Internet Connectivity helped collecting money for “the pen-seller of Beirut” a Syrian refugee in Lebanon


The main Report by BBC:

It is a poignant image: a man on the street in Beirut, visibly distressed, with his daughter over his shoulder, holding out a handful of cheap pens for sale.

The man is Abdul Halim Attar, a Palestinian refugee from Yarmouk in Syria, and his daughter is called Reem. We know this because an Icelandic man, Gissur Simonarson, tracked him down.

Mr Simonarson, who helps run the news site Conflict News, posted the picture on Twitter after seeing it being shared, and it struck a chord. He set out to find him and within half-an-hour, with some help from local journalists and activists in Lebanon, he tracked him down.

Then on Thursday Mr Simonarson started a Twitter account and an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, aiming to raise $5,000 (£3,200) in 15 days for Abdul and his daughter.

He reached his target in just 30 minutes and at the time of writing the campaign had raised $60,752 in 22 hours. It shows no sign of slowing down.


“I am surprised that it got such an unbelievable amount of attention,” he says. “It’s all happened so fast it’s difficult to recognise what’s going on.

“The money is going to be huge, it’s gone to a whole other level.”

When Mr Attar was told what had happened, he broke down in tears.

The UN estimates that Lebanon will be home to nearly 1.9 million Syrian refugees by the end of the year, all of them in dire need of support. There are more than 4 million Syrian refugees in all.

Mr Simonarson does not have any experience in fundraising or disbursing money to refugees – Indiegogo allows anyone to become a fundraiser and vast sums of money can pour in unexpectedly.

In June, a partly humorous campaign to crowdfund Greece’s debt payment, started by a Londoner, raised nearly $2.2 million. And back in February, a beautician from Gateshead set up a funding page to raise £500 ($770) for an elderly man who was mugged. She eventually closed the fund after it topped £329,000 ($505,000).

If the money raised for Mr Attar passes that point, Mr Simonarson says he might consider diverting some of the money to a local charity.

Stephen Hale, chief executive at fundraising charity Refugee Action, told the BBC that Mr Attar’s story was a powerful one and “should inspire our leaders to match the public’s generosity”.

“We urgently need more safe and legal routes, including increased resettlement programmes, for people fleeing conflicts in countries like Syria. The powerful story of Abdul and his family remind us all of the human faces behind the tragic headlines,” he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it needs $5.5bn (£3.6bn) to help Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them – but it has received less than a quarter of that amount.

For one man, the money has the potential to change everything. Mr Attar says he wants to use the money to put his two daughters through school and to help other Syrian refugees.

And Mr Simonarson wants to use the goodwill shown towards Abdul to raise money for others in the region’s many refugee camps.

“Sometimes you need a spark to ignite people’s inner compassion and then take it further to help more people,” he says.

But how easy is that without someone like Mr Attar, for people on social media to connect to?

“It’s a fair concern,” he says. “Of course it’s better to help more than just one person.

“But I think a lot of people just want to see someone’s life change.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s