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Inga Ting’s article about the virally successful crowdfunding campaign to help a Palestinian-Syrian refugee and his small children provides some insight as to why the compelling image posted on social media made the world respond the way it has. Ting is a Data Journalist for The Sydney Herald, a source for breaking news from Sydney, Australia and the world.

Viral photograph raises $240,000 for refugee father and children

The photo that transformed their lives: Palestinian-Syrian refugee Abdul Halim Attar selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his daughter Reem. Photo: #BuyPens campaign

The photo that transformed their lives: Palestinian-Syrian refugee Abdul Halim Attar selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his daughter Reem. Photo: #BuyPens campaign

By Inga Ting | The Sydney Morning Herald | 9/2/15

This photograph and the kindness of strangers have changed the world for one refugee father and his two young children after sparking a campaign that has raised $170,000 (now at $240,000) in less than a week.

Norway-based Icelandic journalist and activist Gissur Simonarson posted photographs of Palestinian-Syrian refugee Abdul Halim Attar and his four-year-old daughter Reem to Twitter on August 26.

The heartbreaking image of the exhausted man carrying his sleeping daughter on the streets of Beirut spread like wildfire, going viral and sparking a social media campaign called #BuyPens to track him down.

Asked on the ABC’s RN Breakfast why he thought the image struck a nerve despite the sea of images of Syrian refugees flooding international news pages, Simonarson said it was the fatigue written on Mr Attar’s face and the desperate way he clutched his pens.

“It’s his eyes. His look of exhaustion. It’s his sleeping daughter on his shoulder. They both look like they’ve been living a really hard life for a long time,” he said, “It looks like these pens are everything he has in this world.”

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Viral Photo and Crowdfunding Campaign Change Life of Refugee’s Family

Moving images can make an impact and tell a story that words could never do justice.

Norway-based, Icelandic journalist and activist, Gissur Simonarson, posted the photo of Palestinian-Syrian refugee Abdul Halim Attar and his four-year-old daughter Reem on Twitter. He then set up a U.S. crowdfunding page to help Abdule, which saw $240,000 in donations pour in–in under a week! That’s just a bit more than the refugee would have earned selling pens, to say the least; especially, when a “good day” meant bringing home a whopping $35 to support his family.

The crowdfunding page or donation form themselves were not the reason the campaign to help Abdul worked so well. It was Gissur Simonarson’s photo that made the difference. He hoped that people would see the desperation and need in the photograph.

And, people did.

viral photo and crowdfunding campaign

The moving photo of a father trying to provide for his family sparked a worldwide viral conversation with the Twitter hashtag #BuyPens, helped fuel the crowdfunding campaign success that will make it possible for Abdul and his small children to get the financial help they desperately need.

viral photo and crowdfunding campaign refugee father

Finding Better Ways to Communicate with Mobile

Simonarson counted on the power of social media to track down Abdul, post updates and field question, something your organization should be doing to engage your own supporters for your cause.

Another way your organization can cutdown the time it takes to send updates directly to your supporters and donors is through mobile messaging.  Text messages have a 99% open rate, so they’ll see the exciting progress and good work that comes from their involvement with your organization – especially around fundraising campaigns. Plus, every donor that completes a donation on their mobile device will immediately receive a text and email thanking them for their support.

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Finding Even Faster (and Better) Ways to Help with MobileCause

For Abdul and his family, help can not come too soon.  However, because of the long processing time of the platform used for Abdul’s crowdfunding campaign, they will have to wait for the financial assistance raised on their behalf.

With MobileCause, clients with an integrated merchant services account, have funds deposited in their account within 1 business day, making the proceeds from MobileCause crowdfunding campaigns immediately available so they can be used where they are needed most, when they are needed most.

Nonprofit organizations using MobileCause also keep more of the money they raise with an industry-low 2.35% flat credit card processing rates and absolutely no transaction fees.

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