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Nearly $100K raised for Syrian father seen in viral photo cradling daughter

"When [Abdul] heard the amount, he just broke down and started crying," Simonarson said. "He was so thankful and he kept saying, 'thank you for all your generosity,'" Gissur Simonarson, the man who took the photo, said.

By Doug G. Ware

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Heartbroken readers around the world have made a definitive statement after seeing a viral photo circulated on the Internet this week -- showing a Syrian father selling pens in the streets of Beirut while cradling his sleeping daughter.

And that statement so far has nearly six digits in it.

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A Norwegian activist named Gissur Simonarson came face-to-face with the refugee on Tuesday. With a heavy heart, he posted it to a social media account -- as a symbol of the omnipresent challenges faced daily in the Middle East by those trying to attain safer lives for their families.

It didn't take long for Simonarson's photo to explode online -- first with his 6,000 followers, and then the global news media.

"Syrian father selling pens in the streets of #Beirut with his sleeping daughter," Simonarson wrote beneath his photo.

The next day, the Norwegian tweeted that he had set up a Twitter profile for the man as a way to jump start the philanthropy for the needy father and daughter.

The new Twitter handle: @Buy_Pens.

Although only his daughter is seen in the photo with him, the @Buy_Pens profile says he has two children.

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"It's a terribly emotional picture," Simonarson told CNN. "You see the look in his face and just the way he holds the pens out, as if those pens are everything he has in the world."

After two days of effort, the man was finally identified as Abdul -- a Syrian refugee from the violence-marred town of Yarmouk.

A crowdfunding account was subsequently established and has so far raised nearly $100,000 for Abdul -- $95,000 more than Simonarson first hoped to raise.

The Norwegian was stunned. Abdul was floored.

"When [Abdul] heard the amount, he just broke down and started crying," Simonarson said. "He was so thankful and he kept saying, 'thank you for all your generosity.'"

Abdul, 35, said he can now send his young daughters to school with the donated money. He also reportedly said he will use some of the funds to help fellow refugees.

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