Migrant gives back with offer of free IT services for non-profits

Hissein Idris recalls attending presentations hosted by local charities and cringing when things went awry because of technical glitches.

With so many charities competing for donor dollars, it’s crucial that the spread of their message is not hampered by an outdated website or lack of technical prowess, Idris says.

article continues below

That’s why the recent immigrant to Canada and IT specialist has launched a non-profit agency, the Technology for Change Foundation, which aims to connect non-profit organizations with tech experts willing to donate their services.

“I started thinking, what would these organization need? IT help. Why don’t they have it? Because they can’t afford it,” he said, noting that IT services generally start at around $90 an hour.

Idris has already taken on nine projects since launching the foundation in January and is looking for more IT volunteers.

Projects so far include building an app for the Victoria Society for Children with Autism, managing the tech side of a presentation by Bridges for Women in March and helping with tasks as simple as uploading a video.

“It shows there is a need,” he said.

Ximena Londono, a settlement worker at B.C. Francophone Immigration Program, said Idris is helping with social-media outreach for the organization’s welcome-day celebration for immigrants and refugees on Feb. 24 at Victor Brodeur School.

“It requires a certain knowledge to be able to reach out,” said Londono.

“So the fact that these guys have the expertise makes it easier than giving this to a regular volunteer, who might not have the knowledge of new technology and social media.”

For Idris, the son of refugees, the cause hits close to home.

The 35-year-old moved to Victoria in March 2016, taking a circuitous route to Canada.

Idris’s parents fled Chad in the midst of civil war in the 1980s. They met in Sudan, fell in love and moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which is where Idris was born.

Idris moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he completed his undergrad and masters in information technology at the International Islamic University Malaysia.

Even though he lived there for 11 years, Idris could not obtain permanent residency in Malaysia. His brother, who is also in IT, had already migrated to Canada in 2014 and was living in Victoria, so Idris applied for permanent residency through Canada’s skilled migrant program.

He found out his application had been accepted during a particularly frustrating 48-hour visa purgatory in Singapore airport, after Malaysian authorities told him his work permit had expired.

“Malaysia was not allowing me to be part of the society,” he said.

Idris, who is charismatic and outgoing, works for a surveying company called Terra Remote Sensing, but wanted to find a way to give back to the community he now calls home.

Idris has long been trying to make IT education more accessible, in part through an Arabic-language YouTube channel that is popular in the Middle East.

Idris talks about how to apply for scholarships to information-technology programs and how start-ups can embrace communication apps such as Slack.

Eventually, Idris would like to set up a scholarship fund to help students from developing countries enroll in IT programs.

For now, he’s focusing on growing the foundation and helping charities in Greater Victoria reach a larger audience.

“For those non-profits to survive, they need community support,” Idris said.

“In order to do that, we need IT.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

Anyone who wants to contact Idris about volunteering or using his services can reach him at tech4change.org.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Community Calendar



Most Popular