LESS than two years after arriving in the UK with no English and little more than a dream, one Syrian refugee is preparing to launch his own business.

As soon as he set foot in England, Mouhyedin Alkhalil swore to himself that he would work as hard as he could to give something back to the Government and the people who had helped him along his gruelling journey to safety.

The 26-year-old hopes that the launch of his company – Falafel Fella – will be the beginning of a new venture that will eventually enable him to give opportunities and employment to others.

This weekend, he will trade for the first time at Darlington’s World Food Market, selling falafels and desserts created using traditional Syrian recipes, handed down via Skype from Mr Alkhalil’s mother and sister.

The dishes, he says, remind him of a home that is always in his heart, a home he was forced to flee in the dead of night.

Facing forced enlistment into President Bashar al-Assad’s army, he was told one night by his loving parents that arrangements had been made for him to leave his war-torn country and, without time for goodbyes, he then embarked upon a tough and lonely journey that would see him spend a difficult period struggling to thrive in the Lebanon before the United Nations gave him the opportunity to move to the UK under a vulnerable persons resettlement programme.

Once in Darlington, he was offered support by Darlington Assistance for Refugees (DAR) and taken under the wing of Fran and Martin Wood, with whom he now lives.

Mr Alkhalil said: “Without Fran and Martin and without DAR, I could not have reached this point.

“When I came here, I was looking for safety first, and then for work – I have taken from the UK government and now it is time to give back, especially to Darlington, where I love to live.

“I would encourage others who might be in my position to follow their own dreams, not to let anything break them and to keep looking forward.

“I cannot say it has been easy but life is not easy for anyone and with love and support to follow my dreams, life has become easier.

“I just keep smiling because nothing changes for you if you don’t smile but if you do, then you feel better and make others feel better too.”

Martin Wood said: “We are really excited for Mouhyedin and wish him every success – he makes the best falafel in the world.

“We have shared his ups and downs and it has not been easy for him and this will not be plain sailing either but despite his difficulties, he is always smiling and has kept believing in himself.”

When Mr Alkhalil left Syria, he left with the words of his father ringing in his ears, having been told not to do anything that would not make his family proud.

“Now,” he says, “when I told him what I was doing with my business, he is proud.

“My mother is demanding that I make the falafels properly – in Syria men don’t usually cook so I have been learning from her and my sister and now she wants to make sure it is correct.”

The World Food Market will be staged in Darlington from 9am until 5pm on Saturday, October 13. There will also be a Falafel Fella stall in the town centre each week and at markets in Newcastle and Stockton.