Pen-selling refugee finds success in Beirut

10.12.2015

Three months after a heartbreaking photo kickstarted a crowd-funding campaign, life has improved for Abdul Halim Atar, the refugee and single father in Beirut who resorted to selling pens to provide for his family. Refugee Abdul Halim Atar, known the world over as the man selling pens while his exhausted daughter slept on his shoulder, is now the proud owner of a bakery, a kebab shop and a small restaurant in Lebanon's capital.

In addition to opening the restaurants, Abdul is reported to have given away $25,000 to friends and relatives in Syria and has moved into a new apartment with his two children. His employees include 16 Syrian refugees –a privilege for them in a country where jobs for refugees are scarce.

Abdul's life changed dramatically in late August after an Icelandic web developer/journalist named Gissur Simonarson tweeted two images of the Palestinian refugee who had been working in Syria. Simonarson didn't take the photos himself, but as the retweets began numbering in the thousands, he followed up by creating a crowd-funding campaign and the Twitter handle @buy_pens to keep Abdul's story moving forward.

Not all of the donated funds have made it to Beirut, however, and not all of them will. PayPal transfer and banking fees have subtracted $20,000 from the sum, and since PayPal does not operate in Lebanon, cash is brought to Abdul by a friend of the campaign who can withdraws the funds in Dubai.

Since Simonarson's original tweet in late August, he has provided constant updates on Abdul's life. Abdul is breaking even with his bakery and the kebab restaurant and says he now feels like a member of the community.    (Deutsche Welle)

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