In 2015, many Syrians fled their homes due to violence, collapsed infrastructures and a lack of work. They feared for their safety and for the well-being of their families when the civil war began. Because of this, many refugees were left doing whatever they could to make ends meet.
What a Single Dad Did Every Day to Feed His Children
That was the position Abdul Halim Attar was in that year after he and his two kids fled Syria and settled along the streets of Beirut, Lebanon. At the time, he had a nine-year-old named Abdelillah and a four-year-old named Reem to care for. But they were struggling.
Attar tried to sell pens in the streets to buy food for his young family, but it was hard. They were hot, tired, and unsure how long they could last.
And that’s when an Icelandic web developer named Gissur Simonarson came across the family. He snapped a photo and posted it on social media, where it went viral.
“Syrian father selling pens in the streets of #Beirut with his sleeping daughter #Lebanon #Syria,” he captioned the post. He also included photos of the man and his daughter. Both of them looked exhausted and defeated.
Soon, many people were reaching out and asking how they could help.
How a Community Came Together to Help One Single Dad
They began to search for Attar. Simonarson and other interested community members came together to spread the word. It was only a matter of time before they located the trio, and a group of people began a Twitter account for the family to solicit more help.
They started a crowdfunding campaign, and within 30 minutes, they had raised more than their initial $5,000 goal. Eventually, under the #BuyPens banner, they raised more than $190,000 USD for Attar and his children.
Attar, who worked in a chocolate factory before leaving Syria, revealed to a local news outlet he wanted to move his kids to Europe with the money. There, he hoped they could get a better education. Or, if that plan fell through, he thought about opening his own chocolate shop in Beirut.
How a Positive Story Had an Unfortunate Twist
While all seemed well, it later came out that Attar had squandered the money and the kids weren’t safe. Simonarson revealed as much to his followers in a tweet in October 2016.
He and fellow organizer Carol Malouf, who ran the aid organization Lebanese4Refugees, tried to get what funds remained to the children. Meanwhile, Malouf worked hard to track down the children’s mother.
In another follow-up tweet from October 2016, Simonarson revealed the children had been reunited with their mother and were safe with her in Turkey. He shared photos of them embracing their mom.
“Even after the smear campaigns against her, @carolmalouf worked hard to make sure the kids were in good hands, & I thank her for that!” he tweeted. “My main concern was for the children, so I’m very happy to see they are in a good place now,” he added in another post.
How Sometimes Good Can Come In Unexpected Ways
While people who donated to this family may have been upset to learn their money had been “squandered,” the truth is that without that media attention and community coming together, no one would have known just how much trouble the kids were potentially in.
So while it seems like a negative thing at first, at the end of the day, this story really does have a positive outcome: the kids are living a better life with their mom.
It’s a nice reminder that, sure, sometimes people can let you down and do things you don’t expect them to do. But oftentimes, those actions may lead to a different — and potentially better — outcome if you just keep the faith.
After all, fate works in mysterious ways.