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‘It’s time to give back to Ireland’, says a Syrian refugee who opened a new pharmacy in Co Carlow village

CARLOW: Fadi Almasri, one of the first Syrian refugees to be resettled in Ireland, opened a pharmacy in the village of Ballon in Co Carlow. Fadi had his own pharmacy in Syria before relocating to Ireland, and now he opened a new one here on Monday.

“It’s time to give something back to Ireland – the country which has given us lots of new opportunities. We are trying to give something back for what Irish people have done for us. For what Ireland has done for Syrians,” the 34-year-old said.

Fadi was running his own pharmacy in Homs (Syria’s third largest city) when the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. He and his family fled to neighbouring Jordan from their hometown of Homs.

The family arrived in Ireland in late 2014 as part of a resettlement program run by the UN Refugee Agency and the Irish Government. For three months they were in the Mosney accommodation centre, after which the family settled in Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Fadi and his family were given an “incredible” welcome in Portlaoise, and it was here that he trained in the Irish pharmaceutical system.

“I went to a pharmacist in Portlaoise, John Paul Shanahan, and asked him for training in the Irish system. I told him my story and he told me everything about the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the HSE and how to become a pharmacist here.

“That was the start of my pharmacy journey in Ireland – a journey which would eventually bring me to Ballon.

“Look, not everyone has the chance to start their life again. My first pharmacy went in the war. But now I have opened in Ballon and this is my future,” Fadi explained.

Starting a new business in rural Ireland during a pandemic is not easy, but he is optimistic about the future. “I’m not looking back. I’m just looking to the future for me and my family. I would tell anyone who has the opportunity of a new life, to take it,” he said.

Fadi has hired three locals for the new venture. Supervising Pharmacist Bridget Dalton said it was Fadi’s dream to own a pharmacy and set up his own business, and today he has done it.  

Pharmacists have also begun administering COVID-19 vaccines in Ireland, and Fadi hopes pharmacy will play a key role in the vaccine roll-out.

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