Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the best conference I’ve been to in years. This was largely due to the passion, organisational skills and effort of an incredibly talented HR Professional that I have now worked with for a number of years. I was particularly moved by one activity that she arranged called “HELPING HANDS”. Put simply, this team building exercise is unlike anything I had ever seen before and if any of you are currently planning a conference, offsite or team-building activity, you would be crazy not to at least investigate this activity further!
Here’s how it works. The program is called Helping Hands because it is an activity that challenges participants to assemble artificial hands for later donation overseas. What you build with your hands, literally finds its way to an amputee land-mine victim that would not otherwise be able to afford a prosthesis. The plastic hands are composed of moving and non-moving high-grip digits controlled by a spring-loaded mechanism. They are strapped on, not surgically attached, and can be easily mastered so that recipients are quickly undertaking the tasks of daily living such as sipping a beverage, tying a shoelace, holding a pen or computer mouse like you are now!
Participants in the Helping Hands activity learn teamwork by confronting, discussing and puzzling over their challenging and/or engaging activity. As participants realise what they are building, a great sense of purpose and responsibility emerges. They also grow understand what they do professionally and personally can resonate with their customers, their communities and beyond.
The origins of Helping Hands lie with Ernie Meadows, an industrial engineer and his wife Marj, a Californian couple whos daughter died in a car accident. In her memory they created the Ellen Meadows Prosthetic Hand Foundation and Ernie Meadows designed the prosthetic hand for the foundation (http://In-4.org).
In partnership with a US-based company called Odyssey Teams, we have recently secured a distributorship of the Helping Hands activity. So, if you would like to run this activity, just let us know. When you buy the activity, it comes all packaged up and ready to go for you to self-facilitate. However, most of our clients also choose to engage us to help bring this amazing experience to life. If you’re interested in exploring this activity further then just let us know by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas Time is a period of giving and reflecting on those things we are thankful for. So if you are still planning activities for your Christmas events why not consider this activity? Another idea would be to use the Helping Hands to help invigorate your staff upon return AFTER Christmas. Why not kick off 2012 by giving staff the renewed sense of purpose they will obtain from this activity!
For more information about the Helping Hands activity please check out the video below:
HC is the exclusive distributor of the Helping Hands (also known as “Build A Hand”) activity within Australia and New Zealand and this article has been written to provide information to clients that might be interested in exploring the activity for their next conference, team meeting or staff retreat. It’s a corporate team building activity unlike any other and is guaranteed to change the way that employees see their work and give them a renewed sense of energy and purpose.
For those of you who have not heard about this particular activity before, then we would strongly advise you to check out the below video. This is definitely one of the cases where a picture says a thousand words!
I’m normally pretty cynical about Team Building / Conference activities. However, the first time I experienced the Helping Hands activity, it literally blew me away. Basically, attendees at this activity get the chance to build artificial hands for later donation overseas. The artificial hands that teams build literally find their way to an amputee land-mine victim that would not otherwise be able to afford a prosthesis.
HERE’S HOW THE PROCESS WORKS…
Professional facilitation, as always, is key to ensuring that you get the most out of the activity. HC has a team of facilitators that have all received specialist training in running this particular program. However, unlike with other team building companies, we think that this activity is just too cool to keep to ourselves. So if you can’t afford for us to facilitate for you, then we provide ALL the information and training that you will need to be able to facilitate the activity yourself!
Activity Kick Off
At the start of the activity, participants are provided with a bag of parts. They typically feel a little overwhelmed and are usually less than motivated to participate as memories of pointless and annoying team building activites from their past flood back to them.
THEN, we show a video which normally hits participants for six! All of a sudden, they realise that the activity they are engaged in today has a purpose. They realise that if they work well together, they will literally be changing someone’s life on the other side of the world….. Needless to say, at this point normally energy levels immediately go through the roof!
In groups of 3, the teams then go about building the hands. There are detailed instructions provided, so all groups are set up for success. As an added challenge, normally participants bind one of their hands during the build process to further remind them of why they are doing the activity. Often individual participants will take on unique roles within the team and, as with any team, there will be interesting team dynamics that emerge to debrief at the end of the activity.
Decoration of the packaging
Each hand is put into a container which has been uniquely decorated by participants. This is a critical component of the activity. Some people will feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of building a hand and will prefer to use their artistic skills during the exercise. BUT it’s way more than just an outlet for those of us that are more artistic than others… finish reading til the end of this article to find out why!
The help desk
During the activity a help desk is setup, where participants can go to ask technical questions if they are having trouble putting together the hand. The person behind the help desk needs to be fully trained in building the hands before the activity commences.
Completion and photographs
Once groups complete the task, they bring their decorated container up to the front of the room and have a photo taken with it as a team. This photo is then put with the hand so that the recipients can see a picture of the people that made their hand for them.
It is critical to ensure that there is a detailed discussion at the end of the activity. This activity can be a particularly emotional and exciting experience for many people and we find that you just need to provide people with the space to share this with their fellow team-mates. A thorough debrief is also important as it ensures that participants are reminded of the unique challengest that their organisation faces. As with most team building activities, the range of behaviours or mindsets that can be debriefed at the conclusion of this activity is diverse and depends on what your organisation’s intentions are. This is where expert facilitation can really make the difference!
Once the debrief is completed, a “post build” video is played. This video really drums home how much of a big difference the hands that have just been made will make to their recipients. It also is a fantastic way to complete the activity as it ensures that all participants are left energised and with a renewed sense of purpose..
A momento to remember the activity by
At the conclusion of the activity, each participant is left with a small metal key-chain style clip that they can keep. It’s just a little thing. But it’s important as it ensures that once the participants go back to their day-jobs, they still have a little reminder of the overwhelming sense of purpose that they experienced during the activity.
Once the activity is completed, all hands are shipped back to the company that designed them to ensure that they are built properly. This company does a range of quality checks and then ships them to where they are needed most.
Feedback from recipients
Wherever possible, pictures of the actual recipients, holding the hands they have been given (along with their uniquely decorated packaging) find their way back to HC and we then send these pictures through to the companies that made the hands. This part of the process is not something that can be guaranteed all of the time. Some of the locations in which the hands are distributed are not technologically advanced. We also rely on a range of separate charity organisations to distribute these and when push comes to shove… if we had a choice, we’d always prefer that they ensure the hands are distributed and fitted correctly than taking pictures for our own gratification.
For those of you wondering about the kind of difference that this activity makes, why not check out the following video:
SOME OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
There are a range of spare parts and tools that are distributed as part of this activity. These spare parts are returned, along with the hands and are recycled for the next group that builds the hands. This ensures that nothing goes to waste and that the impact of our resources and efforts is maximised within our global community.
Helping Hands works best when there are 3 people in each group. Having smaller numbers ensures that each person has to take an active role in building the hand. Organisations can choose to have larger teams involved in the activity, but we find that this is less than ideal.
Duration and integration of the activity into your agenda
The activity takes between 1.5 to 3 hours to complete and is the perfect conclusion to a 1 day off-site or workshop. Participants are left feeling energised, inspired and filled with a sense of purpose. Our advice would be to NOT try and stretch this activity out to take any longer than this. Keep it as a high impact component of your broader agenda and make sure that you spend the rest of the time getting through other content as you wish.
When you purchase this activity, there is a lot more that goes with it then just the hand. There are videos, spare parts, tools and materials to help bind participant hands. For this reason, the hands are normally distributed in standardised kit sizes of ten. If your organisation only has need for a smaller number of hands than we can also help meet your needs. However, we do have a number of additional requests in such instances so as to make this work.
When you choose to self-facilitate the Helping Hands activity, we set you up for success from the start of the activity. You are not just sent a box full of miscellaneous parts, everything has been meticulously packed to ensure that the process is clear, even to a first-time facilitator.
The kits are designed to be easily scalable for large groups and the activity works just as well for a group of 600 participants as it does for a group of 6. As a facilitator, all you need to think about is how many Help Desk Operators you need to pre-train for larger groups.
Each carefully packaged self-facilitation kit includes the following:
The parts to build 10 separate hands. Appropriate for use with between 10 and 30 participants
Step-by-step facilitation and assembly instructions, program videos and powerpoint presentations to help build these state-of-the-art hands
Tools for help desk officers to use during the exercise
All the materials required to bind a participants hand, if this is the facilitation technique that you choose to use
This short video shows a sample of people from across the world who have recieved a prosothetic hand as a result of the Helping Hands program during the first 9 months of 2012.
The recipients are people who would otherwise have not been able to afford a prosthetic limb. However, thanks to the LN-4 Hands and the teams that have built the hands, these recipients have been the given the gift of a prosthetic hand absolutely free of charge. The hands that we build might seem basic to us, but the gift of just being able to grip something with their new prosthetic hand is something that will literally change each recipients life for the better.
So far Australians have changed 182 lives as part of this program, and aim to change 1000 by the end of 2013.