Filling prescriptions may be Joelle Mbamy’s job but she sees her role as a medical professional being so much more.
The pharmacist/owner of the tiny Sunshine Pharmacy tucked away in the south corner of the Main Street Courtyard plaza has dedicated much of her professional life to helping others who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
It is the reason why there are no signs on her business door advising those who enter they could be refused service for any reason.
“It is an attitude of accepting everyone no matter their status, when they may not look that desirable and nobody else may want them in their business,” said Mbamy, who came to Canada from Cameroon, Central Africa and has lived in Penticton for 20 years.
“The people know this is a safe place for them, somewhere where they can call a cab or just get a glass of water and they are not afraid they are going to be rejected because of the way they look.”
In fact, the colourful decor inside the store, the chairs outside in the courtyard near the tree with soft music playing in the background, is more reminiscent of a coffee shop than a pharmacy.
And that’s just they way Mbamy and her customers, or “friends” as she prefers to call them, like it.
“Definitely shows the store is open to anybody, whether they are kids or whoever. It reassures them that in coming here they will feel welcome and reinforces we don’t want any discrimination here,” she said.
“They sit and have a chat and I love to bring that smile (to their faces). There’s hardly anybody who comes here and goes away sad. I like them to feel valued.”
It’s also not usual to see her Zumba dance students spill out onto Main Street during the Saturday lessons she and her daughter Donna now teach.
The work Mbamy does is not necessarily front and centre in the eyes of the community, but it has not gone unnoticed.
In May, at the B.C. Pharmacy Association annual conference in Whistler, she was named the 2014 recipient of the Pfizer Bowl of Gygeia Award.
The not-for-profit association represents nearly 3,000 pharmacists and 800 pharmacies province-wide.
Named for Gygeia, the mythical Greek goddess of health, the honour goes to the pharmacist for outstanding community service.
For Mbamy that work includes the certification of her business as a Safe Harbour location and identifies her as a symbol of trust in the neighbourhood.
Her compassion also extends beyond the colourful four walls of the downtown location.
That includes her volunteer work with the Penticton and District Community Resources Society and its harm reduction program to help get others back on their feet with much-needed resources.
As well, Mbamy runs health clinics at the Sikh Temple, seniors health fairs and is involved with the South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services Society.
Whether it is assisting someone in getting help for a medical condition or seeing a person overcoming a heroin addiction Mbamy is just happy to do her part.
“For myself I get that joy that you cannot buy,” she said. “The changes, the laughter, the love and how much they grow that is my reward.”