One of the biggest hot-button issues of the year was probably the situation in Syria, where an ongoing civil conflict has sown the seeds of chaos and war, resulting in millions of Syrians being dislocated from the land they once called (and still yearn to call) home. Refugees trying to escape the conflict in their homeland have migrated throughout parts of the Middle East and Europe. Unfortunately, the world was not adequately prepared for this crisis and as a result, many refugees are left to fend for themselves with very, very limited resources and opportunities.
One such refugee is Abdul Halim al-Attar, who was displaced from Syria by the conflict happening there and found himself wandering the streets of Beirut, Lebanon along with his young daughter. Having left the majority of his assets back home while fleeing for his life, he resorted to selling pens on the street in a desperate effort to earn enough to provide his family with food and shelter. Not having a safe place for his daughter, he was forced to carry her with him all day as he tried to scrape together enough money to survive another day.
The photo above, showing Abdul with his daughter, was taken by a stranger earlier this summer. It shows the heartbreaking reality that millions of others just like him are facing. After being shared on social media, it quickly became viral and touched people around the world.
Among the people affected by the photo was a Norwegian web developer named Gissur Simonarso. He was so moved by Abdul's situation that he launched a crowdfunding campaign online to raise money for Abdul and his family. The support came pouring in an astonishing rate and the campaign closed out with nearly $200,000 in donations.
When he found out about the money he was about to receive, Abdul knew exactly what he wanted to do. He invested the money into buying a bakery and eventually also opened up a kebab shop and a small restaurant. Knowing first-hand just how difficult it is for the nearly 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon to find meaningful employment, he now employs 16 refugees in his shops. Additionally, he sent some money back to Syria to friends and family who are still struggling there.
Perhaps most importantly, Abdul also used the money to rent out a 2-bedroom apartment where his 4-year-old daughter, Reem, and 9-year-old son, Abdullelah, can finally feel safe. "Not only did my life change, but also the lives of my children and the lives of people in Syria whom I helped," he says.
At a time when so much of the conversation around the Syrian refugee crisis is dominated by fear and hate, it's so important to remember stories like Abdul's. Every loving father deserves the opportunity to keep his family safe, warm and well-fed, and there are millions more out there just like him. It just goes to show that a little kindness can go a long, long way. Next time you have a chance to do something nice - even if it's as seemingly insignificant as taking a picture and hitting the "share" button - do it. You may just be changing someone's life.