SYRIAN refugees said a heartfelt thank you to the community that has opened its arms to them as they prepared a huge community meal recently.

A feast of delicious Syrian food awaited visitors to Darlington’s Carmel College last weekend, cooked by families who have settled in the town after fleeing their war-torn country.

More than 150 people attended A Taste of Syria, a charitable event organised by the families with the support of Darlington Assistance for Refugees (DAR).

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Following the banquet and lively displays of Syrian singing and dancing, Mouhyedin Aklalel took to the stage to deliver a heartfelt speech.

The 24-year-old said: “I want to thank everyone who lives in Darlington from my heart.

“I want to thank you for everything you have provided in assisting the Syrian families here and in helping to integrate us into society and to be independent.”

The event raised more than £640 that will be donated to the White Helmets, a volunteer organisation working on the ground in Syria.

Fran Wood, from DAR, said: “This was our second taste of Syria evening and more of the families were involved this time and they were keen to meet new people and try out their English.

“I felt it was important because it was an opportunity for our families to share their rich culture with us.

“We have always been overwhelmed by their hospitality and generosity whenever we visit them and Saturday was for people in Darlington to experience a bit of that.

“Their sense of lost communities through the war is palpable - on Saturday we were all moved to see the beginnings of a new community here.”

Organisers thanked Carmel College for providing the venue for the feast and the sixth-formers who helped with the clean-up afterwards.