Jamil Kadoura, owner of Mediterranean Deli, and Vimala Rajendran, owner of Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe — both immigrants to the United States — have opened their restaurant doors to refugees in the area.
“The idea was started by Jamil’s incredible kindness and generosity and then other people in the community who also know the Syrian families and wanted to reach out and provide assistance in any way they can,” said Angela McChesney, a teacher for some of the refugee kids.
On Tuesday night, Mediterranean Deli held an event to support and raise money for refugee families who have lost everything to the Syrian conflict. Kadoura shared his motivation for hosting the event, which also featured a buffet, open bar and silent auction.
“The main thing to achieve is helping these people and getting the community together,” Kadoura said. “We need to come together here and everywhere in the United States to say we are all alike, we are all Americans.”
Kadoura said that it shouldn’t matter what color or religion people are, the community should come together to fight racism. Kadoura lived in a refugee camp during the Israeli War and said the refugee families hold a special place in his heart.
Rather than just raising money and giving it to the refugee families, the event gave them the opportunity to actually meet locals and see that they are welcomed in the community.
“Any way that I can extend myself beyond my usual limits and offer my generosity, empathy and friendship to people who are struggling and add beauty and culture to our community, I’m in favor of it,” said Chapel Hill resident Paula Craige, who attended the fundraiser at Med Deli.
Another Chapel Hill resident, Corrie Wiedmann, said she brought her kids to the fundraiser because she wanted them to see that there were other kids just like them from different countries.
The benefit night was a huge success with over 300 people filling the restaurant and most attendees had an overwhelmingly positive response.
“It took a lot of work to do this but I’m going to go home tonight and just feel like a million dollars that this has been a success,” Kadoura said.
According to the Department of State’s Refugee Processing Center, North Carolina is one of the top ten states for the placement of Syrian refugees, and resettled 467 people as of September.
On Sunday night, Rajendran offered a free buffet at Vimala’s with a special invitation to refugees. She said she wanted it to be known as, “Global Neighbors Day,” with the purpose of celebrating cultures around the world.
“The idea came about because we are all immigrants, everyone. In this day and age this is the time to be inclusive,” Rajendran said.
The fellowship dinner included music from the band Southern Routes, kids’ art activities and the donation of warm coats.
Rajendran said she believes in radical hospitality and crazy generosity. She plans to hold similar events in the future, including a welcome home meal on Jan. 1 to continue to build relationships with the refugees.
“The response from the community was overwhelmingly sweet, joyful and welcoming,” Rajendran said. “Everyone came wanting to help.”