Influencer raises millions of dollars for Afghan refugees in just days

New York, New York – A 25-year-old social media influencer has hailed the good in people after his campaign raised millions to help at-risk Afghans escape the Taliban takeover.

The GoFundMe campaign is one of several recent rescue efforts attempting to fly Afghan refugees out of the country, as the situation at Kabul Airport remains chaotic.
The GoFundMe campaign is one of several recent rescue efforts attempting to fly Afghan refugees out of the country, as the situation at Kabul Airport remains chaotic.  © IMAGO / localpic

Tommy Marcus' GoFundMe page Flyaway: Emergency Afghan Rescue Mission has raised more than $6 million since its launch on Tuesday evening, including $5 million in its first 24 hours.

The money is going towards flights, at a cost of $550,000 per round trip, to evacuate Afghans in need who – according to the fundraiser – are on the Taliban's "kill list", such as human rights lawyers, journalists, interpreters, and their families.

"This is without a doubt the most important thing that I've ever done ... it's a humanitarian crisis, and people who don't deserve to die are going to if they're not helped," the meme artist from New York told the PA news agency.

"I've received thousands and thousands of desperate pleas from people to help them get out. I've seen things that I wish I could unsee ... and it breaks my heart that not everyone can be helped," he said. "I am just immensely happy that the people that we are going to help are going to be safe, and that's what keeps me going."

The fundraiser's total continues to rise at a rapid rate, but the young social media influencer said they will buy as many flights as possible, and every penny remaining will help Afghan families build a new life.

"Most of these people are going to be boarding the planes with only the clothes on their back," he said. "So there's a lot more that has to be done than just getting them out of Afghanistan ... we have to build lives for them."

"We're not going to leave one dollar unused," he added.

The fundraiser's quick response has shown "the good of people"

Afghan refugees outside the country have protested the recent Taliban takeover and urged for world rescue efforts.
Afghan refugees outside the country have protested the recent Taliban takeover and urged for world rescue efforts.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Marcus is running the push to aid Afghans with the help of a large team including many US military veterans, such as Sheffield Ford of special missions company Raven Advisory, and Karen Kraft, the head of Veterans Media Entertainment.

"I'm just the face of this, there's over 100 people - some of the most incredible people I've ever met - who are working around the clock to make this happen," he said.

Marcus shared the progress of the fundraiser through his Instagram account. His comedic and often political memes have seen him amass over 770,000 followers, and he has channelled this success into a series of fundraisers over the last year - including over $1 million for Planned Parenthood and $500,000 to send oxygen tanks to India during its Covid surge.

"Social media can be a very negative space where bad things happen ... polarization happens ... people use it to be angry at the world," he said. "I'm so proud to be a part of what I think is one of the greatest signs that social media can be a good place, a productive place, a place where people make good things happen."

"I think this ultimately shows the good of people, when we all unite for a cause that is so important and so urgent and so necessary," he added.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / localpic & Screenshot/GoFundMe

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