A Syrian Refugee spent more than eight months living in the transit zone of a Malaysian airport.
37-year-old Hassan Al Kontar is one of many Syrians who fled the country after war in Syria broke out in 2011.
Previously Kontar worked as an insurance marketing manager in the United Arabs Empire from 2006 to 2012.
He left is home in Syria for UAE in 2006 in order to avoid being called into mandatory military service. The Syrian government later refused to renew his passport after war broke out.
“I’m not a killing machine and I don’t want any part in destroying Syria,” he told the BBC.
After his passport expired, Kontar’s work permit also became invalid.
After staying in the UAE, he was arrested and told to leave the country. He flew to Malaysia, one of the few countries where Syrians have a chance of obtaining a visa.
There he was granted a three month tourist visa and immediately began working to save up sums to fly to Ecuador, however; when he showed up for his flight to Ecuador in February, he was turned away at the gate for reasons that remain unclear.
Kontar flew to Cambodia instead, with the attempt to avoid deportation to Syria, but he arrived only to be sent back to the Kuala Lumpur International airport in Malaysia.
He arrived back in Malaysia, but could not enter the country because he outstayed his visa. At that point, Kontar had no other options than to live in the “arrivals” section until a country accepted him.
Kontar spent the next several months documenting his life over video and posting them to Twitter. Some videos consisted of himself tending to his potted plants, talking about his favorite books and films, crocheting stuffed animals, and him using the moving walkways as a treadmill.
He had no access to the outside world and longed for fresh air. Despite the grimness that came with living at the airport, he still was able to eat leftover chicken and rice dinners given by compassionate airline staff and able to shower in the public washrooms.
Among his fan base was a woman named Laurie Cooper from Whistler, British Columbia who came across Kantar’s videos and felt a strong inclination to help the man.
“It all seemed impossible: I’m just a woman who lives in a little log cabin and he was living in an airport,” Cooper told The Guardian.
Cooper, a volunteer for Canada Caring Society partnered with British Columbia Muslim Association to petition for Canada’s immigration minister to admit Kontar as a refugee.
Cooper and the two organizations managed to raise over $20,000 for his sponsorship and found him a full-time job at the city hotel.
Cooper and these Canadian organizations gathered their resources, but among the rallying came a roadblock. Malaysian authorities arrested Kantar for staying in a restricted area without a boarding pass and held him in a detention center and threatened him with deportation.
Panic reigned over Cooper, those working for the organizations, and Kontar.
Cooper and the other Canadians urged Canadian officials to speed up the resettlement process, fearing he would be deported back to Syria.
Miraculously, Kontar was released. He sent a text to Cooper saying he was on his way.
Before Kontar got on the plane to Vancover, he posted a video to Twitter during a layover in Tawian this past Monday. “I could not do it without the help of my family — my Canadian friends and family and my lawyer. Thank you all. I love you all,” he said.
Upon arrival Kontar hugged Cooper while trying to hold back his tears. “I just feel so grateful that things worked out and that he’s here and that he’s safe,” Cooper told reporters at the airport.
“I never doubted for a moment that we would get him here,” she added.
Kontar is now staying at Cooper’s house, enjoying his bed and warm clothes donated by community members. Overall, Cooper is thankful for his safety and glad the process came to an end.
“It was a unique and very difficult situation. We are really grateful to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and citizenship and to the Canadian officals who worked so hard to resolve Hassan’s predicament,” she said in a public statement.
“We are proud that Canada was willing to step up and help Hassan when so many countries around the world are closing their doors to refugees.”
A little boy’s heart became glad after he mailed a birthday card to his dad in heaven; astonished to have gotten a response.
7-year-old Jade Hyndman from West Lothian, Scotland mailed this card as a way to say happy birthday to his father who died four years ago.
Instead of writing an address on the front envelope, Jase simply wrote:
“Mr. Postman, can you take this to heaven for my dad’s birthday. Thanks.”
Assistant delivery office manager Sean Milligan from the UK’s Royal Mail Service could have ignored the response or disposed of the request, but decided to write a kind response, assuring the boy the card was in great care.
“Dear Jase,” read the letter. “While we’ve been delivering your post, we’ve become aware of some concerns.
“So I just wanted to take this opportunity to contact you about how we succeeded in the delivery of your letter, to your dad in heaven. This was a difficult challenge avoiding stars and other galactic objects on route to heaven.”
Concluding with: “I will continue to do all I can to ensure delivery to heaven safely.”
Jase and his mother, Teri Copland, were overjoyed by the compassionate gesture.
“I actually cannot state how emotional he is knowing his dad got his card,” Copland wrote in her Facebook post. “You didn’t have to make the effort to do this, you could have just ignored it, but the fact that you made the effort for a little boy you’ve never met is such a lovely thing to do for Royal Mail.”
“It honestly means the world to him,” the post continued. “Please share this so all the staff at Royal Mail know just how grateful we are.”
Over the course of two days, this post has been shared over 220,000 times. People around the world are also praising Royal Mail’s careful “delivery” of the letter to heaven.
Copland concluded her praise to Royal mail writing, “Royal Mail, you’ve just restored my faith in humanity and thank you… Merry Christmas.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in sight when a company founder gave his employees the surprise of a lifetime this week.
Mark Baiada, the chairman and founder of Bayada Home Health Care, a $1.4 billion private housing company in Philadelphia, announced his grand surprise over a holiday luncheon at the Belleve Hotel in Philadelphia earlier this week.
“I’m taking $20 million, dividing it up and giving it to everybody,” Baiada tearfully told the crowd. I wanted to show some gratitude to everybody for all the hard work you’ve done taking care of our clients.”
The money was given to the staff of 32,000 who received varying sums based on their length of employment. Long-time staffers were given tens of thousands of dollars and new hires received $50. Even retirees who left the company after 2010 received sums, Baiada reported to Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Those are everyday people who work hard in a low-margin service business — I’m honored to work with them,” Baiada told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I don’t go to patient’s homes much, but my employees are there everyday.”
Baiada founded the company in 1975 and in 2016 announced plans to convert his business into a nonprofit, which will open in January. “Nonprofits last longer and I don’t really need the money, so we’re going to turn it over to a newly created nonprofit that’s all mission-driven,” Baiada told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We’re putting mission over money.”
Some employees already have plans for their munificence.
Nicole Green, a pediatric nurse who works with clients such as those with cerebral palsy and premature babies only worked at Bayada for three years and will use her funds toward her daughter’s college tuition.
“Everyone was in awe — we thought we were just having a holiday lunch,” Green, 48, told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Mark totally surprised us. He didn’t have to do this. I’ve only worked at Bayada a short time, but I’m a lifelong employee now.”
Baiada continued to cry tears of joy that afternoon and expressed his opinion on gratitude. “I just want to say thank you to them all,” Baiada told CBS Philly. “Thanksgiving is a season of gratitude. You look around your life and say, ‘I’m so fortunate.”
A single mom just won the largest lottery prize in her home state and announced she will be sharing the fortune with those who need it most.
Last month, 51-year-old Lerynne West was celebrating the purchase of her first home. After she moved into the house in Nedfield, Iowa, she and her sister stopped at a convenience store for pizza and coffee. While she was there, she picked up a Powerball ticket.
“I got my lottery tickets and we went back out to her trunk,” West told Cnbc. “I kind of just set those down at the foot in my purse — or so I thought — and didn’t think of them again until Sunday morning.”
West played lotto regularly but the most she has ever received was $150. After she checked her Powerball ticket numbers, she realized she won the $343.9 million jackpot — the largest lottery prize ever won in Iowa.
West chose to use the money to make an impact. She set up the Callum foundation, a charitable organization which will offer grants to initiatives that will alleviate poverty and hunger and improve education, animal welfare and veteran affairs.
She grew up in a working class family in Earlham, Iowa a small town of 1,450. Her father was a Vietnam veteran and a welder and her mother was a stay-at-home mom.
When she was 14, she worked on farms to “earn money to buy school clothes and help with the family. At 17, I left high school. At 19, I earned my GED. Soon after that, I started my family. I have three awesome, beautiful daughters.”
Aside from the Callum Foundation, which was named after her late premature grandson, she will give money to friends and family and set aside money for her grandchildren’s college tuition.
“I realize this is a life-changing moment,” West said as she claimed her prize at the Iowa lottery headquarters. “I’m excited to share my winnings with family and friends… I also plan to give to the causes and organizations important to my family through our newly-established Callum Foundation.”
“I want you to know that as I stand here today and I know the responsibility that I have to do good with this money,” she said, fighting back tears. “My life changed forever.”
Sometimes strangers can become friends.
Last week, 28-year-old Eric Haralson went to McDonald’s in Noblesville, Indiana with the sole intention of eating breakfast alone. Little did he know that as soon as he sat down — he would obtain company.
A 70-year-old woman named Jan approached Haralson in the restaurant and asked to join him for breakfast.
Haralson responded with an enthusiastic yes.
“My reply was ‘of course’ because that’s just who I am,” Haralson told Today Food. “So she grabbed her food, I pushed her chair out for her and introduced myself.”
After she sat down, both of them spent the next 45 minutes engaging in conversations about life and appreciating each other’s company.
Haralson spoke of his girlfriend and son and Jan spoke of going to church each Sunday and of her artist days.
After breakfast and conversations, Haralson walked her to her car and exchanged phone numbers with the desire to have breakfast again.
Later, Haralson saw a picture of him and Jan on Facebook. A school teacher named Amanda Marquell Craft snapped a photo of their exchange and published it to social media — praising Haralson for his compassion. The photo has been shared thousands of times.
“Shout out to this guy! This elderly lady (seemed to be a little lonely) came up to him and asked if she could sit with him,” Craft wrote.
“My friends and I watched him introduce himself and shake her hand. They talked and laughed together like they were friends. They didn’t know each other and they couldn’t be more different. But today they shared a meal together and it touched our hearts.”
David Leigh, a friend of Jan’s, commented on Haralson’s FB page also expressing his adoration for Haralson’s kindness.
“I know you made Jan’s day that morning of meeting her and allowing her to sit at your table,” Leigh wrote. “I don’t know if you are religious, but she may have been your guardian angel making a visit with you to see if you loved your fellow man… that was a blessed thing you did and keep doing them. God loves you. You truly are a gentleman. My best to you and your future.”
Haralson was glad to have shared a meal with her and was happy to have inspired many people, but he is most glad to have a new friend.
Jan “just wanted some conversation,” according to Haralson, but now her request has sparked interest in many people to lend a helping hand, be kind people, and share their own stories of sitting down with strangers.
He even expressed his admiration for her and exchanged her words of wisdom with Today Food. “She is a wonderful woman,” Haralson said. “She mentioned many times how we all should love one another. And how we should not judge anyone because you never know how their day is going and what they’ve been through.”
Since last Thursday, Haralson had left Jan a voicemail asking to have breakfast with her again and expressing their newfound fame. He still has yet to reconnect with her.
“I’ll keep trying,” he said. “I know if we had forever, she would have a story for me for everyday.”