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Chinchilla ’09 helping to fight poverty in Belize

March 11, 2013
By cnp
Posted in Alumni

Carmen Chinchilla, a 2009 Ozarks graduate, has always felt a calling to work for the good of others. Now, she is fulfilling that calling as director of development for Hillside Health Care International, a non-profit organization that provides medical services to impoverished areas of Belize.

Chinchilla, originally from Honduras, graduated from Ozarks with a degree in political science and English. She then went on to earn a graduate degree in international development at the University of Denver in Colorado.

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Carmen Chinchilla, a 2009 Ozarks graduate, is working in Little Rock, Ark., as director of development for Hillside Health Care International.

"I’ve always had an interest in international relations. And, being from Honduras, I’ve always wanted to be in a position where I could help others who are living in poverty," Chinchilla said. "My graduate studies taught me the theoretical aspect of poverty alleviation in an international setting but also the skills I needed to work in that sector. I was very fortunate and blessed that despite the economy at the time, I was hired within two months after graduation by Hillside Health Care International."

Chinchilla works out of her Little Rock, Ark., home for Hillside, which has its international headquarters in Wisconsin. The organization offers a free-health clinic in an extremely underprivileged section of southern Belize where the people have little to no access to medical services.

"The clinic is located in a very impoverished district of the country, and as is true in most developing countries, areas that are not close to main cities do not receive as many important government services, such as healthcare," Chinchilla said.

"Hillside is able to provide free primary care to thousands who would not otherwise be able to afford it. We also provide many services that are not available in the area, such as home care nursing, physical therapy, and dental varnish programs for school-aged children. Hillside volunteers also take mobile clinics to more remote villages where the Belizean Ministry of Health does not have the resources to reach. One other very important aspect of our clinic is that we hire and train Belizeans to work at the clinic, as well as have a student loan fund available to our workers who wish to pursue a degree in medical care," she explained.

Chinchilla believes in Hillside’s mission and the crucial service they provide in Belize. While her position as director of development is more behind the scenes, her work is vital to their success.

"Non-profits can never have enough donations to support the good works they do," she said. "Hillside is no different. As director of development, I am in charge of fundraising at Hillside. Among other things, I am responsible for the organization’s fundraising efforts through annual campaigns, events, grant research and writing, and donor outreach. At this moment, we are working on a March Madness-themed fundraiser that our basketball fan supporters really love."

Chinchilla said that she could not have gotten where she is today without the support of her Ozarks family.

"I know this may sound like a cliché, but I would say the entire Ozarks experience was invaluable. The organizations I joined, my courses and professors, internships, and even the C-minus I received for an art class all taught me valuable lessons I needed to learn. Ozarks did a great job of preparing me for my future," she explained.

In fact, Chinchilla’s ultimate goal is to provide others in her home country with similar opportunities for higher education.

"I hope to in the future be able to create or join a nonprofit that provides university loans to students in Honduras," she said. "The United States is very fortunate to have government subsidized loans available to people who want to further their education. However, these types of loans are not really available in many developing countries, such as Honduras."

Chinchilla advised other Ozarks students to never take for granted what Ozarks offers. "Ozarks is full of experiences and opportunities that are just waiting for you to seize them. Don’t miss out," she said.

Chinchilla is married to fellow Ozarks graduate Josue Gutierrez, who is in medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.