The following interview excerpt occurred at the Game Changers Summit 2015 in Nashville, TN September 17-19. Rethink Church was privileged to interviewed Firdaus Kharas of Chocolate Moose Media.
Rethink Church: How did the passion of social change well up within you? When did you know, “Okay, this is desperately needed. Let’s keep doing this.”
Firdaus Kharas: I actually blame my inclinations on Mother Teresa. I was born in Calcutta, and when I was 8 years old my mother ran a national NGO in India. She took me to meet Mother Teresa a long time before she was internationally famous. Having met Mother Teresa working with the poorest of the poor dying on cots in a huge room, is still etched in my mind as if it were just yesterday.
D.G. Hollums, Minister of Online Engagement of Rethink Church (left) with Firdaus Kharas of Chocolate Moose Media (right)
I think that, looking back, I understood the importance of working outside of one’s comfort zone for the benefit of others. Ever since then I think I’ve sort of had an inclination that one needs to do what you can. If we can bring somebody out of poverty, then that is our duty. If we have the talent to make change for the better, we must use it.
Rethink Church: You just spoke earlier saying, “The world should be developing a philosophy that believes people matter, and that they should expect some form of care and relief and support...”
Firdaus Kharas: Absolutely. I believe that we are ultimately one human family. It sounds a bit corny to say that, but my work actually rests on that belief. I believe that we can get around the various barriers that exist between human beings. By barriers, I mean walls between culture, religion, geographies, ethnicities, borders, and languages.
Rethink Church: Give us an example of your work. How did you learn that a specific need existed, and how did the video bring social change?
Firdaus Kharas: The first video example is called “The Three Amigos”. It is used to prevent HIV/AIDS and it started about 10 years ago in South Africa. The idea came from the very people who had the need. You could not go to South Africa as a foreigner and not be affected by the over 2 million people who were then infected by HIV/AIDS and many of whom were dying.
The drugs that keep people alive today were not available in South Africa during those days. People were literally dying by tens of thousands. So, we created this concept of thee animated condoms, because animation enables a person to be more accepting of the message. The animation is not real. If we had used real condoms we wouldn’t have gotten them on national television. But because they’re funny and animated it broke down barriers.
The impact of the video was actually massive. It grew out of South Africa and is now in 45 languages, approximately 80% of the world’s population can now find ‘The Three Amigos’ in their own language. It has been used to the best of my knowledge in one way or another in over 150 countries, and over a billion people have viewed this particular video.
Rethink Church: Humor is such a beautiful bridge builder. It can be an important piece of communication concerning difficult topics.
Firdaus Kharas: Humor is used to bring a person to the serious points. I think that many of the behavior change campaigns actually fail because they only see the seriousness of the problem and underestimate the power of humor to connect.
The second example is Ebola prevention. Last year during the Ebola crisis in West Africa, most of the work being done was to treat the people with Ebola. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars as an international community and domestically in the 4 affected countries with doctors and nurses treating people. Very little, if any, attention was given to prevention.
When they did pay attention to prevention, they were creating pamphlets, brochures, and posters. The literacy rate in these countries was less than 20%. They couldn’t read posters and pamphlets. So, I created an animated video, called “Ebola, A Poem For The Living.”
We adapted it into 17 West African languages. We got the prevention video into the smallest villages. In Guinea people started passing it from cell phone to cell phone. My work is short. It’s animated. It’s perfect for mobile phones.
Rethink Church: Right. Anyone could take a cell phone’s sim card containing the video and give it to someone else. This video became viral?
Firdaus Kharas: It did become viral even in Nigeria, and Nigeria didn’t have much Ebola. I think they had one or two cases, but a Nigerian foundation plays the video on Facebook page they created for it. Within days we had 330,000 views. We had over 10,000 likes. We had hundreds of thousands of shares.
I think the Ebola video now has been shared 600,000 times. I think we made an enormous impact. If people have information, they will act in their best interests.
If I need to wash my hands or I need to not touch a dead body with Ebola, then I will act in my best interest and not do it. The problem is that people just simply don’t know quite often, and the developing community in general has not grasped yet the new age that we live in. We are at the beginning of the revolution in terms of information sharing and therefore behavior change.
Rethink Church: So how can anyone joining us be able to see the video?
Firdaus Kharas: They can go to Chocolate Moose Media (chocmoose.com), of course. Or, they can see and download all videos, without any use restrictions on Vimeo, that is Vimeo.com/FirdausKharas.
Rethink Church: Let’s say someone is watching and she has been moved by the conversation. How can she be involved in bringing social change?
Firdaus Kharas: Simply using this material and sharing these videos can change lives; that is literally my only intention. Secondly, We can produce any video into any language for them to use it locally. We would be happy to work with them and there would be no charge. They send the transcription to us. We will lay it down and we’ll send them back the video, professionally mixed in an audio studio.
If someone wants to get involved, my feeling is, just go for it. The best thing you can possibly do in this world, from what I’ve discovered, is to be kind, generous, and caring.
Rethink Church: Thank you so much for this interview and for all the work you are doing to bring about social good around the world.
View Chocolate Moose Media videos on their Vimeo page. You’ll find videos on issues like malaria prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, children’s rights, and many more.