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May 8, 2018

WATCH: One Picture Turned This Syrian Refugee’s Life Around

Earlier this year the image of a lone figure – a 12-year-old Syrian refugee – peering through the window of a gym in Turkey, went viral. Wearing open sandals in the middle of the winter and clutching a battered old shoeshining box, marking him out as a local beggar, the young lad, Halit, gazed longingly at the pristine cycling machines and the glistening weights and the flat-screen tellies inside.


According to a report by Turkish newspaper Daily Saba, he was daydreaming about his goal of losing a bit of weight. The photograph, which quickly did the rounds online, captured the hearts of countless social media users across the globe. It was snapped by a member of the Olympiat Sports Centre which is in Adıyaman, southeastern Turkey.

“We saw a boy, looking through the gym window, wearing slippers in the middle of winter and carrying his backpack. Our aim was to find him and offer him a lifetime membership here. And we did it. He is one of our members now,” co-owner of the gym, Engin Dogan, told the Turkish state-run news outlet Anadolu Agency.

It is understood that the young boy fled the Syrian war and he’s been working as a shoe-shiner on the streets ever since. “I had always dreamed of losing weight and now I believe I can do that by working out,” he says.

It is encouraging to see that social media can be a positive place; we need more stories like these to help fight hate, intolerance and misinformation. It’s a nice story, right? So, here: Check out some pictures of Halit enjoying his new membership and his new-found freedom.

Photography by Mahir Alan.

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