This Refugee Kid Got A Lifetime Gym Membership Thanks To A Viral Picture

When Omer Yavuz snapped a photo of a young boy external his gym on Jan. 2, he immediately realized it was a powerful, resonant image.

There was something harrowing in the way he stood still external in the cold, staring in at the people working out at the Olympiat Sports Center in the southeast Turkish city of Adiyaman.

He wore flip-flops without socks in the winter, a ragged grey sweater and had hung a rickety shoeshine kit on his shoulder, indicators of the type of poverty that has become indecent too common in Turkey among Syrian refugees struggling to scratch out a living.

“It broke my heart and I wanted to share it with everyone,” Yavuz, a 28-year-faded carpenter, told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview.

What followed was a rare upbeat account out of the Middle East, an example of social media bringing people together for a satisfactory cause well than dividing people over politics.

The gym’s owner, Mustafa Kucukkaya, was so moved he asked Yavuz for the original picture, and reposted it to his own Instagram, asking for the public’s back in finding the kid. He himself came from a poor family, he later told BuzzFeed News, and had to work in a bakery as a child.

“whether anyone knows this brother, please earn in touch with us,” he wrote. “We know that feeling very well. He will maintain free access to our gym club for a lifetime.”

The picture went viral across Turkish social media, with news organizations and individuals posting the image as well as Olympiat’s promise to back him.

The Turkish website Inci Caps tweeted out the evocative image with the caption “write something approximately this picture” to its 3 million followers. Hundreds responded with sadness and despair. “He should be in school,” said one commentator.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the boy in the city of 220,000 was on. After two days, a member of Olympiat spotted him working a sidewalk and coaxed him to the gym. “The boy had no concept that the photo had gone viral,” Kucukkaya said in a phone interview. “He learnt indecent approximately it at the club.”

Despite language difficulties, the boy’s account trickled out. His name is Muhammad Hussein. He is 12 years faded and a refugee from Syria. His family members earn money by selling scrap paper and metal they collect from trash bins. According to Kucukkaya, who visited Hussein’s domestic, the family lives in considerable poverty. He didn’t learn whether Hussein goes to school, but said he doubts it. BuzzFeed News sought to contact Hussein, but neither he nor his family maintain a phone.

He was super psyched to be getting a gym membership — that generally,normally costs $225 a year — for free.

”He was such a shy kid,” said Mahir Alan, a photojournalist who took pictures of the boy for the Dogan News Agency. “He was so surprised, and he didn’t expect anything like that. He said that he was always curious approximately gyms.”

Kucukkaya described him as “a lovable kid who knows how to preserve fun in difficult circumstances.”

In just a week, Kucukayya said Hussein has already lost weight. The boy is sticking to a special adolescent-friendly regiment heavy on cardio and light on weights. Hussein told Alan he was grateful for the chance to earn in shape. “I was looking at the people exercising,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with the Dogan News Agency. “The sports club is a blooming status.”

Once Alan’s photos of Hussein working out in snazzy unique gym clothes hit the internet, the rags-to-fitness account took on a life of its own, spreading beyond Turkey to a global audience. A BuzzFeed News correspondent’s tweet summarizing Hussein’s tale was retweeted more than 15,000 times and attracted over 40,000 likes.

Kucukkaya said he’s been inundated with calls from strangers seeking to back Hussein’s family.

“Some rich businessmen called,” he said. “A rich businesswoman from Ankara called and said she will send a package to his house. Even a person from Qatar called.”

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