By: Esther Liu, Contributor
Yahia Hassan is a first-year student in life sciences. He co-founded the nonprofit, The Altruist.
The Silhouette: What are you passionate about?
Hassan: I’m really interested in how people interact with each other and what makes people choose one thing over something else. I’m also really into biology and other sciences so I like to look at that in terms of the psychological side of it. In terms of humanitarianism, it’s really important to get that perspective and over the years I’ve sort of trained myself to try and get empathy and get open-mindedness and perspective from other people.
When did you start getting involved in your community?
My first volunteer opportunity was back in Egypt in Grade 9. [W]e went to one of the villages that were damaged over the years and we re-decorated and refurbished that village. We built a whole community centre for them with a group of 50 people. I think it’s the experience of helping others without really getting anything in return, right? I’m not getting paid or anything but I’m still doing good for others. Knowing that they now live in a place that I helped improve.
Later in high school, I took more leadership roles where it’s more of helping a bigger organization. So, I’m volunteering for something: I’m helping ship medicine boxes for example and I don’t know anything about it later on, right? But I don’t like the idea of that because I don’t know where it’s going. I’m not sure if it’s actually going to go to the place where it’s intended.
Between Grade 11 and Grade 12, I was volunteering with Trillium Health Partners. There, I had to really think on the spot about how to help people directly. As an intern, I had to step up right because nurses and doctors are not going to be free to help you. That was a good experience of helping other people no matter what the situation is. So a lot of empathy came with it. [I thought] “right this is hard, but I have to help this person because they can’t really help themselves or they don’t they can’t fathom helping themselves.”
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What is The Altruist?
The Altruist is a youth journalism organization. We were starting out with five people. Now we’re over 20 people and we have people in nine countries contributing. The purpose of The Altruist is, through youth journalism, giving other youth a voice and giving them a platform. What we’re really focusing on is humanitarian issues. It’s a lot about goodwill without anything in return.
How did The Altruist start?
Originally, it was two people: me and a friend of mine. We were first based in White Oak Secondary School. Over time, we contacted people that we knew from our school and a few people from Egypt. We now have people from Canada, the UK, Egypt, Indonesia, China, Pakistan and India. We started back in March – not coincidental with the pandemic.
But when the pandemic hit, there was a lot of news that was misinformed and contained a lot of implied and explicit hatred [with] each headline. So we wanted to create a safer source of journalism and information. The goals for the organization are to create honest news and news that doesn’t spark fear. [We want] to influence and inspire other people to go out of their way to do good for other people. Since this is a non-profit and we’re really focused on the goodwill of our actions, we want others to do the same.
What are you working on now with The Altruist?
For the audience, we want workshops in different schools or venues to inspire change and inspire people to be good. Right now, we have webinars every month where we would talk about different issues. So, for example, if we’re talking about oppression against racialized communities, we might talk about oppression in the medical community, in the film industry and more. We want people to be aware and, through that awareness, to say: “Oh, this is not a good thing and this is something that I can change within myself.”