Internet-famous Syrian refugee who sold pens to feed his children now owns three businesses

Abdul Halim al-Attar gained internet fame earlier this year when an image of him selling pens on the streets of Beirut, with his daughter sleeping on his shoulder, went viral. The now famous image was widely circulated online, and led to a successfully crowdfunding campaign that raised $188,685.

Al-Attar and his family fled from war torn Syria and arrived in Lebanon, with an estimated 1.2 million other Syrian refugees. With so many refugees entering the country at once, it has been nearly impossible to find work. Earlier this year, Gissur Simonarson, the founder of Conflict News, posted the picture to his Twitter account, where al-Attar’s story began to trend with the hashtag #BuyPens. After meeting with al-Attar, Simonarson set up an Indiegogo campaign, which ran until August.

Just months after the campaign has ended, al-Attar and his family still live in the Lebanese capital, but now they live in a two-bedroom apartment. He primarily used the money to start three businesses — a bakery, a kabob shop, and a restaurant. Al-Attar is dedicated to helping other Syrian refugees find work, and has created 16 jobs for fellow Syrians.

“Not only did my life change, but also the lives of my children and the lives of people in Syria whom I helped,” said al-Attar. “I had to invest the money, otherwise it will be lost…when God wants to grant you something, you’ll get it.”

Despite the huge amount of donations, al-Attar has only been able to collect about 40 percent of the funds so far. PayPal does not operate in Lebanon, so a campaigner in Dubai has been transferring al-Attar the donations in small pieces. Indiegogo and PayPal also took out $20,000 in fees.

Al-Attar has given about $20,000 to family and friends stuck in Syria and has also used the money to send their nine-year-old Abdullah to school for the first time in three years.

Featured image: Mashable


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