On Jan. 3, a picture of a 12-year-old Syrian refugee looking into the window of a gym in Turkey went viral on Twitter. A few days later, someone found the boy shining shoes nearby. In an act of kindness, the owner of the gym gave the refugee free lifetime membership to the gym.
12-year-old Mohammed Hussein lives in Adiyaman, Turkey with his family. He helps support his family income by shining shoes and selling scrap metal that he finds in trash cans. In the viral photo, Hussein is pictured with a footstool strapped to his back and is wearing sandals despite the cold weather.
The owner of the gym, Mustafa Kucukkaya, grew up in similar conditions to Hussein’s. His background made the photo more meaningful to him.
“When we see this photo, we are very touched as a sports family,” Kucukkaya said. “It affected me very much because we came from nothing and we did not have such a gym in our time.”
Besides gaining lifetime access to the gym, Hussein has received overwhelming support from the public. Others have reached out to Kucukkaya about providing for Hussein.
“Some rich businessmen called,” Kucukkaya said. “A rich businesswoman from Ankara called and said she will send a package to his house. Even a person from Qatar called.”
For Hussein, his experience has been almost miraculous.
“I had always dreamed of losing weight and now I believe I can do that by working out.”
From a photo to a gym membership to an avalanche of love and support, the kind acts of sympathetic humans have changed a refugee’s life for the better.