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Saif fled a war, became a pharmacist, and now helps other refugees

January 12, 2023 | 4 minute watch time

“I remember holding my mom’s hand, praying we’d survive,” recalls Saif Namiq about the fighting one night outside his home in Baghdad, Iraq.

When Saif and his family came to San Diego to start a new life, he worked hard to fulfill his dream of becoming a pharmacist — overcoming both cultural and language barriers. Today, Saif helps other Middle Eastern refugees follow the same path to success. His remarkable story reminds us of the power of giving back.

Thank you, Saif, for your incredible generosity and helping to pave the way for others. #CVSHeartAtWork

Saif Namiq Transcript c/o JS 9.21

Saif Namiq, Pharmacy Manager:

I was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, and I came to the United States when I was 20 years old. I was four years old when the first war broke out. When the second war started in 2003, I was living in Baghdad. We didn't leave the city. We didn't have anywhere to escape to. We heard a lot of bombings. Most of 'em were happening at night. I remember gathering with my aunt's house, we were just staying in one room, all 10 of us, really, really terrified of what happens every single night. But the most terrifying moment was the last day of the war and all of the fighting was happening in front of our house. It was heavy weapons. We're talking about bazookas and RPGs and all of that. I remember just holding my mom's hand and I'm just praying that we survived that.

There's a difference between wanting to change where you live than you being forced to go somewhere else, so that's the difference between. When I first came here, I was literally terrified because I didn't know how people would treat me not knowing the language. I worked many jobs while I was in community college. I worked at a hotdog stand and then I worked at a pizza shop. I drove a cab. I was supporting my family financially when I came here 'cause I was the one that was working the most.

When I became a pharmacist, I felt like I've accomplished one of the biggest goals in my life.

NAT Sound:

So when we fill the prescription, what we do is that we scan the label.

And what I wanna do is I wanna do the same for other people as well. In San Diego, there is a large Middle Eastern population here. And with that large of a population, there is a need for professionals, including healthcare professionals.

Jones Alyadago, Pharmacist:

- My dad was getting death threats because we lived in a Muslim community and we were Christians in that community, and if he wasn't going to leave, one of his kids would've been kidnapped, which was either me or my brother or my sister.

When we got accepted to come here, we were flattered with joy. My mom and my dad wanted us to have a better future. There was a lot of opportunities and this is how I became a pharmacist.

NAT Sound:

- We're gonna come up with an action plan.

Jones Alyadago, Pharmacist:

I was paired with Saif for about five years, Saif and I were working hand in hand. He was there throughout everything, showed me how to run a pharmacy, how to become a leader, how to manage multiple people from different perspective, different opinions. He is a person that you wanna go to and talk to because he's always down to earth, humble, loves to teach. When I took on a store, I was ready because Saif gave me that solid foundation.

Saif Namiq, Pharmacy Manager:

Seeing somebody start as a pharmacy technician and going all the way up to becoming a pharmacy manager made me so proud.

I am very thankful to have Melanie and Savannah grow up here. They don't have to be scared of the sirens that they hear when a war breaks out.

They don't have to be worried about the sounds of bombings that are down the street from where they live. Other than on a personal level, because I've met my wife at CVS, on a professional level, I love working for this company. It truly feels amazing because you are making a difference in these people's lives and they see someone who cares about them and wants to see them succeed.

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