Murhaf, 11, raises $230,000 selling flower pins in Sweden

Sales skyrocket after a viral post about the boy, and a racist backlash only brings in more money as people rally behind him.

Boy in Sweden raises money selling flower pins
Children sell the 'majblommor' pins as part of an annual anti-poverty campaign in Sweden [Courtesy: Majblommans Riksförbund]

Stockholm, Sweden – Murhaf Hamid had hoped he could earn enough money to buy a pizza with friends when he started selling “majblommor” flower pins in southern Sweden.

Children aged 9 to 12 sell the pins as part of an annual campaign by Majblomman, Sweden’s oldest charity, to combat child poverty in the country.

The children are allowed to keep 10 percent of the money they raise as well as any tips.

Murhaf, 11, never expected he would break the charity’s fundraising record and become a viral sensation along the way.

It didn’t start well for Murhaf. Some adults told him to get off the streets, leaving him disheartened.

A family friend, Leila Orahman, saw the rejections were upsetting Murhaf and decided to write a social media post about him.

It quickly went viral – eventually making headlines across the country as more than 3.2 million kroner ($223,200) poured into his digital fundraising page. He also received 112,000 kroner ($10,830) in tips.

Åsa Henell, general secretary of the charity, told TT Newswire that the sales were “completely unbelievable” and they had “never seen anything like it”. She said children usually raise around $100.

Public rallies after racist comments

Although a majority of the comments about Orahman’s post were supportive of Murhaf’s campaign, there were also racist remarks.

One tweet from an apparent member of the far-right populist Sweden Democrats party used several racist slurs and suggested a “white Swedish child” should receive all the public support.

Murhaf, who was born in Sweden, has asylum seeker status and does not have a residence permit.

Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported Murhaf’s family has had their asylum application rejected three times. However, for a number of reasons, the family cannot be deported to his mother’s home country, Ethiopia.

The hateful comments only brought further attention to the campaign as people rallied behind Murhaf, including Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who said those who wrote racist comments should be “ashamed”.

Orahman told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet it was not the first time Murhaf has been subjected to racism.

However, she highlighted the “very positive response from the Swedish public” with so much money pouring into his fundraising page that it crashed.

‘Boosted my confidence’

Murhaf has now been invited to the Swedish Parliament and the Town Hall in Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city.

Murhaf told SVT, Sweden’s public broadcaster, that he “wanted to buy a residence permit” with the money but accepted “it’s not possible”.

Instead, he plans to buy a mobile phone, shoes and clothes.

He said the fact he has been able to sell so many flower pins has “boosted my confidence in myself, that I can cope with more things in life”.

The Sweden Democrats described the racist comments as “unacceptable behaviour”.

“We have notified our membership department and will handle the matter internally,” a statement said.

Source: Al Jazeera