05.22.20 Leadership Shout Out: Mohammad Ali
Mohammad is originally from Pakistan, but he and his family moved a lot because of his father’s job. Mohammad moved to New York City in 2014 to begin his next chapter, leading him to an events role with the United Nations. He became a member of the HYP NYC Board in 2018, focusing on membership and hosted a collaborative the Association of United Nations Interns. Mohammad’s work visa expired in 2019 and he has since returned to his hometown in Pakistan. He talked to us from his home there.
HYP NYC: Hi Mohammad! How are you?
Mohammad: Overall, I’m safe and healthy. My quarantine has been especially interesting because it’s also Ramadan.
HYP NYC: What has that been like for you?
Mohammad: This has been the most meaningful Ramadan I’ve experienced. With everything going on around the world, I was already self-sheltering. These 30 days of discipline have helped me connect with my spirituality.
HYP NYC: That’s beautiful, we’re really happy for you! Let’s talk about that spiritual connection, because you’re essentially back where it all began.
Mohammad: Moving back to Pakistan was definitely not what I expected, nor was it part of the plan. It’s been a difficult transition because I was born here but did not grow up here. Communication has been a struggle, and it makes me miss New York, because living in New York was the first time I really felt at home. But, it’s really nice to be with family and I’m excited to get back to eating spicy food once Ramadan is over.
HYP NYC: You mention you felt a home in New York. What was living here like for you?
Mohammad: When I first got to New York, I was working for a cyber-security company. I decided to pursue my master’s degree at Indica College in Boston, even though I was still living and working in New York. It was tough at first because I was commuting between New York City and Boston every day, while living in a hostel, but I knew it was what I needed to do in order to maintain my visa.
HYP NYC: Wow. We didn’t know that! How did you end up connecting with us after your master’s degree?
Mohammad: After completing my master’s, I was able to get a job with the United Nations and I connected with the Association of United Nations Interns (AUNI). Many interns were looking for volunteer experiences while in New York. I had a great experience volunteering for Habitat when I was living in Mexico, so I looked up Habitat NYC and reached out. The rest is history!
HYP NYC: You’re one of the 2018 HYP Board Members that really inspired the group to bring everything to the next level. How did you help contribute to that and what did you learn through the experience?
Mohammad: Thank you. I remember taking on my very first event with HYP NYC and AUNI. To be honest, it didn’t really go as planned, but those oversights ended up being learning moments that have helped me with refining my process and how I complete a project.
HYP NYC: Oh, that’s interesting. Could you shed a little more light on those learning opportunities?
Mohammad: Well, I had put the whole event together, but didn’t think to host a walk through or sound check; and I didn’t have a backup plan in case any of our special guests didn’t come through. And, of course, we ended up having tech issues and our main performer ended up having to cancel. Though I will say our team pulled together and it was a great event overall!
HYP NYC: We definitely agree! Teamwork is key with HYP NYC. It’s how we’ve been able to grow year to year. What are some other teamwork moments you experienced?
Mohammad: This is something I love about HYP NYC, we work together as a team. Another example is my first A Brush with Kindness volunteer experience. We all had to get up early and no one complained because we were excited to work together on the project.
HYP NYC: Love that! You’ve dedicated your volunteerism to support Habitat NYC and to provide access to affordable housing to New Yorkers. What is your housing story?
Mohammad: I was born in Pakistan and lived there with my grandparents. Then my family moved to England, then to Romana, Mexico. I lived in a hostel for four years, and then an apartment in New York. Now that I’m back in Pakistan I’m renting my own place. So I can’t say that I’ve really had a ‘home’ because we moved so much. My mentality has always been this is temporary and everything will change; so I really desire being able to have a place to call home.
HYP NYC: Wow, that is a lot of moving! And it certainly highlights how important it is to have a place that you can not only call home but that feels like home. What are you doing now to prepare for homeownership as a young professional?
Mohammad: Right now, my focus is getting back to New York. Fortunately, my sister is living in the City right now. That is a great opportunity to return but for now I’m focusing on savings and also considering getting a second masters. I know homeownership is a huge responsibility, so I’m taking all of my learnings from Habitat NYC into consideration as I finalize my plan. And everything I learn through this experience will be shared with the world. There has to be a game plan. That game plan is experience and savings.
HYP NYC: That’s really impressive! We really respect that you are taking your time and being thoughtful of your approach. And we hope you return to New York soon!
Mohammad: Thank you! That is very kind. I can always count on HYP NYC to be there for me. And that’s why I take such pride in my experience as a board member. This leadership group has the power to make the world a better place and actualize Habitat NYC’s vision.