#CookForSyria is an international fundraising initiative started by London-based blogger Clerkenwell Boy and SUITCASE Magazine founder and CEO, Serena Guen. Using the powers of food and social media to bring people together, the campaign seeks to raise money for UNICEF’s Syria Relief Fund, in aid of the child victims of the Syrian Civil War.

The Cause

One of the oldest civilizations in the world, Syria is home to a unique culture, influenced by its diverse history. As the conflict in Syria progresses, the risk of losing a generation, and the culture of generations past, grows with every day. The largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, the war has displaced millions of Syrians, and the plight of Syrian children is what now drives UNICEF’s NEXTGen London initiative and the #CookForSyria fundraising campaign. Over fifty percent of the refugee population are children who are facing violence in their effort to escape and malnutrition and disease at the immense lack of food and clean water. UNICEF’s efforts to keep Syrian children from becoming a lost generation include crucial efforts in health, nutrition, immunization, education, and child protection. In addition to our fundraising efforts, #CookForSyria is dedicated to preserving the rich culinary traditions for the next generation of Syrian children, offering them a future with a link to their past.

The Story

What began as a collaboration between Clerkenwell Boy and SUITCASE Magazine for a one-off charity event has quickly developed into an international fundraising campaign. On 31 October 2016, a one-chef, one-night event became a sold-out banquet headlined by six-chefs and the basis of an entire campaign, founded in the communality of food.

Since the banquet, the movement has gone global, making its way from London to Melbourne, Sydney and back in a series of long-haul campaigns on local and international levels that have left behind not only countless memories of food and friendship, but thousands of pounds raised in support of UNICEF’s Syria Relief Fund. Following the involvement of some of the UK’s top chefs, restaurants, bakeries, and cafes, #CookForSyria has shown what can happen when you take the humble hashtag to action.

The Goal

#CookForSyria aims to preserve and celebrate Syrian culture amidst the crisis by harnessing the positive powers of social media and the power of food to bring people together. Fundraising through Syrian-inspired food is in effort to preserve the culture of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, safe-guarding the traditions of a generation at risk. You don’t have to be a top chef or a star philanthropist to get involved. All it takes is food and a hashtag, so grab a plate, spread the world, and help #CookForSyria in our effort to aid the millions of children affected by the Syrian crisis.

One of the many stories to emerge from the #CookForSyria initiative is the participation of Syrian chef Imad Alarnab. Once a successful restauranteur in Damascus, Imad Alarnab was forced to flee the country when the war broke out. In March 2017, Alarnab opened a pop-up restaurant on London’s Columbia Road, where for two weeks he served traditional Syrian food to hungry Londoners, sending all profits to #CookForSyria and UNICEF’s Syrian Relief Fund. His pop-up brought Londoners together for family style meals that illuminate the Syrian tradition of using food to extend friendship and generosity. Food has no borders, and Imad Alarnab’s passion mirrors the hopes #CookForSyria has in using food to preserve Syrian culture in our efforts to aid the child victims of the Syrian civil war.

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