A campaign to see how many people would stop to help a young boy freezing in the Oslo winter has gone viral on the internet. Hidden cameras filmed the boy sitting alone at a bus stop while strangers passed by, as part of a wider campaign raising awareness of the plight of children in war-torn Syria.
The video by SOS-barnebyer, the Norwegian branch of international group SOS Children’s Villages featured 11-year-old Johannes Lønnestad Flaaten from Moss, sitting alone at the bus stop in the St Hanshaugen district of Oslo. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the video on its website (external link, in Norwegian) spread rapidly across social media and quickly topped 900,000 views by Wednesday night. A record number of people viewed the article, and Aftenposten said no other story had ever received as many “clicks” in such a short time. By midday on Thursday, the video on SOS-barnebyer‘s YouTube page (external link) had more than 1.4 million views, just the day after it was posted.
“There were very many nice people,” Flaaten told Aftenposten. “We filmed for two days, and I thought maybe three quarters would give me their jacket. But there were many more who did that. Many more than those who are shown in the video too. During the whole recording there were only three who did not give me their jacket. It was nice to see that people care.” Flaaten’s father Hans was on standby throughout the experiment, in case no one stopped to help the boy.
The campaign’s ultimate aim was to raise public awareness of children facing freezing conditions in the Syrian winter. “I think we are affected by this, and think that it could be us,” said Øystein Eriksen Søreide, the City of Oslo’s commissioner for social services. “I think maybe people need to be informed that it’s actually cold in Syria during the winter – not everyone knows these things.”