Get your tissues ready. In a story that will reaffirm your faith in humanity, the internet has rallied to help an anonymous Syrian refugee, whose picture surfaced on social media last week.
Abdul Haleem al-Kader, a Palestinian-Syrian refugee and single father, suffered a misfortune that required him to sell pens on the streets of Lebanon to support his children. Recently, an unknown photographer snapped a photo of him carrying his sleeping daughter, Reem, who is only 9, with one hand outstretched and gripping a bundle of pens, BuzzFeed News reported.
Luckily, the founder of a news site called Conflict News, Gissur Simonarson, saw and retweeted the photo. But he was inspired to do something more than just share a picture — he wanted to make an actual difference.
“Conflict News has pretty good reach — I thought [I] might be able to locate him,” he said.
The site has 64,000 followers on Twitter already, and Gissur set up the handle @Buy_Pens to extend that reach.
Within a half hour, someone responded with critical information about the anonymous man in the photo, Newsweek added. Simonarson had to make more contacts in Lebanon, but eventually Kader’s name was unearthed and someone bought him a phone so he could communicate with Gissur.
Now that he knew Abdul’s name, he took it a step further, setting up an IndieGogo campaign to raise about $5,000 to help him, Reem, and his son, Abdelillah, 4. So far, people have donated almost $200,000 to help Abdul and his family.
His story is heartbreaking. Abdul Haleem al-Kader had been living in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria; the camp has been home to refugees since 1957. At one point, 150,000 people lived there. The camp has been under siege throughout Syria’s civil war, and then suffered an attack from ISIS earlier this year. People there have been without food or humanitarian aid as a result.
Kader left Syria four years ago with his family and moved to Egypt. His wife wanted to move back to Syria, but Abdul refused. So she left him and her children.
“I had nothing to do in Syria anymore, since the chocolate factory that I used to work in before is closed,” he said. “Some of my friends told me, ‘Why not go to Lebanon and try there.'”
He looked for work in Lebanon but had no luck.
“So I have no other options to feed my kids but selling stuff in the streets,” he added.
Simonarson is working with UNICEF to figure out how to get the money to Kader and his kids. The campaign ends in 14 days, and he wants to use the final amount raised to help other refugees.
“After seeing so many horrible refugee stories, it’s just so nice to see a positive refugee story,” Simonarson says. “What I imagine is that next time this could lead to helping a whole refugee camp—meet some of the people, take some photos, introduce their stories and do a money bomb on a refugee camp and replicate this.”
As for Kader, he is stunned by the outpouring of support from strangers all over the world. And though the financial blessing will help give his family a better life, he told BuzzFeed that the money isn’t important.
“I was surprised to know that people abroad heard about my story and care about my kids,” Kader told I couldn’t hold my tears. I kept saying, ‘Thank god, thank god,’ and hugging my kids. I don’t need money. All I want is to educate my kids, send them to school, help them to get their education. I hope I can take the kids and live in Europe. There they will have a much better chance for a good education. I really hope I can do that. If not, plan B will be opening a chocolate shop in Lebanon.”
[Photo Courtesy Twitter]