The Syrian refugee who was photographed selling pens in the streets of Beirut, Abdul Halim al-Attar, is now running three businesses in the city after an online crowdfunding campaign in his name collected $191,000, reports Associated Press.
The 33-year-old father of two opened a bakery two months ago and has since added a kebab shop and a small restaurant to his business venture. He employs 16 Syrian refugees.
The photograph of al-Attar carrying his sleeping daughter on his shoulder while trying to sell pens to passing motorists in the scorching heat went viral this past summer and touched people across the world
One of those moved by his plight was an online journalist and web developer in Norway, Gissur Simonarson, who created a Twitter account under the name @buy_pens and an Indiegogo campaign to raise $5,000 for al-Attar and his family. After three months, the campaign had collected almost forty times more: $188,685. Another $2,324 in donations has trickled in since then.
“Not only did my life change, but also the lives of my children and the lives of people in Syria whom I helped, al-Attar says to AP.
In addition to the food businesses, al-Attar moved his children from the one bedroom that they all shared to a two-bedroom apartment in an unfinished building overlooking the highway in southern Beirut. The apartment is noisy and sparse, but 4-year-old Reem, who was draped over her father’s shoulder in the viral photo, proudly displays her new toys: plastic kitchenware, a swing and a stuffed bear that seems to be her favorite.
Her brother, 9-year-old Abdullelah, is back in school after three years of absence. For al-Attar, it’s a long way from Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp on the southern edge of Damascus where he was employed at a chocolate factory. The camp is now devastated by fighting. Although he is from Syria, al-Attar is Palestinian and does not have Syrian citizenship.