Khaled’s van plan: bringing more Syrian sunshine and soul food to Devon’s streets

You may remember Khaled from a piece we wrote more than a year ago. You may even have encountered his smiling face on Exeter’s streets as he helps to feed the homeless and needy.

He’s been giving away food from his kitchen for a long time (all the way through the pandemic and before that, too). Now he’d like to be able to give from a business and provide food for people in need, regardless of colour, religion or politics, every day and, at the same time, sell his inviting Syrian street food to people hungry for some delicious diversity.

“Dalal (my wife) and I have had this plan for a while” Khaled tells me, “but Covid and Brexit attacked our plan and I had even got close to giving up the dream completely. It was the Guardian who woke me up and made me want to make the dream a reality again. They helped by getting me my membership of NCASS (the National Caterers Association) which meant I could get the qualifications I need. They also gave me the chance to learn more about selling street food from Street Dogs (Devon-based hot dog specialists catering for festivals and events). Now I have everything in place, except the finance.”

He laughs, mischievously.

“Yes. That’s all we need to do now. Raise the money!”

Khaled is launching his crowdfunder today, offering donors a menu of benefits and rewards for their families and community.

“It depends on how much we raise, but plan A is to buy an electric, eco-friendly truck equipped with an oven. Plan B is a second-hand diesel, which will, of course, be much cheaper but not good for the environment. Plan C is a tent! One way or another, we will get this project started. But the environment is very important to us. Everything we use needs to be recyclable. We are thinking of our daughters, of the children and their future.”

Khaled would like to take his van to different towns on different days, going where he feels he can help as well as selling his food.

“I think we will be the first Syrian ‘restaurant’ in Exeter so that is an advantage. I think people will love our manakish (flatbreads spread with cheese, meat or za’atar) and our fatayer (savoury stuffed open pies). All homemade, all authentic.”

“I want to show people that refugees do not come here to sit on the bed all day and take your money. We come here to be safe, yes, but to contribute, to help in the community. And I want to show other refugees what is possible when you put your love and energy into your community … it is possible to make dreams come true.”

If you want to help Khaled fulfil a dream, please consider supporting his crowdfunder. We are happy to help promote businesses which have a community or social enterprise angle.