By Randa Darwish
Since March 2011 stories of death, displacement and humanitarian crisis have been synonymous with Syria. Neither will they be forgotten. At the same time, there is every now and again a story which brings into perspective the inhumanity of war.
The story of Mohammed Alaa al-Jaleel has been one of the those few heartwarming stories taking place in the bloodstained city of Aleppo.
A 43-year-old cat-lover who grew up in Aleppo is one of few who refused to leave Aleppo in the time of war.
Alaa, who defines himself as "a civilian, who is not a member of any fighting group nor a political activist", has been an animal lover and especially cats since his childhood. As the war raged, Alaa decided to use his passion and the money he earned as an ambulance driver to help hundreds of abandoned cats who are left in the city. He was called the “Cat Man of Aleppo” when at first, he used to feed cats and take care of them in the streets.
Shortly after, the “Cat Man of Aleppo” has become a famous figure in Aleppo as the number of cats he was taking care of increased rapidly. Regional media outlets started reporting his story until he found someone to help him open a shelter for all the cats and other animals he is taking care of.
On Facebook, a page was created by his name with several photos of Alaa feeding and taking care of the animals he is helping. It did not take too long until Alaa was actually able to secure a piece of land near his house where converted half of it into a shelter for the cats where they can freely have a space to be fed and taken care of. His shelter was called: “Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria”.
Despite all the crisis Aleppo had witnessed during the war, Alaa was able to continue his work as an ambulance driver and take care of his pets in the shelter with their number growing. Up til the moment, Alaa is still working in his shelter that is getting bigger and developing with time by the donations he is receiving.
Currently, Alaa has social media accounts with tens of thousands of followers who are supporting him; morally and financially. He also posts daily photos for his animals, while vaccinating and feeding them.
Heartwarming images and videos were posted by Alaa.
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