A man in his mid-forties, Imad Idris Yassin has led what he freely admits to being ‘a charmed life’. A multilingual global resident, he graduated in Genetics from Queen Mary and Westfield, University of London and most recently from Singularity University. His professional work involves helping innovation technologies grow their business globally in the life sciences market. A little over five years ago, a life-changing event occurred – the sudden death of his father Idris Yassin – would have huge ramifications on the path of his future, and ultimately spread immense good across a corner of Africa.
Imad takes up the story, and it’s quite a story…
“Five and a half years ago, my father died suddenly. When we started going through his assets, we noticed that there were regular amounts of money that went out of the country in support of refugee camps in Africa.
Now, I always knew my father was a man that people felt they could turn to for help – in fact, I remember how his brothers used to mock him for giving his wealth away – but it was a surprising discovery to learn something he’d kept so quiet.
Naturally, I was intrigued. I followed the trail of money, and discovered that, incredibly, my father was funding an orphanage in eastern Sudan – one that was home to 150 children. This was something he’d never spoken to anyone about. It was his secret.
Something that helps make sense of this, is the fact that Most of the refugees in the region are from Eritrea – and my father was originally from Eritrea. My family had to leave Eritrea when I was two. So, we have felt the pain of being a refugee – we travelled only with UN documents. So, the link was a natural one. The most incredible thing was that he never shared this deed with anyone. No one at all.
I have to be honest, and I say this as someone who has been brought up mainly in Europe – I was immediately sceptical. I even wondered if the money was ultimately being used as he intended – I wondered whether its destination was completely legitimate. The only way to learn for myself was to visit the orphanage.
I travelled to the region and, not only did I find that the orphanage exists – even better was that it was being very well run – but I also contacted charities that were working on the ground in the region. I wanted to become clearer more about how things were being run, and to learn more about the context of aid, giving, and social support in the country.
During this time, I learned that there are over 300,000 people living in refugee camps – and the camps have been permanent since the 1980s. So, the children that my father had been supporting were grandchildren of the original refugees. It was a shock to hear that this was an issue that had existed for generations.
Looking back on those days now – and remember I was 39 when my father passed away – I became exposed to a completely new side of life and living. I was newly married, living in Barcelona, working in healthcare and education. But the hidden life and works of my father suddenly had a huge impact on the direction of my future. Everything that followed his death was a shock.
When I came back from that trip, I had to decide. Would I forget everything I saw there and just focus on the orphanage, or should I do more?
I sat with my three sisters and explained to them that I felt something drawing me, and that I wanted to explore deeper what we, our family, can do. I was delighted by their support and commitment towards my own enthusiasm.
Their experience is in education, mine is mostly in health. We decided to focus on the areas we could have most impact in, and we established the Idris Foundation as a funding-buddy.
Over the years, we’ve connected projects we want to see happen with both money, and skills. We fund-raise, we donate, we work through locally-based NGO who have the experience and connections required to implement our plans.
Projects include creating schools – something not a given in the Sudanese environment. So far, we’ve created 9 schools. Tellingly, they have supported girls in education, and girls from the most challenging of backgrounds. We’ve created schools that provide weekly boarding for girls – they return to their families at weekends. We’re providing a daily meal for children is some schools – these were children whose families showed little support for education. Their children would drop out. With a meal a day as a benefit, both the children and parents are keen for the young ones to attend. Better nutrition, better attendance, better education – a better future.
We’re changing the lives of whole families; of whole communities.
I have big dreams, I want to do more and I want to do it in different ways. For example, we’re delivering drugs in hard-to-reach areas by drones. Using this most modern technology is helping reduce deaths from age-old killers. Simply put, getting the right medication to the right people – and at the right time.
The transition we’re seeing is miraculous.
A lesson I’ve learned is the basis of personal giving. It is clear to me now, more than ever, that giving gives us more in return than we give of ourselves”
Today, Imad Yassin’s philanthropy work is mostly focused on bringing exponential technologies in health and education to less privileged regions of the world. Most recently he was appointed as a global Ambassador for the global online sustainability movement, World Leaders Forum.
Find out more about the Idris Foundation at idrisfoundation.com