Update: The Syrian refugee father whose viral tale of selling pens on the streets of Lebanon has a hopeful new life. The father, Abdul Halim al-Attar, now owns three businesses: a bakery, a kebab shop, and a restaurant. The employees? Sixteen other Syrian refugees. The money he received from the Indiegogo campaign (which raised $191,009) has helped him start these businesses and move his children to a two-bedroom apartment. However, both Indiegogo and PayPal have taken $20,000 of that total amount in processing fees. An additional problem for al-Attar is actually getting all the money, since PayPal does not operate in Lebanon. Currently, a friend takes out the funds in Dubai in segments and delivers it to al-Attar. None of this is deterring al-Attar's spirit, though. "When God wants to grant you something, you'll get it," he said to The Associated Press. Here's hoping al-Attar's journey continues to be positive.
Original story: The statement "a picture is worth a thousand words" should actually be "a picture is worth tens of thousands of dollars" in this case. In the past few days, a photo of a man on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon, has caught the public's attention after going viral on Twitter. He's shown with his daughter sleeping in one arm and selling pens with the other. Activist Gissur Simonarson, who posted the image, tried finding the father after users urged Simonarson to help him out. And just within half an hour of creating a Twitter account named #BuyPens, someone who saw the man every day reached out.
Simonarson learned that his name was Abdul, a single father of two (a 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter named Reem) and a refugee of Yarmouk Camp in Syria.
Abdul is a Palestinian Syrian from the notorious Yarmouk camp seen in this photo. He's a single dad with 2 children. pic.twitter.com/egFy2Bk3lX— Gissur Simonarson 🇮🇸🇺🇸🇳🇴🏴 (@GissiSim) August 27, 2015
To help the family out, Simonarson initiated a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, raising $5,000 within just 30 minutes, and then over $15,000 in three hours. His first update reads, "Let's make sure that Abdul and Reem can really start a great new life. All extra donations will of course go directly to them as well."
Since yesterday alone, $77,000 (!!) has already been raised with 14 days left to go. The most recent update on Indiegogo provides a little more backstory to Abdul's situation:
"He worked at a chocolate factory before the war. He left Syria to Egypt with his wife and children, shortly there after his wife wanted to go back to Syria, and they parted ways. He then decided to go to Lebanon and has been there selling pens and anything else he can to support his children."
To see such efforts sparked by a single Twitter image truly demonstrates the power of social media, and we hope to see it continue to be utilized for good.