The 2,500 residents of El Tigre Island, Honduras depend on Doña Chila. Since March 2009, she has been one of just two volunteer community pharmacists providing them with affordable access to essential medications and medical injections.
Before Doña Chila became a community pharmacist, she had been a long time member of our partner, COMIXMUL, a Honduran women’s savings and credit cooperative with integrated access to health services. Through COMIXMUL, Doña Chila received numerous business loans as well as health screenings and education.
In 2009, driven by a desire to give back to her community, Doña Chila signed up to join COMIXMUL’s newly launched volunteer pharmacies program. “My sons made fun of me when they found out I was going to sell medicines as they thought I couldn’t learn,” says Doña Chila, “[But] I’m the one laughing now as I’ve learned all the medicines and can also give injections. [Now] they call me doctor and I don’t correct them.”
Doña Chila is one of the most productive pharmacists on the island. On any given day, she is visited by 15-17 customers who rely on her for counsel on which medications to take, dosages, and side effects. Although the island has other pharmacies not affiliated with COMIXMUL’s program, Doña Chila is able to serve the poorest of customers because she offers lower prices by selling generic medications. She is also highly reliable by keeping a fully stocked medicine cabinet and offering her services to customers 24 hours a day.
Earlier this year, Global Partnerships helped COMIXMUL restructure its community pharmacies program to help it achieve the financial sustainability it has never been able to obtain. Part of the restructuring included providing its 201 volunteer pharmacists, including Doña Chila, with a 10 percent commission, which helps incent performance in sales, quality and transparency. The commission also helps pharmacists earn additional revenue to raise their families and improve their living conditions. In spite of this, Doña Chila insists that she still considers herself as a volunteer fulfilling her civic duty. “Being a community pharmacist has been the best and most rewarding experience of my life.”