Meet our Oliver Hare Altruism Award 2020 Winner, Aliza Ayaz

Pictured: Aliza Ayaz

Tell us about the acts of altruism you’ve done, and why you felt the need to help others.

When the Covid-19 crisis struck, my family immediately started raising funds to provide support to the jobless, whereas my friends and I facilitated distance learning laptops and iPads for students and also meals for front line workers.

I just wanted to do something. I wasn’t thinking about small-versus-big impact. I wasn’t quantifying how many peoples’ lives I was changing. I am profoundly grateful for my subconscious drive to think about others – a nature that has been passed on to me over generations of my family, through my aunts and uncles, through the stories of my grandparents who I never met.

Having studied the social determinants of health, I knew that being active is incredibly important—physically, mentally, and spiritually. So I would happily take a bunch of kids from around where I was staying for some physical activity and also tutor them when I could. We all know that parents have been increasingly overworked amidst the crisis; they have had to amplify their roles as teachers, cleaners, carers all at once and this impacts their mental health. I couldn’t just sit knowing this was a potential hazard. I thought “prevention is better than cure” and before I knew it, I was prioritising altruism above my academic workload because it was needed. And I could push myself just enough to afford that.

Why do you think you were nominated for the Oliver Hare Altruism Award?

I think because for me, saying “No” to pitching in to support others takes a lot more energy. It’s a lot easier to say “yes.” It is my mother, Dr. Rana Najmi’s leadership and motivation that inspired me to be involved with my community wherever I am. For that, I would love to say thank you.

While 2020 has been a challenging year for us all, this Award was a great reminder on how much we have braved and persevered as individuals, as a society and even my organisation – the Climate Action Society. It taught me how much resilience is a part of my DNA, and most importantly, how I have always been working towards the same goal: to improve and inspire the lives of those around us.

Why do you think it’s important to be an altruistic individual?

That’s easy. Because everyone wants a good answer to “Can I live a life where I can look forward to looking back?”

Why would you recommend others to also embrace their altruistic nature?

Over the past few weeks I have had many conversations with friends, entrepreneurs, artists and my team around the topic of how to move forward during difficult times, especially when they are unforeseen. In these moments, it is so important to focus on compassion and on your true north, whether that’s your personal why and purpose or your company’s mission and vision to help ground yourself, remember what really matters and what your journey is.

I understand that philanthropy can be just as affected by the coronavirus pandemic as anything else. There’s going to have to be more self-reliance on staying true to your voluntary obligations. It’s already difficult; we humans love to procrastinate. In my family, one of the things we are trying to teach is self-reliance, saying, “Why do you do it? Do it for you.” In hard times, your true north and compassion (towards yourself and to others) becomes that much more important to follow.

What do you hope to do in the future to make positive change (whether big or small)?

In 2012, I was five days into final exams and I got a heart breaking phone call that my grandfather had passed on. I went to the hospital to be with my family. I was at home for three days, and they told me to go back to school. The first day back, I was continually drifting during classes and it hit me that my grandfather was no longer here. But I could still keep his spirit alive if I practised his generous actions and altruistic attitude. So, many years later, I have been unable to find anything that isn’t better if you take that mantra and slap it on it.

There are choices in life; there is a way to make the “altruistic” decision with every decision we make. I hope I can be an example through what has led me to where I am today. This may be through my continuing role as an advocate for health equity or diversity & inclusion.

Personally, I want to be dedicated to giving back to the community alongside fulfilling my educational and career aspirations. My parents are the co-founders of various community fundraisers which raise money for education, bonded labourers and basic utilities. I want to replicate.

Thank you to UCL Volunteering Service!

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