Ali Haider: The Game Changer
“My past made me what I am today; we are an inspiration for ourselves.”
– Ali Haider, co-founder of Humans of Pakistan.
The globally renowned Facebook page, “Humans of New York” by Brandon Stanton, has inspired many. Ali Haider was one of those. Fostering a similar desire to contribute to the society, he followed Stanton’s footsteps, and along with his team, created his own Facebook page titled “Humans of Pakistan”. The aim was to cast a positive light onto Pakistan, through pictorial stories and life experiences featuring the citizens of Pakistan.
“We want to create a hierarchy of memories”, Ali says. “In a human mindset one memory is on top of another and that is how a hierarchy is created. We stop people spontaneously on the roads and they share the top most memory in their mind, which is a story that they have learnt from their life experiences.”
HOP was started with a good intention, but was just another Facebook page initially. When the responses started coming in, Ali realized that this was the prime opportunity for him to help his country. Now, Ali and his team have interviewed over 2000 people around Pakistan, and both national and international acclaim has been received. “Every day, we receive 25-27 heartening messages, telling us what a good job we are doing and to keep it up – that is daily motivational dose” – Ali proudly states.
Ali claims that he and his other two team members left their jobs for the page, because the venture was such which required full time attention. “Our first and foremost priority is Humans of Pakistan; it is all because of the background, our past, and because of the life we have lived, all because of the way we are brought up,” he explains.
Narrating his humble beginnings, the mastermind behind Humans of Pakistan states, he was born in Lahore, but moved to the village of Bahawalnagar when he was merely 9 years old. His family faced a financial crisis, which unfortunately, led him to drop out of school. He enrolled into madrassas instead; after a year his uncle in Lahore helped him rejoin school, and later helped him enroll into college. This, too, had a sad end, as the college fee could not be sustained. “I got thrown out of college because my fees had not been paid for three months” He stated. The passion of education still remained, and Ali along with his father raised enough money to give exams privately, and finish college. During all this, he had shifted to Islamabad, and had started work at call centers and social media firms. This was the kick start to his journey into social media. Later, he got admission into Bahria University, where he completed his BSS in Development Studies. This was, again, funded by working at various firms.
“We don’t want any other child to face the same fate we had to”, explains Ali as he tells about his development projects he has started under the banner of Humans of Pakistan through which he generates funds. “By now we have enrolled more than 27 children from the remote areas of Pakistan. They wish to study but they cannot afford to do so. One school is in Islamabad, and the other is to launch in Kashmir. Both monetary compensation and moral support is provided to the children – the fees are paid and regular performance checks are conducted. We are also sponsoring 13 families from all over Pakistan.”
Humans of Pakistan also partnered with UNDP, and took an active part in the first campaign for IDPs. They also partnered with UN Women. Humans of Pakistan had also carried out campaigns for flood relief, providing not only relief, but long term resources such as seeds and fertilizers.
Ali still harbors in his heart the desire to change Pakistan for the better, and continue carrying out sustainable projects under his new non-profit organization, “Words in Action”. Currently, he is working on a crucial social entrepreneur venture which aims to provide the people of Tharparkar with jobs.
Yet another social contribution of Humans of Pakistan was the raising of funds for Bibi Kausar’s medical condition, but tragically, she passed away. The funds were then divided amongst her children. Ali and his friend Roshina Kayani, claim to have adopted those children, and have vowed to fully nurture and care for them. “Till the rest of their lives, we are answerable to all of their doings”, Ali promises. His inspiration for these humanitarian actions is none other than Abdul Sattar Edhi. His meeting with Edhi had made him realize the importance of living for others, not just for one’s own self. “Everyone is living for themselves. Stop living for you, live for others.” He quoted Edhi. The satisfaction which Ali gains from these selfless acts is a feeling unparalleled, according to him, it has shaped his ideology and made him into the man he is today.
Ali plans to keep up his work as a social responsibility whilst continuing his education alongside. He dreams to spend at least a month in Baluchistan and with its people; sharing their stories and making them feel heard. And that day, he claims nothing can stop him.
Ali concluded with these words of wisdom: “Be the revolution in your life. I took one step 2 years ago, and that step is now the biggest photojournalism blog of Pakistan. Don’t wait for someone to take a step for you. Achieve the change yourself.”