When she was 5 years old, Mevan Babakar lived in a Netherlands refugee camp after her family fled Iraq in the 1990s during the Gulf War.
It was there that Babakar, now 29, was gifted her very own bicycle from a “generous” aid worker who bought it “out of the kindness of his own heart,” she explained in a post on Twitter this week. Babakar included a picture of the man in her tweet and asked if anyone track down his identity.
“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,” she wrote. “My five-year-old heart exploded with joy. I just want to know his name. Help?”
Soon, her tweet exploded, earning thousands of retweets and likes. As her plea spread across the social media, people began offering any tips about who the man was, and some even shared their own stories about generous aid workers at refugee camps.
“Honestly I’d cry my eyes out,” Babakar, who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, said in response to what she would do if she were able to reunite with the man. “There was so much hardship at that point in our lives and this was such a generous act, it taught me kindness can exist everywhere, no matter how terrible it may seem.”
In less than a day, Babakar finally had her answer — the man who helped her so long ago was named Egbert, and he lived close enough that they would be able to meet in person, for the first time in more than two decades.
“Later today, 24 years later, I get to meet him in person!” Babakar — the head of Automated Fact Checking at the nonprofit, FullFact — wrote in a follow-up tweet just before the reunion. “Thank you to everyone who made that possible, to every single person who RT’d and to those who sent messages. I will update this thread with how it goes! WISH ME LUCK!”
De weldoener die de Koerdische Mevan Babakar -destijds 5 jaar- een rode fiets gaf in het Zwolse azc, lijkt gevonden, mogelijk volgt later vandaag een ontmoeting. https://t.co/MCVOqVaYMy pic.twitter.com/Dnv95kVXlt— De Stentor (@De_Stentor) August 13, 2019
This is Egbert. He's been helping refugees since the 90s. He was so happy to see me. He was proud that I'd become a strong and brave woman. He said that was his wish for me when I was small. He grows orchids. He has a beautiful family. He said it felt like I'd never left. pic.twitter.com/WlDWm2seVh— Mevan Babakar | میڤان (@MeAndVan) August 13, 2019
“This is Egbert,” she continued in a tweet including a picture with the aid worker. “He’s been helping refugees since the 90s. He was so happy to see me. He was proud that I’d become a strong and brave woman. He said that was his wish for me when I was small.”
“He grows orchids,” she continued. “He has a beautiful family. He said it felt like I’d never left.”
Babakar also reconnected with other aid workers who helped her and her family during their time in the Netherlands, including a woman who first introduced her to a computer.
“More than anything children growing up as refugees need patience, love, reassurance that they are safe and opportunities to grow beyond what they’ve been through,” Babakar tweeted. “To be honest, what child doesn’t need this? We should be striving to provide that for everyone.”
Small actions can have big consequences. The kindness that Egbert and his family showed me will stay with me for a lifetime, and it continues to shape me as a person.— Mevan Babakar | میڤان (@MeAndVan) August 13, 2019
That's the magical thing about kindness, it doesn't cost anything and it changes the world one person at a time.
“I guarantee you there are millions of these stories, mostly from people who lead quiet and humble lives, who are just trying to get by,” she continued. “I am not special. This story is not unique. For every terrible refugee story you hear there are thousands of positive ones.”
After her reunion with Egbert, Babakar emphasized the effect a single generous act can have on someone for years to come.
“Small actions can have big consequences,” she tweeted. “The kindness that Egbert and his family showed me will stay with me for a lifetime, and it continues to shape me as a person. That’s the magical thing about kindness, it doesn’t cost anything and it changes the world one person at a time.”