Social media’s power helps refugee family

Refugee and Migrant Crisis

It was a heart-wrenching sight when an Icelandic conflict journalist spotted a father selling ink pens on the streets of Beirut, his sleeping daughter in his arms.

It was apparent that the two weren’t doing well and needed help. Gissur Simonarson, a journalist from Iceland, now living in Norway, did what many do in this age of social media. Simonarson grabbed a camera and took a picture, which was uploaded to social media.

The tweet got a lot of attention. Attention that seemed to motivate Simonarson to take action. So he went out to find the man. The man that was selling pens is Abdul, a Palestinian-Syrian from the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus. Abdul is a single father with a little boy named Abdelillah, 9, and a daughter Reem (pictured draped across his shoulder) who is 4 and 1/2.

As Gissur got to know Abdul and his children, he would visit them at their home in Beirut to hear more of their story.

Indigogo/ @carolmalouf twitter

Indigogo/ @carolmalouf twitter

Abdul initially left Syria for a new life in Egypt with his wife and children, who came with him from Syria. Shortly after they all arrived in Egypt, Abdul’s wife decided to go back to Syria. So the family parted ways. Abdul was left in Egypt with his two children, and that’s when he decided that they would go to Lebanon. It is in Beirut that Abdul has been selling pens, and anything else he can find to support his children.

Photo from @SyriaRoss on twitter

Photo from @SyriaRoss on twitter

Photo from @aboyosha3homs on twitter

Photo from @aboyosha3homs on twitter

After all the attention the photos of Abdul and his children got on twitter, a crowd-funding page was set up to help the trio. The Indigogo page had an initial goal of $5,000 meant to help them. But as these stories go, the donations came pouring in – exceeding the $5,000 goal exponentially.
The story came to life on social media, with the Beirut twitter community taking photos of Abdul and his children on the streets of Beirut with Gissur Simonarson, and being credited with their twitter handles.


So far 2,928 people have donated, with $82,790 raised as of the time of this writing. Gissur Simonarson says all the money will go to the family, and Abdul was overwhelmed.

“I was surprised to know that people abroad heard about my story and care about my kids.”
“I couldn’t hold my tears. I kept saying, ‘Thank god, thank god,’ and hugging my kids.” Abdul told Buzzfeed news.

Abdul says that he used to work in a chocolate factory back in Syria before the war began. Simonarson is reportedly working with UNICEF and the UN to figure out the best way to get the money to Abdul.

Abdul says he would like to go to Europe with his children so that they will have a better opportunity to get a good education. He says if that doesn’t work out he wants to open up a chocolate factory in Lebanon, but by some of his comments, it seems Abdul’s heart is still in Syria where his life once was.

CCTV America Digital