This Syrian Refugee Father Went Viral for Selling Pens to Survive and It Changed Everything

December 3rd 2015

Diana Crandall

Back in August, the image of a Syrian refugee selling pens on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon went viral. The man pictured, Abdul Halim al-Attar, had his daughter slung over his shoulder as he tried to make money selling pens to passing motorists.

Attar is doing much better these days, according to the Telegraph. Two months ago, the 33-year-old father of two opened a bakery in Beirut and has also added a kebab shop and small restaurant. He now employs 16 Syrian refugees.

RELATED: US States Move to Block Syrian Refugees From Asylum

Attar started the businesses with the money raised for him in a crowdfunding campaign launched on Twitter after the picture of him holding pens went viral, the Telegraph reports.

The campaign was created by a Norwegian journalist and web developer named Gissur Simonarson who saw the photo and created the campaign and Twitter account @buy_pens, according to the Associated Press. The campaign far surpassed its fundraising goal of $5,000, eventually collecting upwards of $190,000, NBC reports.

Since the campaign, Attar reportedly sent about $25,000 back to family members in Syria, and is using the rest to invest in the businesses, although receiving the funds are slow.

RELATED: Sec. Jeh Johnson Explains Screening of Syrian Refugees

He only gets 40 percent of the amount raised after PayPal and Indigegogo take their cut, and because PayPal doesn’t operate in Lebanon, Attar has a friend who withdraws the money in Dubai and brings it over.

Despite the process, Attar reportedly says he feels grateful for the money and is investing it so it can grow, the AP reports.

"When God wants to grant you something, you'll get it," Attar reportedly said.