Syrian Refugee Family Overwhelmed by Generosity
Gissur Simonarson is an activist from Iceland residing in Oslo, Norway and the founder of Conflict News. Thanks to a picture he shared on social media, a family from Syria can get their fairy-tale ending.
Simonarson shared a photo with Conflict News‘ 10,000 Twitter followers, of which 6,000 were moved enough to respond and pass it on themselves.
It depicted a man with his daughter asleep over one shoulder, that same arm looped through the handles of a carrier bag, and the other hand filled with pens. That hand was reaching out to people on the street, in a gesture pleading for them to buy even just one.
The scene was so moving and emotional that Simonarson felt compelled to share it. “You see the look in his face and just the way he holds the pens out,” he said, “as if those pens are everything he has in the world.”
— Gissur Simonarson CN (@GissiSim) August 25, 2015
What Simonarson hadn’t expected was the overwhelming number of people asking to help. But he didn’t know who the man in the picture was, or even who the photographer was.
So, he took to Twitter once again and asked for help in locating the people in the photo, adding the hashtag “#BuyPens” – which soon went viral itself.
After only two days, another activist managed to track down the pictured man, a single father of two called Abdul Halim Attar. Simonarson shared the news with the avidly waiting followers. “Finally found him. Been a lot of work, but it was worth it!” he wrote, “Now let’s help him!”
It was all very well locating the family, but now Simonarson wanted a way of everyone to be able to securely send money if that’s how they wanted to help. He decided to set up a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and urged users to donate $5,000 to the family.
Within just 30 minutes, the campaign had reached and surpassed that goal. A day later, almost 3,000 had contributed more than $80,000 (£52,000). At the time of writing, a staggering $180,000 (£118,000) has been raised by nearly 7,000 people – and there are still a week to go!
When Abdul heard how much money had been sent, and was still being donated, he broke down in tears and thanked everyone for their generosity.
Before this, the family had been living off of an allowance from the United Nations of only $38/£25 a month. Abdul had resorted to selling pens on the street just to pay for food and a roof over his family’s heads.
With the donations, Abdul wants to send his two children, four-year-old Reem (the daughter from the picture) and his son Abdelillah, 9, to school. He wants better things for his children than having them stay on the streets with him.
But that’s not all the money will go towards, as Abdul is well aware that he is only one of four million registered refugees from war-torn Syria. He is hoping the campaign will grow large enough to help all of the people in the same situation.
But to Abdul, there are people much worse off than he and his family. They at least have food and somewhere to live, and he wants for other Syrian refugees to receive the same kind of generosity he has been shown from people around the world.
“I want to help my siblings and help the Syrians here in Lebanon,” he said. “I want to help my parents and my siblings that live in Syria.”
Unfortunately, with a week still left of the campaign, it could be another three weeks until the money has been released from Indiegogo and making its way to them.
But until then, Abdul doesn’t have to worry about being to afford to feed his family, and the activist who managed to track him down has paid his rent.
“I feel like I am in a dream,” Abdul said. “I still cannot believe what has happened to me, that the whole world stood by me. I don’t know how to thank them.”
Faith in humanity = restored.