Helping Hands: This Monkey Business Serves A Purpose

monkeylogoHelping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled is the only non-profit organization in the world that raises and trains capuchin monkeys to provide daily, in-home assistance to people living with spinal cord injury or other mobility impairments.

Monkey helpers can fetch your phone or other things that may be just out of reach.
Monkey helpers can fetch your phone or other things that may be just out of reach.

Based in Boston, this special assistance animal organization is like no other!  Helping Hands was established in 1979, and for more than 40 years, they have been building lasting relationships between monkey helpers and recipients. Their service monkeys provide gifts of independence, companionship, dignity, and hope to the people they help.

The most obvious difference between capuchin monkeys and other service animals is their dexterous hands and amazing fine motor skills.  To give you an example of the services that a Helping Hands monkey can perform, one of the most important tasks the monkeys learn is how to fetch. A Helping Hands Monkey can easily retrieve a dropped phone from the floor, making sure that someone is always able to contact a friend or family member.

Here is a photo of one of the monkeys learning how to get a water bottle out of the fridge. Believe it or not, they also know how to put the drink in a holder, open the cap, and insert a straw!


Why Capuchin Monkeys?monkeycoverpic
Due to their high level of intelligence and fine motor skills, capuchin monkeys can perform tasks such as:

  • turning pages
  • scratching itches
  • retrieving dropped objects
  • inserting straws into bottles
  • turning on buttons/switches for remotes, phones, computers, etc.
  • repositioning limbs on a wheelchair

Other differences include:

  • their long life span of 30-40 years
  • small size which allows them to cuddle in their human partner’s lap or nook of their neck
  • monkeys have hair, like humans, which helps to alleviates problems with fur-related allergies

Learn more about their abilities in this video from Helping Hands Monkey Helpers.

Monkeys also have a strong sense of hierarchy which provides the motivation to care for and be cared for by their human partner. Helping Hands trainers and placement staff utilize this natural hierarchy to create a  mutually beneficial and nurturing relationship between the monkey and the recipient.


Is A Monkey Helper Right For You?
Applying for a monkey helper involves more than just filling out some paperwork. From the very beginning, it is a mutual commitment between applicants and Helping Hands to get to know and understand each other very well. To explore together the possibilities—and the challenges—of living with a monkey helper. The application process is deliberately designed to give both sides adequate time for this exploration.

For most applicants, this takes three-to six-months. Applicants who complete the entire process may be matched with a carefully selected monkey helper. For others, the process will reveal that a monkey helper is not the right fit.

Helping Hands staff members guide applicants through this process step-by-step.


Want A Monkey Of Your Own?
Thanks to the generosity of donors, Helping Hands places these amazing service animals at no cost to individuals living with mobility impairments.

The staff at Helping Hands supports each service monkey and his or her human partner during their many years together through interactive mentoring and close supervision of the monkey’s behavioral, nutritional, and veterinary needs.

Visit their website,, to learn more or to start the application process. Or, call (617)787-4419/email for more information.

More Fundraising Help from Wheel:Life

10 fundraising ideas to help people with disabilitiesIn this book, you’ll review 10 brainstorming ideas for different types of fundraiser events to benefit an individual with a disability who needs assistance for medical equipment, physical rehabilitation, adaptive sports equipment or daily medical needs.

Throughout the book, author Lisa Wells shares real-life examples and success stories from her interactions with disability advocates, non-profit supporters and Wheel:Life members throughout a healthcare marketing career that spans more than 20 years on three continents.

10 Fundraising Ideas to Help People with Disabilities features interviews from:
• Paralympian Bert Burns on how he raised support to begin his career in wheelchair racing
• Project Walk Atlanta participant Leslie Ostrander on how she raised money for additional rehab
• The founders of 100 Songs for Kids on their annual music event to benefit children’s medical charities
• Rolling Inspiration creator Chris Salas on how he lined up sponsors for his SCI peer support group
and power soccer team
• The creators of Hunter’s Torch Daylily Garden, a fundraising resource for a child with special needs.
• The Independence Fund – a little known source of financial support for disabled US veterans.





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