Images of a Syrian refugee attempting to sell pens on the street to provide for his family, while shouldering his sleeping child, have gone massively viral.
It’s no wonder that a photo that captures such exhaustion, such desperation, but also such profound love, would strike a chord with the denizens of the internet.
Gissur Simonarson, the Icelandic activist who posted the pictures to Twitter, expressed as much:
“The photo is very powerful. His eyes, the way he's carrying his sleeping daughter, and for some reason the way he is holding the pens out. It just really touched me.”
But people have not been content to merely commiserate from afar, or in words alone. They’ve been spurred to make a palpable impact on this man’s life, and the lives of his children.
@Buy_Pens Really moved by your effort to help the Syrian refugee. Let me know once you find him. I will contribute as much as I can.— Sahil Khan (@IntenseInteger) August 26, 2015
Immediately following the pictures’ posting, Simonarson was inundated with messages from people eager to help the mystery man and his family. He created the Indiegogo fundraising campaign to raise money for the family, and began a search for the refugee’s identity, hoping to connect him with his would-be benefactors.
After a mere half hour’s hunting, Simonarson was contacted by someone who saw the man every day around his house.
The man’s name, Simonarson discovered, is Abdul. He’s a Palestinian Syrian from the notorious Yarmouk refugee camp, and a single father to two young girls, four-year-old Reem and nine-year-old Abdulliah.
In all, it took just hours for three lives to be changed. This could never have happened in a pre-social media world. But the internet has made the world smaller, closer, and, sometimes, kinder.
"The response was amazing. I didn't expect it to happen so quickly.”
The Indiegogo fundraising campaign raised a staggering $5000 in merely half an hour. But the tide of generosity didn’t end there. It hasn’t even been a full day yet since the campaign began, and the Internet has already pitched in $67,413. With two more weeks left on the campaign, here’s hoping that enough will be raised that Abdul never has to worry for his children’s wellbeing ever again.
In an update, Simonarson shared new photos of Abdul, Reem, and Abdulliah. Needless to say, the change in their expressions is tremendously heartening.
Abdul says he is overwhelmed by the support he’s received. Simonarson described him as “over the moon thankful,” but also a tad taken aback (endearingly so!):
"He was a little spooked because of people were coming up to him on the streets and talking to him, he started going to different places to usual so it took a while to find him even though we quickly knew who. Somebody has bought him a phone so that we can call him and talk to him."
That’s the best kind of “spooked,” if you ask us.
If you’re interested in contributing to the campaign for Abdul’s family, check out Simonarson’s Indiegogo page. Please also consider making a donation to the other refugee families in need, by giving to charities such as Save The Children Federation and/or the UN Refugee Agency.