Pharmacist donates drugs to help injured temporary foreign worker

May 4, 2015

By Andrea Huncar, CBC News |

A Fort McMurray pharmacist has offered to provide a year’s worth of free medication for an injured temporary foreign worker he has never met.

“I felt bad that a worker came to Canada and wanted to improve her life and give more to Canada and make more for herself,” said Osama Beniameen.

“Now, she cannot do what she dreamed, and she is not able to work, so it’s our turn to help her.”

Maria Victoria Venancio was struck by a car in Edmonton nearly three years ago while biking to work. Officially diagnosed with “spastic quadriplegia,” she uses a wheelchair and has limited mobility in her upper body.

The province won’t provide coverage, and her employer claims she opted out of her health benefits. That means she has to cover the cost of lab tests, X-rays, physiotherapy, doctor appointments, specialists and pain management medication – or go without.

Venancio said it’s “a big relief” to no longer have to pay for medication she now sometimes cuts back on in order to save money.

“Sometimes I can’t believe that people I don’t even know or whose name I’ve never heard are reaching out to help me,” she said. “I feel very blessed.”

Though she has no government health benefits, Venancio has worked hard on her recovery, with free care from both a physiotherapist at the University of Alberta, and a family doctor.

Their effort and determination is paying off. Last month, Venancio took her first supported steps.

Beniameen, who immigrated from Egypt nine years ago, said he’s proud to live in a province where people help those in need.

Last week, the campaign calling on the federal government to allow Venancio to stay in Canada got a boost. An injured migrant worker from Peru was granted permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Unlike Alberta, Ontario has covered most of his medical expenses.

Venancio said the news leaves her feeling hopeful, but it’s the people who believe in her who inspire her daily.

“Whenever I speak with someone and they tell me they’re supporting me, they’re praying for me — that’s the one thing that keeps me going every morning when I wake up.”

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