I love when social media is used to help someone in need who has had been dealt a rough hand in life. It’s like they have won the lottery without even playing! When a photographer posted a picture of a man selling pens in the streets of Lebanon with his young daughter asleep on his shoulder, it went viral with sympathetic supporters who wanted to help him. That is when a world-wide manhunt began to identify the subject in the photographs in order to provide him with help for himself and his young family.
The photographer who posted this picture on Twitter is Gissur Simonarson, who is the founder of Conflict News, which is an organization that draws content from war zones around the world. He knew this picture would create wide-spread interest in this family’s plight, however he was not the photographer who took the actual photo, nor was the man who gave the photo to Conflict News, so it made it very difficult to locate this Syrian father in Lebanon. Simonarson was determined to locate them, and decided to use the reach of his company so they set up a Twitter handle called @Buy_Pens and encouraged @conflict’s followers to help in the search!
Because of the search initiated through Twitter, two of @conflict’s followers were able to locate the man in the pictures! His name is Abdul Haleem al-Kader. He is a refugee from Syria who fled to Yarmouk refugee camp four years ago with his wife, daughter, 9-year-old Reem, and their 4-year-old son, Abdelillah. Yarmouk was established in 1957 as a mostly Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus. It has seen almost 150 thousand refugees since it was established. However it has been under siege during the country’s civil war and as of lately, it has received almost no food or humanitarian aid.
Kader’s wife wanted to return to Syria, but Kader could not justify going back because the chocolate factory he had worked in had closed down and they would have no way to support their family if they went back. His wife left Kader and their children to return to Syria on her own. And Kader moved to Lebanon in hopes of being hired on at a chocolate factory there but none were hiring. So he had no other option to feed his family but to start selling things on the streets.
During the search Simonarson wanted to start a fund-raiser to collect $5,000 to assist the family who was obviously in need. So he launched an IndieGogo campaign and in less than 24 hours he had raised more than 10 times that much with the help of eager supporters for this family’s cause. Within 4 days, it raised over $100,000 from donations from over 6,000 people from over 100 countries around the world! Kader says in response to all the support that he has received, “I feel like I am in a dream. I still cannot believe what has happened to me.”
Kader’s top priority with receiving the funds raised for him and his family is to ensure that his children receive a good education. He is working with organizations to get his paperwork in order with the Lebanon government so his children can enroll in school. His dream is also to open his own chocolate shop in Lebanon, or possibly in Europe. With the generous donations provided to him by people sympathetic to his cause due to a heartbreaking photograph, he is going to be able to achieve his dreams!
This story just goes to show that people recognize good hearts and are more than willing to help someone in need, especially when the person they are helping is unsuspecting and humbled by the outpouring of love they are receiving! I’m so happy for Kader and his two children and that their life has turned over a new leaf thanks to the generous people on social media!