Abdul Halim al-Attar, a refugee from Syria who was photographed selling pens in the streets of Beirut, is now running three businesses in the city after an online crowdfunding campaign in his name collected $191,000.
Al-Attar opened a bakery two months ago and has since added a kebab shop and a small restaurant to his business venture. He employs 16 Syrian refugees.
The photograph of the 33 year-old father carrying his sleeping daughter on his shoulder while trying to sell pens to passing motorists in the scorching heat went viral this past summer and touched people across the world. Read the original story here.
“Not only did my life change, but also the lives of my children and the lives of people in Syria whom I helped,” he said. Al-Attar said he gave away about $25,000 to friends and relatives in Syria.
Getting the funds to al-Attar has also been a struggle. So far he has only received 40 percent of roughly $168,000, after Indiegogo and Paypal took out about $20,000 in processing and banking fees. PayPal does not operate in Lebanon, so at the moment the cash is brought over to Lebanon bit-by-bit by a friend of the campaign who can make withdrawals in Dubai.
Despite his frustration and the uncertainty about when and whether he’ll receive the rest of his money, al-Attar feels grateful. He is breaking even with steady orders of fresh bread and shawarmas from nearby workers and families in the working class neighborhood of Ared Jaloul.
Al-Attar is also getting used to his newfound status. Once an anonymous street vendor, he now feels like a member of his community. Lebanese and Syrians alike are nicer to him.
“They just greet me better now when they see me. They respect me more,” he said with a smile.