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Surviving Hard Times, Syrian Migrant Volunteers to Feed Homeless

On Sundays, people in Exeter, UK, would typically see Syrian immigrant Khaled Wakkaa out distributing home-cooked Syrian vegetarian meals to homeless people in the city center.

Six years ago, he was a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who couldn’t find a means to feed his own family.

Saved by people’s donations, Wakkaa made a decision to spend his time volunteering to save the lives of the vulnerable.

“I understand what it’s like to be hungry,” Wakkaa told The Guardian. “I had that same feeling with my family in Lebanon.”

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Wakkaa also runs free exercise classes in the park.

“I’ve nominated Khaled,” says Ruth O’Neale, who works with Wakkaa at a local food bank, “because he’s worked tirelessly for the community – cooking, running exercise classes and helping at the mosque. He’s a lovely man, and makes delicious Syrian coffee.”

Helping New Home

Wakkaa misses his family in Syria desperately, yet, he is determined to contribute to the place that gave him refuge.

“I came to improve your country,” he says, “Not to take money and sit at home all the time. It’s hard for me to get a job. But I am helping all the time to say thank you.”

As a good cook, Wakkaa dreams to open a Syrian street food and eventually a restaurant one day.

“I nearly gave up before,” Wakkaa says, “because Brexit and Covid attacked my plan. Then you came to me and woke me up. This could be real again. I’m very excited to start.”

Wakkaa’s goal to help his community is inspired by Islamic tenets as Islam encourages Muslims to treat their neighbors in a gentle way that reflects the true and genuine spirit of Islam as exemplified in its tolerant aspect especially with people of other faiths.

It makes no difference whether the neighbors are Muslim or non-Muslim.