The term giving back has become somewhat of an empty buzzword in recent years, but one man is doing his part to restore its literal, altruistic meaning.
Alex Assali is a Syrian refugee in Berlin who recognizes the value of paying it forward. On weekends he sets up a small table at one of the city’s busiest squares and serves food for up to 100 homeless people. His reason is simple: “Give something back to the German people.”
Assali arrived in Germany in September 2014 after seven years of exile in Libya to escape danger over political matters in his hometown of Damascus. His family, meanwhile, is still living in Syria. He receives a monthly government allowance of 359 euros, 143 euros of which is “pocket money” that can be spent beyond essentials. Two-thirds of that spending money is committed to his food stand, which he operates every Saturday.
“Usually some words they say make me cry,” says Assali, whose goal is to be “closer to this kind of people.”
Germany’s biggest publications have picked up the story after it was shared on Facebook by one of Assali’s friends, Tabea Bü, who works at an independent refugee assistance program in Berlin.
“I can’t imagine [Assali’s] situation but I’m so glad to have met him and see what he does,” wrote Bü in the post. “Even though he himself has so little, he shares food with the homeless. I’m so fascinated by this man.”
Assali aspires to have a big house in Germany one day – but not for himself. He wants to continue to support people in need and do something positive for them because he believes they need the same kind of guidance that has granted him a life to be grateful for.