For many, the kitchen is a place where everyone can find common ground. For Syrian refugee Ruwaida, food has a way of uniting all.
Ruwaida, along with her family living here in Atlanta, has made food -- specifically baked goods -- their way to make friends and a life here in America.
In her eyes, when you strip off race, religion, the things that makes us different, you'll see something as simple as a cookie is something we can all relate to.
"For us, it's a way of sharing what we love and showing others that we love them," Ruwaida, who chose not to give her family’s last name for protection, said through a translator.
The Syrian woman and refugee shared her story with 11Alive’s Chris Hopper as she worked in her kitchen. Almost a decade ago, in 2007, Ruwaida, her husband Khaled and their two young children escaped the violence in Syria.
"We just left, we had to leave it all behind," she told 11Alive.
They lived in Jordan for years until finally resettling in Decatur in July. These days, they’re safe, while so many they left behind are not.
"We came for the American dream, for hope for safety, for better education for our children," she shared.
When they arrived, they were embraced by Holy Trinity parish, a church they do not attend. As a peace offering, Ruwaida baked a batch of cookies.
"(We) just wanted folks to be able to taste a little part of Syria," she said. "People fell in love with them."
And what started out as a kind gesture, is now a way forward for Ruwaida’s family.
“I just started making them and wanting people to taste them and everybody's reaction was very positive,” she said. Because of that reaction, thousands-of-dollars has been raised. Now, Ruwaida hopes to have her own kitchen and her own business sometime in 2017.
"I am excited that folks have enjoyed my food, but also trust that they can trust a Syrian family as well."
Greg Tallant, Holy Trinity’s rector, told 11Alive’s Chris Hopper that he’s hopeful the story of Ruwaida and her family will serve as a source of inspiration and a springboard for action.
"It makes me feel very hopeful and faithful,” he said. “And then you get all the more aware of the folks who just don't have that support."
Ruwaida and her family are continuing to be guided by New American's Pathway Refugee Resettlment Program while they’re here in Georgia, but now it’s with a life, a future, and so much more.