31 Aug 2015
Thousands of dollars were raised in just three hours after a picture of a refugee seemingly trying to sell pens on a street in Beirut with his daughter slumped over one shoulder was widely shared.
The image, showing a man holding eight biros, were posted on Twitter by Gissur Simonarson, who describes himself as an activist.
After being inundated with requests to help the man, Simonarson announced he was going to try and find him. He launched a Twitter account named #BuyPens and was contacted within 30 minutes by someone who saw the man every day around his house.
Twenty-four hours later, the man and his daughter were identified as Abdul, a single father with two children, and his daughter Reem, who is four.
They are believed to be Palestinian Syrians from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
Simonarson decided to start a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for Abdul and his family.
Within half an hour, he provided an update: “We have reached my goal of $5,000 in the first 30 min. This was never meant as a cap, just something to start with. “Let’s make sure that Abdul and Reem can really start a great new life.”
Within three hours, he had raised $15,260 (£9,897), three times the original goal.
At the time of writing, 1,287 people had donated $40,554 (£26,303) in 14 hours, 812 per cent of the original target. The amount has risen to almost $133,000.
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.”
By Samuel Osborne