Every now and then, social media and an online community comes together in a truly wonderful way that impacts someone's real life. For one Syrian refugee in southern Turkey, a stranger's photo has turned into a fantastic opportunity to change his life through fitness.
On January 2nd, Omer Yavuz saw a young boy, carrying a shoe-shining kit over his shoulder, staring longingly into the windows of a gym in the southeast Turkish city of Adiyaman. Yavuz snapped a photo of the boy, who was clad in a raggedy sweater and flip flops, and posted it on Instagram, hoping to capture some attention to the kid's plight. And boy, did he succeed.
Mustafa Kucukkaya, the owner of the gym, Olympiat Sports Center, was so touched that he immediately reposted the image onto his Instagram, calling on the social media world to help him track down the boy. “If anyone knows this brother, please get in touch with us,” he captioned the re-posted photo. “We know that feeling very well. He will have free access to our gym club for a lifetime."
Turkish social media didn't disappoint, and individuals and news organizations alike rallied to track down the mystery boy. Eventually, a member of the gym found the boy on the street and brought him into the gym.
The boy is 12-year-old Muhammed Hussein, a Syrian refugee who lives with his family in severe poverty. According to Buzzfeed, his other family members make money by selling scrap paper and metal they find in the trash.
“The boy had no idea that the photo had gone viral,” Kucukkaya said in a phone interview with Buzzfeed, “He learnt all about it at the club.” After finding Hussein, Kucukkaya made good on his promise and gave the boy a lifetime membership to his gym.
Now Hussein has an opportunity he only dreamed of before. According to Daily Mail, Hussein told Turkish news outlet Hurriet News, "I had always dreamed of losing weight and now I believe I can do that by working out."
Buzzfeed reports that Hussein is now following a high-cardio, low-weight exercise program, most appropriate for adolescents. Sometimes good things still happen in this world. Oh, and the next time you're complaining about not wanting to work out, you've got no excuse.