Gerard Keledjian – An immigrant inspiration
About four years ago I migrated to Canada from Dubai, UAE, bringing with me over 15 years of experience and the dream of starting an exciting, new chapter in my life. However, like most new immigrants, I struggled to find my footing. In my search for solutions, I made mistakes as I came to terms with the new country I chose to call home.
One of the helpful “solutions” I came across was CAMP Networking, a Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) member for communications, advertising and marketing professionals. Though not directly related to my media background, CAMP was the closest to my profession that I could find within the immigrant-serving community in Toronto. I was told that the media sector is a difficult one to get into.
My involvement with CAMP and the bigger PINs family inspired me to set up – with the encouragement of Mennonite New Life Centre, a Toronto-based settlement agency – a new professional immigrant network for internationally-trained journalists and media professionals like me. Through the New Canadian Media Professionals Network (NCMP) I wanted to share my modest experiences and learnings with other immigrant media professionals facing similar challenges as me. I believed, and still do, that by working together we could overcome some of these challenges, achieve results and help connect Canada’s mainstream media to its diverse, multicultural communities.
As a network we are still in our early stages of getting organized, we have a lot to do; our vision is to be the starting point, the hub that connects any recent immigrant with a media background to Canada’s media sector and the immigrant-serving community. Over the last year and a half, we had some small successes: we organized a speaker series, connecting our members with established Canadian media professionals; building relationships with Canadian media organizations, such as Shaw Media, the Professional Writers Association of Canada and others. We were also able to work with a few settlement agencies to reach out to newcomer journalists.
I believed that by working together we could overcome some of these challenges, achieve results and help connect Canada’s mainstream media to its diverse, multicultural communities.
As the creation of meaningful work opportunities for members was part of NCMP’s mission, it was my responsibility as a Chair to work towards this goal. With the help of TRIEC, I was able to start conversations with a few media companies like the CBC and Global TV (Shaw Media). But things were moving slowly and there was the pressing challenge of giving something tangible to members in order to keep them interested and engaged.
While all this was happening, I had volunteered at Rogers TV community channel in Toronto to produce a weekly magazine for newcomers to Canada, called Introducing Toronto. The program put me in touch with many non-profits, specifically immigrant-serving agencies, who started approaching me for help with their video and content needs.
I realized the opportunity immediately. On one side there were non-profits who realized the importance of professional video for their websites and social media channels, but needed cost-effective solutions that addressed their budget challenges. On the other side, there was a pool of skilled media-professionals, camera people, video editors and writers who could resolve the problem.
That’s when I pursued a partial self-employment option for myself and founded New Horizons Media, a for-profit business with a social mission. Over the past year and a half, I was able to gradually engage NCMP members in the business. So far, about six members have worked on 21 projects, produced over 50 different video clips and eight articles. We worked with and earned the trust of organizations like OCASI, ICTC, TRIEC and PINs. One of the PINs projects we worked on was producing informational videos about four member networks: AFCA, AREC, M-Bridge and LPMN.
Through this collaboration we realized another area where we could put our skills into good use. We can help our sister professional immigrant networks to harness the power of video and get their message out. A good example of this is LPMN, the Latin Project Management Network, with whom we’re working regularly to cover their events and promote their workshops. Another example is M-Bridge whom we’re helping to promote their Immigrant Talk initiative using video.
* This is an edited version of the success story that Gerard told during the PINs Quarterly Meeting on August 20, 2014.