An online campaign raised more than $113,000 for a Palestinian-Syrian refugee after pictures of him selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his 4-year-old daughter, sleeping in his arms, went viral this week. Norwegian activist, Gissur Simonarson, launched the campaign “Buy Pens” on Tuesday and urged locals in the Lebanese capital to find the refugee after he saw the photos.
Simonarson shared the photos of Abdul, a single father of two from the distressed Yarmouk refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on Twitter. People from across the world joined in to show their support for the refugee, who was found soon after the campaign's launch.
“Within 30 min of starting my search, I was pointed to a twitter user @CaptainMaj, who told me that he saw this man every day around his house. Next I got contacted by Jessy El Murr from Sky News Arabia who got me in touch with Carol Malouf, who runs an aid organization for refugees in Lebanon,” Simonarson wrote on the campaign's webpage.
— Gissur Simonarson CN (@GissiSim) August 25, 2015
The campaign’s initial goal was to raise $5,000, which it reached within half an hour of the launch. The amount soon swelled to over $67,000 within 24 hours, and stands at $113,042, and counting. Simonarson is working to transfer the money to Abdul.
“It’s nice to see people come together and make a difference in another person’s life,” he wrote on the campaign's website.
Abdul was overwhelmed by the support, Simonarson said, according to the Star, a Canadian news network.
“He broke down crying, he was so touched by what is happening,” Simonarson said, adding, “He [Abdul] said, ‘I don’t want any money, I want to educate my children and I want to help other Syrian refugees.’”
— Gissur Simonarson CN (@GissiSim) August 27, 2015
“When you see stories today on the news about refugees they’re basically all negative. We see them drowning in the Mediterranean. We see them being mistreated in the countries that they have come to. … It’s quite overwhelming positive support for this campaign,” Simonarson reportedly said.
There are over 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.