WHEREVER there’s talk of the UK giving refugees shelter, there can be found many a person saying things along the line of “why don’t you take one in then?”.

Fran and Martin Wood did just that.

The Darlington couple have long been vocal on the subject of the UK doing what it can – and should – to help mitigate the refugee crisis that has seen millions of people displaced in recent years as a result of war, persecution and conflict overseas.

They have played a key role in helping Syrian refugees settle into Darlington, helping to found Darlington Assistance for Refugees (DAR) and most recently, opening their door to 25-year-old refugee Mouhyedin Alkhelil.

The young Syrian came to Darlington after being selected to move to the UK by the UN as part of a resettlement programme. He sees himself as an anomaly – young, single men are rarely selected for such programmes and many of his friends were left to go it alone in war zones, to undertake perilous journeys in the hope of achieving a security few will find.

Mouhyedin, it seems, has found some semblance of security with the Woods, in the embrace of their family and wider community.

But for a great many refugees, the lives they must live are bleaker than most of us could ever imagine.

MOUHYEDIN’S was a story I have wanted to tell for several months.

The Woods, however – and I’m sure they won’t mind me saying so – had reservations over working with me to build relationships between the Echo and Darlington’s Syrian families, and by extension, bridges between those families and the wider community as represented by our readership.

They feared – with good reason – that hostility and abuse towards vulnerable people would follow any article. They weren’t wrong.

In the days after we went to print, I watched with dismayed resignation as Mouhyedin took to the internet time and time again to defend himself. In turn, Fran and Martin faced a tirade of scorn and derision, repeatedly asked why they didn’t help “our homeless”, a question that becomes redundant when you consider that the type of person willing to take in any stranger is almost certainly the kind of person already playing an active part in their community, as is the case with the Woods whose sympathy doesn’t begin and end at Syria.

Fran, Martin and Mouhyedin faced exactly the kind of abuse that they were expecting, but in allowing me to tell their story, they put a human face to a crisis many feel distant from, and disrupted damaging stereotypes by introducing a new perspective from close to home. Stories like theirs will always be worth telling because they show the potential for change.

Those at the extreme end of the political spectrum and those content to wallow in prejudice will remain unchanged, or strangely emboldened, by the story of the Woods and their new friend. But if by sharing Mouhyedin’s experiences, just one person is inspired to reconsider their views by imagining their own loved ones forced to flee war, then that’s one more step towards a community defined by understanding, rather than hate.