Three years ago the war in Syria forced Ghassan and Siham to leave everything and flee to Bury, Greater Manchester, to start a new life. Bury offered them a place of safety and hope; somewhere they could raise their daughter Katrina in peace and give her a future. They worked hard to learn English and integrate and grew to love Bury and its people. The bustling market in Bury reminded them of markets back home in Hama and slowly a dream began to form. A dream of starting their own business and becoming independent - of making their own way and giving back to the community that had welcomed them.
Meanwhile, Bury resident Heidi Reiss decided to take on the challenge of community sponsorship. She began by making links to Syrians who lived locally. It was here that she met Siham and Ghassan, and learnt of their dream to open a food stall. Without hesitation, Heidi and community partners supported the couple to initiate a fundraising campaign, attend marketing classes, and develop a business plan. Just seven weeks later, "Falafels and more..." was launched last Saturday in Bury Market.
"Every time we walked through the market, my husband would look at the same unit and say he wanted a small store like that", Siham told Bury Times. "We ended up getting that exact one. I think it is a gift from Jesus. It is our dream to open an Arabic food shop."
Heidi says, "They look on the positive side. They gave up everything to come here. They have had to work their way up from nothing. A group of people in the area have underwritten their journey. All this is credit to them."
She says of the launch, "Many people from Bury came and supported them and enjoyed their delicious, top quality food. The community and churches in Bury have really got behind the opening of the stall and the neighbouring traders commented on the number of clergy there - a bishop was even spotted in the queue!
"The Bury shoppers joined together to help make the mosaic sign that will become the logo and is central to the brand. Old and young alike helped build the mosaic and although it wasn't finished, it is well on its way and already looks remarkably Syrian! The stall will be open serving hot Arabic food on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Siham and Ghasan would love to see you there".
The town will welcome and support a Syrian family of eight in early December through the community sponsorship scheme.