Campaign raises more than $120,000 for Syrian refugee who was selling pens to survive

#BuyPens connected strangers.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Published Aug 29, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 1:52 am CDT

The plight of a Syrian refugee trying to sell pens while holding his sleeping daughter in Beirut, Lebanon, inspired worldwide sympathy and an online fundraising campaign that has surpassed $120,000.

After the picture was first made popular by Gissur Simonarson, he tracked down the family with the help of local journalists and aid organizations.

The father, Abdul Haleem Al-Kader, is alone in raising a 9-year-old son, Abdelillah, and a 4-year-old daughter, Reem. The family are Palestinian-Syrian refugees who fled the Syrian civil war, the most deadly conflict on the planet.

Simonarson’s crowdfunding surpassed his initial goal of $5,000 in 30 minutes. On Friday, tens of thousands of dollars came in over the course of the day.

“He worked at a chocolate factory before the war,” Simonarson explained. “He left Syria to Egypt with his wife and children, shortly there after his wife wanted to go back to Syria, and they parted ways. He then decided to go to Lebanon and has been there selling pens and anything else he can to support his children.”

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Simonarson told BuzzFeed News that he’ll be working with the United Nations to turn the money over to Kader.

H/T NBC | Photos via carolmalouf/Indiegogo | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Aug 29, 2015, 11:43 am CDT