Refugee Week: Nadia's Story of being a pharmacy frontline worker

I am not frightened of Covid 19. I’ve been through war, I’ve seen slaughter and bloodshed, I’ve known hunger and real danger. This is just a disease and I’m not afraid of it.

These are the words of Nadia, a Syrian refugee who has been a frontline worker in a Pharmacy in Yorkshire throughout the current crisis.

A Pharmacist by profession, Nadia fled war-torn Syria and survived harrowing conditions including near starvation in a refugee camp in Lebanon before being brought to the UK under the government’s resettlement scheme.

On arrival in the UK, Nadia spoke no English and believed her only hope for employment was working as a cleaner.  Until she joined World Jewish Relief’s Specialist Training and Employment Programme (STEP) where over a number of years, through our partner Horton Housing, we have been helping her with guidance, funding and other support, to gain the qualifications she needs to work in her profession again.

Her determination and hard work are paying off, with GCSE’s and NVQ’s under her belt, she is now a qualified Pharmacy Technician able to dispense medicines to the public, and she plans to return to university soon to complete her UK degree.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Nadia has travelled two hours by bus each day to get to and from her place of work.  While others have stayed home in lockdown she has been determined to do her bit for her adopted community saying

I want to give back to this country who has hosted me and received me as a refugee. What I’m doing is nothing. I’d like to do more.

At the height of the pandemic, the pharmacy experienced long queues from people desperately needing medicines. Nadia wasn’t worried though, she says “We would only allow one person in at a time, we put up screens to help protect us and we are wearing PPE, washing our hands and regularly taking our temperatures”.

Part of Nadia's role as Pharmacy Technician is preparing dosset boxes for elderly patients, helping them to take their medications on time. Sadly, a number of her most loyal customers have lost their lives to Coronavirus. For Nadia, who has elderly parents still living in Syria, the deaths of this clientele has been particularly poignant; “I’m upset about our customers, we have lost five or six to Covid-19 and that’s very sad. When I serve customers, especially the older ones, I feel like they could be my mum or dad, and all I want is to do the best for them”.

It has been an intense three months working at the frontline of the crisis, but we are so proud of Nadia and of the STEP programme which has helped her to be in a position to help others during the peak of this terrible disease.

dosset box Nadia prepares a dosset box

STEP is run by World Jewish Relief and delivered in partnership with Horton Housing AssociationThe Refugee CouncilCoventry City CouncilBusiness in the CommunityThe Entrepreneurial Refugee Network and the Stand Up and Be Counted Theatre Company.

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