'Bike gift stranger' and former child refugee reunited


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Mevan Babakar

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Former refugee Mevan reunited with Egbert who bought her a bike when she was a child

A former child refugee who launched a Twitter campaign to trace a “generous” stranger who bought her a bike when she was five has been reunited with him.

Mevan Babakar, 29, lived in a refugee camp near Zwolle in the Netherlands during the 1990s.

She tweeted a photo of the camp odd-job man, whose name she never knew, and her message was retweeted 3,000 times which enabled her to find him.

“He said it felt like I’d never left,” said Ms Babakar who met him in Germany.

When she began her search all she had was an old photograph of the mystery man, taken at the refugee camp.

During their meeting she posted on Twitter: “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.”

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Mevan Babbakar posted this photo of Egbert on Twitter taken while she was a refugee

Ms Babakar and her parents, who are Kurdish, fled Iraq during the first Gulf War, travelling through Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Russia before spending a year at the camp near Zwolle between 1994 and 1995.

The family eventually settled in London where Ms Babakar works as a tech manager.

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“He thought the bike was too small a gesture to make such a big fuss about but he’s really glad that it was the key to bringing us together again.”

As well as buying her a “red, shiny bike” at a time when gifts were out of the question for her, he also provided one for her mother and invited the family to spend a Christmas with his family.

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Mevan Babakar

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A photo of the five-year-old taken at the Zwolle refugee camp

“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,” said Ms Babakar.

She added her internet search had also brought forward someone else, Sandra, who worked at the camp.

“Sandra, she was incredible too, she helped me use a computer for the first time! I now work in tech!” she posted.

Ms Babakar had taken a sabbatical from work to retrace her refugee journey and was in Zwolle carrying out research.

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