Dressed in a black t-shirt with “Live Loudly” written on it, Justin Bachman asked a table of children at the Central Village Boys & Girls Club Of Syracuse New York, “When you woke up this morning, did you think you were going to make a hand for a kid in another country?”
This past Saturday, Bachman, a broadcast and digital journalism sophomore, led Syracuse University students and children from local Syracuse neighborhoods in assembling 3-D printed prosthetic hands. Bachman received kits with the parts from Hands of Gratitude, a teambuilding program designed to donate prosthetic hands to children in other countries.
During the four-hour event, SU students paired with small groups of children. They followed a guide, conjoining the small pieces of each finger together. Using string and elastics, the fingers of the hand moved like a regular hand. The hands were also padded for comfort.
Previous to his involvement with Hands of Gratitude, Bachman ran a non-profit for six years named Different Like You. He said he has been different for his entire life because of his Tourette’s syndrome. He educated people about disabilities and how being different is OK through public speaking.
“Often times, we see these things that make us who we are and that make us different than other people as things that make us worse. I think that’s wrong,” Bachman said. “The things that make us unique are the things that make us amazing, and I wanted to embrace that.”
Bachman wanted to help children born with birth defects or people whose hands were amputated as a result of a landmine. So, he began assembling the kits of prosthetic hands.
In high school, Bachman teamed up with a local Boys & Girls Club, a business and the board members of Different Like You to build hands that were were sent to Haiti. He figured he had an audience at the Boys & Girls Club so he brought it to the Syracuse Central Village branch. Because he is the resident assistant for SU's Leaders Emerging And Developing Learning Community, he had access to students who are “hungry” to make a difference, he said.
“I thought what a great pairing to get kids from the neighborhoods around here together who we live walking distance a way from, but we never see each other. This is a way to bridge that gap,” Bachman said.
Aside from bridging this gap, the event gave the children a reason to leave the house. According to Dhawaf Ahmed, a 14-year-old volunteer, some of the kids don’t have much at home, but the Boys & Girls Club provides them with a safe place to play video games, get help with homework and, in this case, do something to help people. The kids continuously asked if they were going to be building prosthetic hands with Bachman every Saturday.
The project taught the kids about disabilities and about how being different is OK, Bachman’s premise for his non-profit.
“Making the hands for the kids, I like that because you shouldn’t make fun of handicap people or people that are hurt, and we are trying to help them,” Said Said, an 11-year-old Boys & Girls Club member, said.
The kids also learned about the advantages of prosthetics. When they completed the hands, the kids strapped the 3-D printed hand onto their own and tried scratching their faces with it and grabbing objects.
“They can’t catch the ball, and they can’t dribble. Imagine what they will be able to do with it,” Ahmed said. “They can play basketball with it, the can play football with it, they can pick up something with two hands now.”
While Bachman has more kits to assemble, he is unsure of what the future holds. For right now, he is happy just making a difference, one hand at a time.
“Having done this for so long, I know how hard it is to make a tangible difference," he said. "Something like this, where you can take four hours out of your day where you can make a difference for someone in a country that a lot of people may not be able to identify on a map, makes you feel like you really have the power to change.”