for her work to discard traditional physical restraints and prioritize freedom of movement for patients. She also pioneered the “hugs not drugs” philosophy for dementia and residential care.

The result: a holistic approach to care that benefits its recipients as well as society as a whole. Patients are not cut off from their communities, and we are all better for it.

The family’s work continued in 2006 when they opened the Delta View Life Enrichment Centre (Delta View), a 212-bed complex care facility in East Delta. Jane, Amin, their two grown sons and their wives continue to manage Delta View using these guiding values.

A great measure of one’s success is to see their work emulated elsewhere, and Jane’s innovative strategies have been adopted by care homes across British Columbia. Her work has left a lasting mark on our city and province.

Jane and Amin Devji embody the values of compassion, inclusion and innovation and I know everyone in Delta wishes them well in their retirement. Thank you for all you’ve done for our community, Jane and Amin.

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