When Ryu first met Michael, the boy was rummaging through piles of trash in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. He had lost the fingers on his left hand and his entire right hand was shriveled due to first-degree burns sustained in a fire four years ago. Michael lived with his mother and three-year-old sister after his parents divorced three years ago. The family was barely surviving on money earned from selling whatever scraps they could find in the trash dump in front of their house.
Michael and his family made W20,000 (US$1=W1,130) a month selling bottles and discarded paper collected from the dump. Half of this sum went on monthly rent, leaving them with a paltry W10,000 a month to survive on. The minimum wage in Madagascar is W50,000 a month for a four-person household.
When Ryu visited Michael's house, the tap water and electricity had been cut off. "It made me cry when I saw Michael, since he looked so sad, unlike Korean kids his age who are so playful," Ryu said. "I felt very guilty when I was told that the child rummaging through the trash with his injured hands was just five," he added.
Ryu took care of Michael during his stay in Madagascar. The boy, who was initially reluctant to show his hands to strangers, slowly let his guard down and even fell asleep in Ryu's arms. Michael shed tears and clung to Ryu's clothes on the day the actor was scheduled to leave. Ryu ended up taking the boy with him to Korea. He wanted to give the boy a special gift. The Miral charity organization plans to let Michael receive surgery on his right hand in June and get him a prosthetic left hand.
source: The Chosun Ilbo