I'm excited to announce that I've joined the board of Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled, a non-profit organization dedicated to training and placing Capuchin monkeys as in-home service animals to provide daily assistance to people living with spinal cord injury or other mobility impairments.
The Helping Hands monkeys facilitate a range of tasks, like getting a drink of water, picking up a dropped or out-of-reach object, turning the pages of a book, or assisting with a telephone or computer. It is amazing to see how the monkeys assist their human companions. What's more, the emotional bond between monkey and human is equally strong for both parties.
Early in the organization's history, they determined that Capuchin monkeys are especially well suited to be monkey helpers, since they are small in size (6 - 10 pounds) and need only positive reinforcement to help them learn tasks. Training is accomplished by rewarding the monkeys for doing activities that already come naturally to them. Helping Hands runs a Monkey College in Boston which trains the monkeys on how to become part of a human companion's life.
Monkey helpers are placed free of cost to the recipient; all costs are underwritten by donations from individuals, foundation grants, and corporate partnerships (93 cents of every dollar directly supports their program and services). On average, it costs $38K to train, place and support each monkey helper paired with its recipient. Monkeys get lifetime medical care overseen and paid for by Helping Hands, including all necessary care for chronic illnesses and geriatric care, by a specially selected network of veterinary and human doctors.
As a service to the larger community, Helping Hands also conducts public education programs that teach young people how to avoid risky behaviors that can lead to spinal cord injury, and how community service can be a powerful way to help others.
There are numerous ways to support this wonderful organization, including volunteering, donation, fundraising, providing a foster home, or simply sporting a Helping Hands tee or joining us on Facebook.