Hollywood superstar Edward Norton was so “moved to tears” by the story of a Syrian scientist whose home and family was bombed that he launched a campaign to bring him to America – raising more than $400,000 in just two days.
Dubbed “The Scientist” on the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page, the man tells a tragic story of loss, but never loses his optimism and determination to use his engineering talents for good in the world.
The Scientist was away from home, working on a project, when Syrian government missiles crashed into his neighborhood two years ago. His brother’s entire family died in the attack along with the Scientist’s wife and daughter.
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His two remaining children suffer – one from PTSD having been at home during the attack and the other with shrapnel in her body.
He fled with his surviving children to Turkey but has been unable to fulfill his potential while waiting in Istanbul the two years it takes to be vetted before coming to America. Even with a doctorate, he can only earn as a refugee about one percent of what a Turkish citizen would make for the same work.
The stress and strain of all these issues he thinks contributed to the development of his stomach cancer, which they cannot treat in Turkey without insurance. Despite all this, he still wants to make the world a better place.
“I still think I have a chance to make a difference in the world,” he told HONY. “One of my inventions is being used right now on the Istanbul metro to generate electricity from the movement of the train.” He also has created plans for a plane that can stay in flight for 48 hours without fuel and an invention for detecting earthquakes.
The Scientist learned recently he and his family will be relocated to Troy, Michigan. He knows nothing about the town, but looks forward to returning to his work when he arrives.
“I still think I have a chance to make a difference in the world. I have several inventions that I’m hoping to patent once I get to America.” the Scientist says in the Facebook post accompanying his portrait. “I just want to get back to work. I want to be a person again. I don’t want the world to think I’m over. I’m still here.”
President Obama answered him with his own Facebook comment, “You and your family are an inspiration. Yes, you can still make a difference in the world, and we’re proud that you’ll pursue your dreams here.”
The three-time Oscar-nominated actor’s fundraiser will pay for the family’s relocation costs and medical expenses for the Scientist’s cancer treatment. Any money left over will go toward relocating 11 other Syrian refugee families profiled on the HONY site.
“Let’s show that a country built by the energy and dreams of immigrants still believes in brave people who come here with hope for better life,” Norton wrote.
Norton also talked CrowdRise into waiving credit card transaction fees for the campaign to get the most money possible to the Scientist and his family.
In his desire to make difference in the world, the Scientist has a great start. His story has triggered a wave of human kindness – and awareness of refugees – as people around the world contribute to make a difference for his family.