The refugee, 33-year-old Abdul Halim al-Attar, has since opened three businesses in the city and employs 16 Syrian refugees. According to Mashable, his business ventures include a bakery, which he opened two months ago, a kebab shop and small restaurant.
The viral picture of al-Attar, a father of two, selling pens on the street to passing motorists in the blistering heat moved those who saw it. One Norwegian journalist and web developer, Gissur Simonarson, started a Twitter account @buy_pens and IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for the family.
Though the campaign was set on raising only $5,000, it far surpassed the goal after three months of generous donations that totaled $188,685. The campaign continued to raise money after it ended, adding another $2,324 to the pledges. Al-Attar charitably gave away an estimated $25,000 to friends and relatives in Syria. He said: “Not only did my life change, but also the lives of my children and the lives of people in Syria whom I helped.”
The life-changing gestures have afforded al-Attar a two-bedroom apartment home for his family. Once living in one-bedroom with his children, al-Attar has relocated to a more spacious location in an unfinished building overlooking the highway in southern Beirut. His 4-year-old daughter snapped in the photo, Reem, has new toys to play with including a stuffed bear and plastic kitchenware. Her 9-year-old brother, Abdullelah, has returned to school after taking three years off.
Transferring the funds from the campaign has been difficult and slow. He has received only 40% of about $168,000 after Indiegogo and Paypal took a $20,000 cut for processing and banking fees. Since Paypal does not work in Lebanon, a friend of the campaign has had to withdraw portions of the funds in Dubai to bring to al-Attar in separate time intervals.
Though the process is slow and the payout uncertain, al-Attar is grateful as he said:
“When God wants to grant you something, you’ll get it.”