Photo Goes Viral, Helps Raise $150,000 For Syrian Refugees
This photo went viral
NEW DELHI: A picture of a man selling pens on the streets of Beirut, with his exhausted daughter slumped over his arms, went viral on social media. The response encouraged the poster of the photo, Gissur Simonarson, to commit to tracking down the man in the picture.
Simonarson launched a Twitter handle #BuyPens and within 30 minutes was contacted by someone who saw the man everyday around his house. The man in the photo was identified as Abdul, a single father with two children. In the photo he is seen carrying his four year old daughter, Reem. The family are Syrian refugees from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
Simonarson then decided to start a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for Abdul and his family. The target was put at $5000. “Let’s make sure that Abdul and Reem can really start a great new life,” the campaign stated.
Within 30 minutes, the campaign met its target.
Within three hours, it raised $15,260.
At the time of writing, the campaign had crossed $150,000. A note on the campaign page reads:
“I (@GissiSim) shared two photos of a Syrian Refugee and his sleeping daughter selling pens on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon. I was overwhelmed with requests to help this man, so I decided to see if I could locate them. Within 30 min of tweeting the photo with @Conflicts account, 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 (@JessyTrendSKY) from Sky News Arabia who got me in touch with Carol Malouf (@carolmalouf) who runs an aid organization Lebanese4Refugees. Long story short, we were able to find him and now have a secure way to get this man the money we raise here. Thank you to everyone who has supported this. It's nice to see people come together and make a difference in another persons life. Note: Even though the limit is at $5,000, we will also get any money donated over that amount.”
Photo from @SyriaRoss
And another from @aboyosha3homs
Gissur Simonarson told The Independent: "I'm now in touch with Unicef special protection unit to help get him to a safe location, and make sure he will not be taken advantage of.
"I'm also considering setting up some kind of fund that would give him payouts monthly, so he doesn't end up with a bag of money, and not know what to do with it."
The power of social media aside, the photo represents a very real crisis, with the United Nations having recently stated that more than four million Syrians have fled the country’s civil war, with many now despairing whether they will ever be able to return to their home country.
Syria's civil war, now in its fifth year, has damaged much of the country's infrastructure and killed more than 220,000 people. Of the four million displaced, a large number are children, with the UNICEF saying that millions of Syrian children face a "high risk" of disease due to the scarcity of clean water and the scorching summer heat.
"The situation is alarming, particularly for children who are susceptible to water borne diseases," said Hanaa Singer UNICEF's Representative in Syria. "Water has become even more scarce and unsafe, and poor hygiene conditions especially among the displaced communities are putting more children at severe risk."
The conflict has prompted a refugee crisis of an unprecedented scale. By mid-2014, Syrians accounted for nearly one in four of the 13 million refugees worldwide being assisted by the UN refugee agency UNHCR -- the highest figure since 1996. Half the Syrian population has been displaced since March 2011 when the conflict began.
There are millions of people like Abdul out there, and although Abdul’s life may very well be transformer, what about the others?
You can donate to the campaign here: