The Australian pharmacist changing healthcare in Ethiopia

Melbourne pharmacist Ian Shanks is passionate about healthcare. But as well as helping his own community, he’s transforming a community on the other side of the world.

Ian considers himself fortunate to be able to make a positive difference in other people’s lives through his business, Fullife Pharmacies. He firmly believes that access to healthcare is a basic human right, and he’s always wanted to help people in developing countries who are suffering without it

But Ian wanted to do more than make a personal donation. In a quiet moment alone on the beach during a family holiday in Queensland, he was struck with the perfect idea. He realised he could make an even bigger impact by involving his business.

That moment led to the creation of the Fullife Foundation, a World Vision partner. Ian set up donation boxes in each of Fullife’s four pharmacies, encouraging customers to support World Vision’s work in Samre, Ethiopia through child sponsorship.

Starting with 50 children in 2012, today the foundation sponsors over 200 children. In turn, this supports thousands of people in Samre with better access to essentials like nutrition, education, and life-saving healthcare. 

Essential healthcare now available in Samre, Ethiopia


children sponsored through customer donations

All four Fullife Pharmacies (in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland) have a World Vision collection box at the counter. Combined, customers’ donations make the Fullife Foundation our largest child sponsor.


percent of people can access healthcare

Almost the entire population of Samre now has access to essential health services. This is helping to reduce preventable diseases like polio and malaria.


local health workers trained

Through child sponsorship, World Vision has trained 873 local community health workers. Now more mothers are delivering with the help of a skilled health worker, reducing the risk of mothers dying in childbirth.

Ian didn’t realise how much impact his support was having until he travelled to Ethiopia to meet some of his sponsored children.

"I was surprised that so much had been done in such a relatively short space of time … [What] the World Vision people on the ground have done with the money that’s been sent to them is truly extraordinary," Ian said. 

"In the previous year there had been 262 mothers die due to lack of maternal support … And because of the development in that area, for the first quarter of that year up until when we saw them, there’d been zero deaths. 

"To meet the mothers that are so thrilled that their lives were saved through an intervention and their child’s life was saved then the whole thing becomes real…. You think that this is the most important thing on Earth.”


TOP LEFT: Ian (left) and Fullife pharmacist Colin Wood in Ethiopia with Tim Costello in 2014; TOP RIGHT: Ian and Colin visit some of their sponsored children at school; BOTTOM LEFT: An expectant mother receives care from skilled health workers at the Samre clinic; BOTTOM RIGHT: Sponsored children say thank you to Fullife Pharmacies .


The sky’s the limit

In 2012 Ian and his son Nathan climbed Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. They raised $10,000 from friends and colleagues for World Vision’s work in Samre.

Choosing his own path

When Ian visited Samre, he saw how badly hospital waiting rooms were needed for expectant mothers. He decided to fund them as his next project with World Vision.

Partnering for greater impact

In partnership with the Birthing Kits Foundation and World Vision, Fullife offered customers the option to donate $3 to send a birthing kit to a mother in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After only a couple of months they raised enough for 11,000 kits.

Healthcare is one of the world’s greatest needs

Every day, approximately 18,000 children under five die – mostly from preventable causes like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. In 1990, it was 32,000 children every day. Change is happening, but much more has to be done to stop children dying needless deaths.

World Vision is committed to health and nutrition programming in over 55 countries. We support proven, cost-effective solutions that improve children’s health: immunisation, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, oral rehydration to prevent death from diarrhoea, more skilled birth attendants, nutrition programs, and access to programs to learn better hygiene practices.

We don’t just provide one-off support like giving out medicines. Instead, we empower communities to meet their own needs – for example, by training community health workers. We also work closely with national and local governments to make sure health services are available to meet families’ needs.