61. Ahmed Hassan

11 Jan

DSC_0262.jpg“Whatever you do in life, you’ve got to give back to your community.”

Those are the words of Ahmed Hassan, 20, one of the founders of Youth Activating Youth (YAY), an organisation that helps disadvantaged multicultural young people navigate their way through life.

Ahmed says the organisation works to improve the employment, health, education, and sporting outcomes of this minority group, as these are the four areas they struggle with most, as well as encouraging them to engage with their community.

“We help these young people get through these barriers, through a lot of hours spent mentoring and offering guidance,” he says.

Ahmed says the organisation operates all throughout Melbourne, and he works with them one-on-one, and in large groups.

“We have big workshops, where we discuss topics like identity, and overall health. These workshops help the young people discuss the issues with their peers, and is a good opportunity to get advice from the facilitators,” he says.

“We also work with them one-on-one, trying to identify any issues they might be having, to do with life, employment, or education, for example, and help work out ways these can be improved.”

Ahmed’s parents migrated from Africa to Australia back in 1994, just two years before he was born.

He studied at Reservoir High School, and said he’s been incredibly lucky, receiving numerous opportunities, which is part of the reason he’s so passionate about giving back.

“I know what it means to not have opportunities, and I know what it’s like to receive opportunities, so I’ve seen both sides,” he says.

“I saw that there were a lot of disadvantaged young people getting neglected, and I just wanted to help them.”

Ahmed says since its inception in January last year, YAY has worked with over 2,000 young people from different cultural backgrounds, aged between 14-24 years.

He says their popularity has been gained through word of mouth and social media.

“We’re quite active on social media, with over 700 followers on our Facebook page, and over 1,500 members in our private Facebook group.”

He says while a lot of young people are happy to talk, it can be a bit harder for others to open up.

“We go to a lot of sporting days, and sometimes we just have to go up to young people and just ask if they’re ok,” he says.

“We’re a youth led initiative, so generally young people are pretty happy to open up to us.”

YAY helped organise a youth summit earlier this year, where hundreds of young people, experts, and youth engagement officers were in attendance to discuss issues facing young multicultural people.

“Many issues came out of the summit, a lot of young people were leaving school, for example,” Ahmed says.

“We also discussed that a lack of opportunities was the reason a lot of young people were going out and committing crimes.”

Ahmed says one of his biggest accomplishments to date was being nominated by The Herald Sun for the Pride of Australia award this year.

“I was honoured to be nominated, but I want to give it back to the youth, they’re who I’m doing this for,” he says.

“There are also a lot of other people who work behind the scenes.”

In addition to his volunteer work, Ahmed is in his second year of a software engineering course at RMIT University.

“I know it’s completely different to what I do day to day, but I’m really interested in IT, and I thought I’d pursue it because it seems the future is going that way,” he says.

“I would love to own my own business one day.”

Regardless of what he pursues, he’s adamant that he’ll always have a passion to help young people.

“YAY is very close to my heart, I’m not planning on letting it go,” he says.

“You can always combine two things at once, it’s just about having the right balance in life, you don’t want to overwork yourself.”

His message to young people who may feel overwhelmed by the future?

“Work as hard as possible,” he says.

“Opportunities don’t just come to anyone, you have to work hard for them.”

He says if young people need support, it shouldn’t be too far away.

“Help is never too far away, you’ve just got to ask for it.”

 Words: Joely Mitchell

Photo: Jason Rohmursanto


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