PEOPLE from across the world gathered together to enjoy a meal and a helping hand from kind hearted volunteers in Stockton recently.
Refugees from countries including Syria, the Congo and Iraq broke bread with residents of Teesside on Monday, when a community meal was held to mark the new year.
Teesside woman Jolande Mace was inundated with donations of food, clothes and money when she announced her intention to organise a meal for the homeless, lonely and destitute.
At the Cultures CIC centre in Stockton, Ms Mace and a group of hardworking volunteers held a clothing bank and prepared a buffet of international and British cuisine, inviting the wider community to join them.
Soon after opening, the event was busy with a diverse and friendly crowd enjoying dishes including Syrian chicken, prepared by young refugee Mohamad Albadei.
Inspired by his mother’s recipes, the 21-year-old student lent a hand in the kitchen in a bid to help those who have helped him, and others in his situation.
Mr Albadei was a promising engineering student in Damascus when war and the threat of forced military enlistment meant he had to flee his country, leaving behind his family and all he knew.
He endured a number of significant hardships in refugee camps in Lebanon and Calais before arriving in England, where he is hoping to continue his education.
At the event, he praised Ms Mace and others who have helped him to learn English and welcomed him with open arms.
He said the community meal was a positive way to meet and help others, adding: “This is a very good thing, to be able to come to something like this and make new friends.
“People who have any kind of problems can come here and meet people who want to help.”
Ms Mace thanked those who offered their support and said she hoped to continue hosting meals for anyone in need.
She added: “It has been amazing to see so many people come together and help out while having a good time.
“It is more than I could have hoped.
“I’m very pleased.”