Abdul Halim al-Attar, a refugee from Syria, used to sell pens on the streets of Beirut to survive. According to AP, online journalist and web developer in Norway, Gissur Simonarson, created the Twitter account @Buy_Pens where he posted a photograph of al-Attar in action with his daughter draped over his shoulder.
Simonarson also started an Indiegogo campaign to raise a total of $5,000 for the family. After three months, the campaign raked in nearly $190,000 in donations.
Al-Attar, a father of two, has since opened three food businesses in Lebanon where he employs other refugees. He has also shared about $25,000 with friends and family. He and his wife, who has returned to Syria, are currently separated.
He has now moved with his two children, 4-year-old daughter Reem and 9-year-old son Abdullelah, from a one bedroom to a two bedroom apartment in southern Beiruit. Abdullelah was able to return to school after three years of absence.
Disbursement of the funds, however, has been a struggle. Al-Attar has received only 40 percent of about $168,000, the total after Indiegogo and Paypal processing and banking fees. In addition, Paypal does not operate in Lebanon, and al-Attar has had to rely on a friend of the campaign to withdraw the money in Dubai.
Though it is unknown when he will receive the rest of his money, al-Attar remains positive. He says that he is treated better and better, and feels more like a member of the community among both Lebanese and Syrians.
Visit the @Buy_Pens Twitter account for more information.