“Changemakers are not those who do everything; rather, they are the ones who bring together a team that can achieve anything. “
2024 Top 30 Under 30
What specific issue(s) are you taking on, and what inspires you to do so?
I am passionate about global health, specifically child development in low and middle income countries. Being from Pakistan, I wanted to address the problem of child mental underdevelopment in my country of birth. This issue is particularly important to address because not only can ensuring better mental development improve the lives of the children themselves, but as more individuals are able to escape poverty by following full developmental trajectories, they will have the opportunity to contribute to tackling the social and environmental challenges that we all face. Knowing this, I have been utilizing my education background in the Health Sciences program at the University of Calgary and have started working at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute to culturally adapt and implement the Care for Child Development program made by the World Health Organization in Pakistan. Through this, I hope thousands of children across Pakistan will be able to reach their developmental potentials.
Youth substance abuse can greatly impact an individual’s health and overall life outcomes as I came to find out through my high school experience. Therefore, I have attempted to address this problem through various initiatives. Having personally seen the negative impact of youth cannabis abuse, I formed an education technology startup, Inform Cannabis, making a game based education platform to develop social and emotional competencies in students to reduce likelihood of substance abuse. We won the Alberta Health Services Launchpad Pitch competition and are hoping to pilot our intervention in schools by next year. Furthermore, through my role at the Airdrie Board of Youth Affairs (ABYA), I have been advocating for youth issues while working with the City of Airdrie. As vaping has become a rampant problem for youth, I led the development of a grass root vaping intervention through the ABYA. We worked with youth from the community to create a vaping information campaign and I am now leading the evaluation of the intervention through a randomized control trial.
While living in Airdrie, my family was faced with a medical emergency that caused us to call 911, and to our surprise we were informed it was going to take almost 20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. In our situation we were lucky that we could wait this long, but I realized how important it was to address Alberta’s first responder shortage. Following this, I have worked with the City of Airdrie Fire Department as well as Alberta Health Services to potentially pilot an app- based community responder program that would allow skilled community members to respond to medical emergencies before traditional first responders arrive.
Being an immigrant I have personally seen how difficult it can be to navigate bureaucracies, especially when you are not accustomed to the local language and culture. Wanting to help others in my situation, I along with friends founded Health Help Alberta, a non-profit dedicated to helping people from different cultural and language backgrounds navigate the healthcare system by connecting them with community based natural support systems.
Most importantly, throughout this I have become passionate about building partnerships to tackle social and environmental issues. I understand how important it is that partnerships between different organizations and individuals are formed in order to achieve success, whether that be integrating scientific approaches in the vaping campaign I helped develop or bringing together the City of Airdrie Fire department and Medical First Responder team at AHS hoping to tackle the problem of emergency responders. This topic of knowledge translation is something I hope to better understand to ensure that we can form the interdisciplinary teams needed to address our current challenges.
What does climate change or climate justice mean to you? To your work?
Climate change is a pressing global issue, but its impacts are disproportionately felt. Vulnerable populations in low and middle-income countries often bear the most of its effects. Pakistan, for example, is one of the countries most affected by climate change. However, despite this, its capacity to address these challenges is significantly constrained.
On the other hand, nations like Canada that have historically played a big role in causing climate change through economic activities, are not experiencing its effects as acutely. This discrepancy highlights a crucial responsibility for more fortunate countries to assist those less equipped to handle the climate crisis. The need for global solidarity in climate action is absolutely essential. While climate change currently affects some regions more than others, its long-term consequences are a universal threat.
My personal journey bridges these two worlds. Born in Pakistan and raised in Canada I possess a unique perspective on both the challenges faced by Pakistanis and the resources available in Canada to take action. Leveraging this vantage point, I am committed to addressing the issue of child mental underdevelopment in Pakistan. My goal is to empower the next generation of Pakistanis with the skills and competencies needed to effectively confront and adapt to the challenges posed by climate change. This effort not only addresses immediate concerns but also invests in the long-term resilience and capability of young minds to tackle future climate-related challenges.
What advice do you have for other young people looking to get involved in sustainable development?
Oftentimes, it seems difficult to address the sustainable development goals due to their wide scope. As an individual, it is impossible to overcome the complex network of systematic problems leading to the apparent crisis. However, even if you are unable to tackle sustainability alone, work towards bringing a team of skilled and motivated individuals together that can.
Mirza volunteering at Airdrie Fest with the Airdrie Board of Youth Affairs, showcasing ABYA to the community and connecting with local youth and youth-related organizations.
Mirza with his research assistant team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute that has been working to develop a project plan to culturally adapt and implement the Care for Child Development program developed by the World Health Organization in Pakistan.
MIrza at the University of Calgary Ingenuity Pitch Competition at the 2023 Inventures conference representing Inform Cannabis.