Belfast Telegraph

Campaign to help Syrian refugee become dentist in Northern Ireland

He was forced to flee war-torn Syria where he worked as a dentist for 23 years. But now a refugee living with his family in Northern Ireland, his qualifications aren't recognised.

Mahfouz, his wife and four children were forced to abandon their life in Syria as a result of the conflict and have been living in Lisburn for the past two years.

When they arrived, none of the family had any English but they have worked hard to learn it.

Mahfouz was a dentist in Aleppo for 23 years and now wants to use his skills in Northern Ireland to support his family as well as contributing to society.

But his qualifications aren't recognised and he needs to complete a UK certified Dentistry examination which costs £6,000.

Now in a bid to help Mahfouz complete his exams, a Northern Ireland man has decided to help him out by crowdfunding.

The campaign hopes that Mahfouz will be able to complete his exams in May.

The family were featured on a BBC newsline report on the day that five Syrian families arrived in Belfast from refugee camps in Beirut,  where he said he was saving for the exams.

He is currently working in a factory making window blinds.

He told the BBC: "I found a job here in a factory close to my house for eight hours a day for five days a week.

"I find it good for me to busy myself - not stay at home, and to save some money for that exam.

"It's manual work for blinds. It's hard work - it's not easy, eight hours standing on your feet. I have been working for 22 years as a dentist and I don't want to lose my skills."

Now in a bid to help Mahfouz complete his exams, a Northern Ireland man has decided to help him out by crowdfunding.

The man behind the campaign is Mark Feeney a director in the Tech Skills Partnership NI from Lisburn.

His Justgiving page says: "Funding this initiative will fast-track Mahfouz's path to becoming a certified UK Dentist, fully utilising his skills base, and providing more opportunity for many in NI to have access to dental treatment.

"Any funds raised will be held by the Tech Skills Partnership NI (a not-for-profit, limited by guarantee company) and be spent ONLY in supporting Mahfouz gain the necessary qualifications to practice in the UK. No administration fees - 100% of funds raised will support Mahfouz."

Mark told the Belfast Telegraph: "Mahfouz is very grateful of working in the factory. However it will cost about 6,000 to put him through two practical examinations along with with two preparation practicals.

"And I've agreed if they were comfortable I would try to raise that money.

"Within 40 minutes of launching the page had already generated more than £500."

Mark said he was inspired to help because of Mahfouz's skill set going to waste.

He said: "Here's a guy with 23 years experience and he needs two pieces of silly paper to say he can do it. He just needs a bit of money to get that done and then he can contribute back to society.

"I just think we have to help people like this - it''s crazy.

"He's got one son who has been here for two and a half years and has learned English in that period of time, came out with three As in his A-Levels and is now studying computer science at Queen's.

"It's a remarkable family who have found themselves in a really unfortunate situation and I just think they should be helped," he added.

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