“Ah sori mama, sampa metcha gif pein,” is “I’m sorry mama for causing you this much pain” in Krio, the national language of Sierra Leone. It’s a pretty potent sentiment for a young boy dying from the Ebola virus in West Africa, and it is part of the Web’s most extensive collection of animated public-service-announcements (PSA) and short videos by Chocolate Moose Media (CMM) now concentrated on Vimeo in one online channel.
The video of the young boy is called Ebola: A Poem For The Living that company founder Firdaus Kharas created with Brent Quinn to help prevent the spread of the disease during height of the 2014/2015 epidemic in West Africa. It was eventually versioned into 17 languages that could be understood in the most remote West African villages. It has been viewed over a million times online and has won multiple awards.
The emotional story is the first of a series of three Ebola-prevention videos: the others are the just-completed In Praise of Prevention with vocal soundtrack by Grammy-Award winning singer/songwriter Angelique Kidjo; and a third in rap style that is currently in production. All CCM soundtracks are composed and mixed by Andrew Huggett, of GAPC, in Ottawa.
It’s also just one of thousands of animated PSAs that Kharas has created, produced and distributed free of charge and without restriction on tape, DVD and online.
For the past 20 years he has understood the importance of delivering health-and-social-justice-oriented PSAs in local languages where they are most needed. Numbers for the online repertoire are staggering: 3,243 videos in 140 collections and in 90 languages. The videos are available for download in high definition, standard definition and mobile-phone formats.
What the numbers don’t tell is how many thousands of lives these videos have saved by being understood by hundreds of millions around the world when vital information too often hits a language barrier.
Most of Kharas’s work uses humour. If you want to know how to say “You can’t score without a condom” in Bahasa Indonesian, that version of The Three Amigos is here. Or to shake your head over a ridiculous concept of rape in Mexican Spanish, click here.
Subjects range from malaria and solar energy to human rights and have been watched tens of millions of times during the past two decades. The Three Amigos even had a handful of views in North Korea and the Ebola video has been embedded in about 600,000 Web pages.
Kharas says: “All my work has been about saving or improving lives. I’m glad that’s its all in one place so everyone can download them for free.” As the videos were produced, they were always made available online, but in widely diasporic places. The immense job of putting them all together in one place fell to MacKenzie Fazenbaker, a summer intern with United Methodist Communications, who is now back studying Entrepreneurship and Latin American Studies at Samford University.
“For example, on a single campaign there could be 40 languages with 10 videos in each language, and I would have to download those 400 videos, and translate the video description into each of those languages using an online translator,” Fazenbaker says.
“The work Firdaus has done is absolutely amazing. I do believe they can change society. I’m thankful to have been able to work on making these videos even more accessible, so that this can be achieved even more.”
Kharas’ output has never slowed, and as more of his work is completed, it will be added to the Vimeo channel.