Strangers around the World Unite to Give a Syrian Refugee and His Children a New Life
After a heartbreaking photo of a Syrian refugee selling pens in the streets of Beirut while holding his sleeping daughter went viral last week, strangers all over the world banded together to help the man and his family start a new life.
Abdul Haleem al-Kader, the man identified in the photo, is a Palestinian-Syrian refugee who is struggling to make a living in Lebanon after fleeing violence in Syria with his two children. He used to work in a chocolate factory in Syria, but was unable to find a similar job in Beirut. Left with no other options, he's been selling pens on the street in order to support his daughter Reem, 9, and son Abdelillah, 4.
Photos of the desperate father were originally shared on Twitter by Icelandic activist Gissur Simonarson, who founded the website Conflict News to shed light on conflict zones across the globe. With the help of fellow activists, journalists, and Lebanese residents, Simonarson was able to locate al-Kader and offer him aid. Simonarson set up a Twitter account (@Buy_Pens) and an Indiegogo campaign to spread al-Kader's story while raising funds for the family. So far, over 6,000 people have donated more than $160,000, exceeding the original $5,000 goal by over 3,200 percent. Simonarson is currently working with UNICEF to figure out the best way to get the money to al-Kader once the campaign ends.
When asked what he plans to do with the donations, the father of two told SKY News Arabia, "I would like to educate my children. And I want to thank everyone who has helped my campaign, and I wish that they can launch a similar campaign for each refugee, because there are now 1,500 homeless children on the street today. I wish that they can find us a solution for our country Syria—a solution for us to go back to our homes, our families, our brothers." He added, "I feel like I am in a dream. I still cannot believe what has happened to me, that the whole world stood by me. And I thank them so much."