We are sharing here our recent interview with Firdaus Kharas Founder and Chairman of Chocolate Moose.
Pro Media Mag : Our reader would like to know more about you?
Firdaus Kharas : I am a creator of media to better the human condition. Using humour and animation, I have tackled such subjects as Zika, Ebola and Malaria prevention, children’s rights and domestic violence.
My work provides innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest issues by confronting and overcoming the fault lines which separate us: language and culture; religion and ethnicity; tradition and history; stereotype and stigma; racism and prejudice; hatred and fear. I get around the obstacles that separate human beings.
Pro Media Mag : Did you get some particular experience or education before coming into this profession?
Firdaus Kharas : My current work, which I have been doing for the past 21 years, draws on my background in international affairs. I am a former head of the United Nations Association in Canada ad former senior executive in the Government of Canada dealing with refugee and immigration matters.
In addition to honorary doctorates, I have earned nine degrees and certificates from eight educational institutions.
Pro Media Mag : What was the inspiration behind launch of ‘CHOCOLATE MOOSE MEDIA’?
Firdaus Kharas : The aim of Chocolate Moose Media, which is a social enterprise with offices in Canada and Switzerland, is to use media to improve or save as many lives as possible.
My work rests on a deeply-held belief that we can meaningfully communicate with each other despite the many barriers that separate us as human beings. We have forgotten the commonalities that we have as a species and have instead accentuated the differences like culture and religion. Modern communications can greatly assist us to bridge our differences, creating knowledge and understanding of each other.
The company takes advantage of the new point of human history we live in, which has opened up endless opportunities for human advancement: the new age of global, instant, widespread, personal, two-way communications.
Pro Media Mag : Can you please name some of your favorite documentaries, videos etc produced by you?
Firdaus Kharas : That’s a very difficult Pro Media Mag to Firdaus Kharas as each series has contributed in different way, in different countries, on different subjects. Here are three examples:
The most difficult: A series called Hind and Hamza of 46 animated shorts of 3 to 4 minutes each on values like gender equality, racism and children’s rights, that was played in Arabic to over 50 million households.
The most watched: A series called The Three Amigos that prevents the spread of HIV/AIDS. Created during the height of the HIV crises, it now exists in 45 languages and so can reach over 70% of the world, or over 5 billion people, in their own language.
The most recent: A series of three animated shorts of about 4 minutes each that was designed to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus while the crises was happening in West Africa, prevent the next Ebola outbreak from ever happening, and deal with the stigma that young survivors of Ebola face. The series is available in 17 West African languages and has been watched mainly on mobile phones.
Pro Media Mag : Being in social work is a kind of tough job sometimes?
Firdaus Kharas : Seeing and experiencing the worst problems of the world are extremely difficult sometimes. I do a lot of research before writing the scripts and designing the media.
In the over 140 countries I have visited, I have interviewed people who have been tortured, met young teenager girls who have been raped, watched human rights being suppressed, talked to children who have never been to school but are instead working, and walked amongst the extreme poverty of the worst slums where people do not have enough to eat or a roof over their head. I have had to face death threats myself.
Yet, I believe in humanity. I believe there has never been a better time to be alive. I am confident that the world is shrinking with modern communications, human rights are becoming more understood, millions of people are coming out of poverty and modern medicine is tackling some of the gravest health crises of our times.
Pro Media Mag : What kind of feelings do you have when your social work activities successfully sort out some big issue ?
Firdaus Kharas : The great difficulty of my work is that it is sometimes extremely difficult to measure impact immediately. If you think of what has worked in behavior change communications, the best example might be the campaigns to stop smoking. However, that took a long time, over twenty to thirty years, to achieve.
Others have pointed out that my work has influenced millions of lives. I simply do the best I can to get the media to work. It’s a great feeling to think you might have improved just one life.
Pro Media Mag : Your services are acknowledged globally and you have received so many awards. Any particular award, you felt so special in receiving?
Firdaus Kharas : It’s difficult to separate out which awards are more special than others since I appreciate receiving all of them.
However, I really enjoyed received two honorary doctorates from universities I graduated from: Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania, USA. In both cases, I had family and friends present.
I think the Peabody Award, which is one of the most prestigious in our industry, was very important because it is given, they say, “for stories that matter”. I try to make all my productions matter.
Awards are important, not simply to get “rewarded” but because they bring a spotlight to a particular production or to my work in general. That spotlight can help get the production or my work more publicity and credibility, which ultimately brings greater use; that greater use results in more lives being improved.
Pro Media Mag : What proved to be the key to success for you?
Firdaus Kharas : Without a doubt, passion. We all succeed when we deeply believe in what we are trying to achieve. I love what I do.
Pro Media Mag : Any advice for the aspiring individuals who want to start some projects like yours?
Firdaus Kharas : Find your passion. Believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone stop you.
Pro Media Mag : What’s the best way to follow you for updates?
Firdaus Kharas : Go to my Vimeo channel and watch some of my work. There are over 3,500 videos there available for you to watch, download and use, free of charge, in over 150 language versions. We update the channel frequently with more productions.
Vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/firdauskharas
See my website, which is quite extensive.
Main website: www.chocmoose.com
We have a page on Facebook, which we update frequently.
Follow me on Twitter.