Even if you want to avoid social media you can’t. It’s pervasiveness and power to reach global audiences instantly creates dramatic impacts. On Tuesday 25th August, $80,000 was raised in just half an hour after a picture of a refugee seemingly trying to sell pens on a street in Beirut with his daughter slumped over one shoulder was widely shared on twitter.
It all started when Gissur Simonarson (an activist from Oslo- Norway), posted a photo last Tuesday of a father selling pens on the streets of Beirut as he cradled his sleeping daughter, he struck a chord with more than 6,000 followers. But with a boost from social media, an anonymous pen seller in Beirut, Lebanon became a Syrian refugee success story. It was a terribly emotional picture, as I saw the look in Abdul’s face and just the way he holds the pens out, as if those pens are everything he has in the world – shocking isn’t it? Within hours, requests poured in from around the world to help the merchant in the photo. But Simonarson did not know who the man was or who took the photograph. That’s where social media came in, with the activists asking others to help. Simonarson, finally did locate the anonymous pen seller with #BuyPens.
After being inundated with requests to help the man, Simonarson announced he was going to try and find him. He launched a Twitter account named #BuyPens and was contacted within 30 minutes by someone who saw the man every day around his house. Twenty-four hours later, the man and his daughter were identified as Abdul, a single father with two children, and his daughter Reem, who is four. Would you ignore the power of social media then? Your guess is as good as mine. Whenever used effectively, it can be a powerful tool ……
“When Abdul heard the amount, he just broke down and started crying,” Simonarson says, “He was so thankful and he kept saying thank you for all your generosity.” Abdul says he can finally send his two children to school with the money. The 35-year-old, who once worked at a chocolate factory before war broke out in his native Syria, also says he wants to help other refugees with the donated money.
In the end, we now know how social media did find the Syrian refugee (Abdul Halim Attar) and help provide the dad of two with a new start going forward. Thank you to everyone who helped put a smile on the face of Reem and her father. You have all helped to accomplish something with this case.