A shocked 5-year-old boy in an ambulance in Syria became the face of the atrocities taking place in Aleppo. Now a US boy wants to share his family with him - and asked the US president to help move the process along.
US President Barack Obama shared a handwritten letter he received from Alex, a 6-year-old boy in New York, who asked for the president to bring Omran Daqneesh, the Syrian boy pictured bloody in an ambulance after surviving an airstrike in June, to his home in the US state of New York, where he and his family would welcome him.
"Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won't bring toys and doesn't have toys Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny," Alex wrote in his letter. "And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math."
A post on the president's Facebook account has so far received over 4,700 comments and 191,000 reactions from people around the world - many of them praising Alex's openness and compassion. The White House also posted a video of Alex reading his letter on YouTube.
"A six-year-old who has more humanity, love, and understanding than most adults," a Facebook user wrote. "Kudos to his parents and I know the world will see more great things coming from Alex."
"Children are really wonderful; so open and accepting until taught otherwise by their parents and other adults," another Facebook user wrote. "Hopefully Alex will continue to understand the significance of acceptance and his parents will continue to promote this in him and his sister."
After being treated in a Syrian hospital in June, doctors said Omran's parents had survived the airstrike, but their home had been destroyed. Mahmoud Raslan, who photographed Omran, said that the boy lived with his mother, father and three siblings and that they were all injured.
A lesson in humanity
The US president said Alex could prove to be a positive role model for adults, including the world leaders Obama hosted Tuesday at the Leaders Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis.
"The humanity that a young child can display, who hasn't learned to be cynical, or suspicious or fearful of other people because of where they're from, or how they look, or how they pray, and who just understands the notion of treating somebody that is like him with compassion, with kindness," Obama said at Tuesday's Leaders Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis. "We can all learn from Alex."
Over 20 million refugees worldwide
There are about 20 million refugees around the world, including almost 5 million from Syria, according to June estimates from the UN's refugee agency. A total of about 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced - more than at any time since World War II.
"Indelible images of individual children - Aylan Kurdi's small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh's stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed - have shocked the world," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement earlier this month. "But each picture, each girl or boy, represents many millions of children in danger - and this demands that our compassion for the individual children we see be matched with action for all children."
A transcript of the letter is below. You can read the handwritten letter by clicking here.
Dear President Obama,
Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]? Park in the driveway or on the street and we will be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together. We can invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us another language. We can teach him English too, just like my friend Aoto from Japan.
Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won't bring toys and doesn't have toys Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny. And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math. And he [can] smell Catherine's lip gloss penguin which is green. She doesn't let anyone touch it.
Thank you very much! I can't wait for you to come!
6 years old