Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Delivering Hot Meals to Syria’s Homeless
Each afternoon Imad sits outside his tent waiting for his free meal.
The nine-year-old is one of many children whose families have been internally displaced, leaving them jobless and unable to provide for their children.
Every now and then, Imad glances down the road to check if the van has arrived to deliver home-cooked meals to the camp where he now lives.
Idlib’s mobile kitchen was founded by a group of young men to help people living in poverty.
“The aim of the project is to provide home-cooked meals to opposition fighters and the internally displaced,” Musaab al-Adnan, the head of the project, told Damascus Bureau.
“We call it the mobile kitchen because we use a van to distribute the meals cooked at our base to the various camps and farms we cater for.”
Funded by donations collected from local residents, the project started off on very small scale.
Matters changed when the Syrian National Coalition began funding it. The kitchen now provides 1,500 meals a day at a monthly cost of 75,000 US dollars.
“We try to cook a different meal every day and to package the food properly, so it will still be hot and fresh when delivered,” said 27 year-old al-Adnan, adding that he hoped to expand the capacity to reach even more families.
Akram al-Abd, who drives the kitchen van, told Damascus Bureau he delivered meals to many remote areas.
“We also distribute small boxes of dates to the adults and sweets to the children,” the 33 year-old said,
“We also try to give out bars of soap and towels every now and then, to help people keep clean and healthy. We hope these small gestures brighten up their lives a little.”
Al-Abd said he faced numerous challenges on a daily basis. The constant bombing made it difficult for him to drive from one location to another and sometimes he was delayed. On more than one occasion he had been forced to cancel deliveries when heavy exchanges of fire broke out.
Idlib’s mobile kitchen employs more than 30 people. Each one of them is paid 1,000 Syrian pounds (five dollars) a day.
Ahmad al-Hussain and his wife both work at the kitchen and told Damascus Bureau they were very happy to be earning a living while doing something to help those less fortunate.
“Each evening we buy ingredients from the local market for the following day. We start work early in the morning and aim to finish cooking by 1pm,” said 37 year-old al-Hussain.
“My wife and a number of other women clean the ingredients and cook the meals. Several workers then package and seal them.”
Abu Samir, 45, is one of those depending on the daily hot meal.
“One of the worst things that can happen to a person is to be forced out of their home,” he said.
“My family and I fled the violence in Hama’s countryside with only the clothes on our backs. We had nothing. The food the mobile kitchen delivers to us is a great help. It never fails to put a smile on my children’s faces.”
Umm Omar is also thankful for the help provided by Idlib’s mobile kitchen. When her son fled to Lebanon, the widow, who is in her sixties, found herself alone with no source of income.
“I have no money, and live off donations handed out to me by generous neighbours,” she said.
“I rely on the meal I receive from the mobile kitchen to keep me going all day.”
Darin Hassan is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Idlib countryside, Syria.
This story was produced by Syria Stories (previously Damascus Bureau), IWPR’s news platform for Syrian journalists.
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