Sometimes the internet takes a break from being on fire and churns out something good. This week, a woman was able to thank the man who gave her a bike when she was a five-year-old refugee, with the help of Twitter’s supreme tracking abilities.
As Saddam Hussein began targeting Kurdish communities in the 1990s, Mevan Babakar and her family fled Iraq and moved to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, and eventually to a city called Zwolle in the Netherlands. Babakar and her mother later settled down in London.
During her stay in Zwolle, a kind man who worked at a refugee camp gifted her a bike “out of the kindness of his own heart.”
“My five year old heart exploded with joy,” the now 29-year-old said in a viral tweet on Monday. “I just want to know his name. Help?”
Hi internet, this is a longshot BUT I was a refugee for 5 yrs in the 90s and this man, who worked at a refugee camp near Zwolle in the Netherlands, out of the kindness of his own heart bought me a bike. My five year old heart exploded with joy. I just want to know his name. Help? pic.twitter.com/XzUgHzllYb
— Mevan | میڤان (@MeAndVan) August 12, 2019
She sent the tweet while retracing the steps her family took when they were refugees to better understand herself and where she came from. Arjen van der Zee, a volunteer at a local news site in the city, saw her message and recognized the man as someone he had worked with in his early twenties. He told the New York Times that he remembered Egbert, who asked to not share his last time, as a “very generous kind, soft, warm man.” He then took to Facebook to try and find him for Babakar.
Days before returning to London, Babakar and Egbert were reunited. Remembering how much of an impact Egbert’s gift made on her life, she told the Times, “I remember feeling so special. I remember thinking that this is such a big thing to receive, am I even worthy of this big thing?”
“This feeling kind of became the basis of my self-worth growing up.”
Other refugees told Babakar through Twitter that they remembered Egbert and his wife helping them, too.
“It was like seeing a family member that you hadn’t seen in a long time. It was really lovely,” Babakar said.
As van der Zee noted, Egbert was surprised that his “small” gift of a bike had such an impact on a young Babakar. But he said Egbert’s “small gesture made her a person again,” instead of a child who had to flee her home. Babakar hopes her mother can one day meet Egbert as well.
Twitter users responded to the heartwarming story.
In a world full of horror and evil. Its refreshing to read something like this. Random kindness with no thought of reward. We need more of these people and stories.
— ReapersChild (@RoAntonellis) August 13, 2019
Stories like this proves there is still good left in a dystopian world. Being a refugee ain’t easy, having to flee your country in order for you to have a better life for yourself and for your family. Massive respect to good honest people like him, who will always be remembered! pic.twitter.com/5Qp4tVLqaC
— Mohamed (@MHus66) August 13, 2019
Some were reminded of the current crisis at the United States border, and of their own experiences as refugees.
Mevan so happy for you! I too was a 4yr old refugee. Mom took me to a refugee thrift shop where we were allowed 1 free piece of essential clothing. Coat, shoes, dress. Mom made it feel like Xmas. We had our Moms, how lucky were we not to be separated from our Mothers’ arms?!
— Sandra (@SandyPaws) August 13, 2019
Babakar is glad she could share “a positive refugee experience.”
“I think it’s really easy for people to forget or to feel really powerless in the face of these big, abstract problems that we hear about all the time,” she told the Times. “It’s really a comfort to remember we are all very powerful in the way that we treat others. Especially in the small acts, we are powerful.”