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Buy a Pen, Save a Life: A Syrian Father Inspires a Fundraising Cause


Abdul Halim Attar and his daughter Reem in the streets of Beirut. Photographs from Indiegogo.

Social media is often regarded as a “powerful way of changing lives,” and the  trending hashtag on Twitter and Facebook over the last week is a case in point. The campaign is a collaborative effort to help a Syrian refugee father, recently photographed selling a handful of pens in Beirut, Lebanon.

Abdul Halim Attar, a Palestinian Syrian from the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, is one of over a million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon. He is a single father with two children: Reem and Abdelillah.

The story started with a tweet on August 25, when Gissur Simonarson (@GissiSim), an Icelandic activist, posted a photograph of Abdul Halim selling pens, trying to raise money for his two children. The image triggered a tsunami of sympathy and compassion, with several thousand retweets and favorites. Simonarson soon launched a Twitter account dedicated to Abdul Halim called @Buy_Pens, and set out to find him in person, in order to get him donations collected online.

Reporters and bloggers soon learned about the story and more people gradually learned about the #BuyPens movement. Carol Malouf (@carolmalouf), representing the NGO @leb4refugees, set out to meet Abdul Halim on the ground to deliver the aid.

The campaign initially sought to raise $5,000 USD within 15 days. However, it succeeded in gathering $168,884 USD, raised by 6,375 people in just five days, with donations coming from the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, among other countries in Middle East and Europe.

Abdul Halim has reportedly said that he intends to use the money simply to raise and educate his children.

Those willing to contribute to the #BuyPens project still have eight days to make a donation.

Screenshot of "Help Abdul and Reem start a new life" funding campaign on indiegogo.

“Help Abdul Halim and Reem start a new life” funding campaign. Photo: Indiegogo.

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