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Hani AL Moulia on why technology, education and youth well-being are integral to the future of Canada

Hani AL Moulia is seen in this photo.

JAMIE NAPIER AND CAITLIN MCMANUS/Globe and Mail Update

In celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary, WE asked remarkable Canadians the question: What are you doing to make our country a more caring and compassionate place

When Hani AL Moulia sits down to get his picture taken, it's clear he is comfortable around a camera. Despite his natural aptitude for modeling, his expertise derives not from his experience as a subject, but as the artist.

In 2015, Hani moved the nation with his unique perspective: a collection of photos from inside a Syrian refugee camp, captured by a seeing-impaired teen. An arresting reflection on his everyday reality, the photos represent a 17-year-old boy's transition from Homs, Syria to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. In a rare move by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the organization invited Hani to exhibit his photos at their annual gala, while still an amateur photographer.

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Now, 23-years-old, he has accumulated a diversity of achievements since moving from Regina, Saskatchewan–where he and his family settled after arriving in Canada–to accept a scholarship from Ryerson University, where he currently studies computer engineering. Among the most recent is Hani's nomination to the Prime Minister's Youth Council.

"We are the youth. We are the present. We want to build the Canada that we want to see," he declares. To achieve this, Hani stresses the importance of teaching and learning. "The most important thing is education."

Asked about his impressive list of accomplishments, the young man is quick to accredit his success to others, who have helped him along the way. In fact, he notes, "I can't work alone." Whether it is with the support of his family, school or community, Hani's work is always strengthened by the collective forces he assembles. "I work stronger and better if I'm not by myself," he asserts.

With the many commitments that come with change-making on a national level, Hani's calendar fills up fast. Particularly when combined with the university student's classes. (FYI: He plans to use insights from his studies to help develop better access to technologies for people with disabilities.) For this reason, self-care tops his to-do list. A slow and steady focused approach is his secret to sustaining energy and getting results. "When we reduce rushing and stress, we can think more–we can do more."

By dedicating his efforts to a single goal at a time, Hani sees projects through from beginning to end–no matter what the obstacles. "Sometimes we want [to do] more than what we can," Hani says. "For me, I always see the result as what I'm trying to protect. I step back and look at it. Even if I have to redo things, my goal is still there. I know it's going to take me longer, but that's okay."

Read on to learn why Hani is pledging to foster a more inclusive and peaceful Canada on the road to building the country's bright future.

Q&A

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Why do you think "we" is stronger than "me"?

When we talk about "we," we're talking about the community. Working together means more space, more passion, more thought, more ideas–it's the radiance of work.

What is the kindest action that you've been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?

Being heard. I really liked the life that I was used to [in Syria], but we didn't have a lot of space to talk and share–democracy wasn't there. When I came to Canada, one of the biggest things I noticed is that people listen to me–I matter, they matter. They know that together, we're stronger.

Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.

Technology to make people's lives better, not just easier.

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Technology that can actually bring people together, like virtual reality systems–a platform to teach people about Canada. Technology is going to be the window the rest of the world will see Canada through.

Nominate one person you believe is working to positively change the future of Canada.

Sara Abdessamie. Now a chair on the Prime Minister's Youth Council, she's doing very, very hard work. I think people like Sara give a lot to Canada. I'm so inspired by her; she's amazing.

Describe the core values of your ideal Canada.

Craig Kielburger. He's trying to engage everybody–even from a young age, like the age that he was [when he began Free the Children]. I can't imagine the passion that he has. I think he's doing well for Canada and for the world.

What small action have you taken in present day to secure a brighter future for our country tomorrow?

The most important part of being on the Prime Minister's Youth Council for me is ensuring the well-being of youth. With all of this stress that we carry, it's really important to know how to design our lives in a way we can relax. People are rushing, students are worrying… all these things are happening around us. I want to make sure youth are in the right place in their life–that they're using their energy productively and realize that they need support sometimes. Well-being is really important.

This story is part of Living WE, a toolkit of ideas and inspiration for Canadians. It was created by WE, a movement that brings people together to create positive social change both locally and globally.

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