Bright Futures is Howden’s community volunteering programme, aligned with Howden’s social commitments to champion diversity, fairness and equality of opportunity.
The goal of Bright Futures initiatives, which are supported by Howden employees around the world, is to build a positive and enduring legacy in the communities where we live and work.
Read about how the team at Fairfield Ohio are making a difference for local children with additional needs.
This was one of my most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my time with Howden. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to do this along with members of our sales team because I know they also got a lot out of it.
Tell us a bit about your project
The Bright Futures team at Fairfield Ohio had been looking for opportunities to make a difference for underrepresented groups in their local community, when they discovered May We Help, a local non-profit organisation supporting children with additional needs.
After meeting with some of the team from May We Help, the Fairfield Bright Futures volunteers decided to use their engineering skills to build sensory chairs for children with autism and PTSD. The sensory chairs are customised with a screen which creates a cocoon like space, helping children who experience extreme anxiety to feel more relaxed and comfortable.
The volunteers also rewired a range of toys in order to make them accessible for children who have physical disabilities. Adam and his manufacturing colleagues recognised that by adding accessibility controls to the toys, it was possible for the children to play using such their feet, nose or head – ultimately creating a more inclusive play environment for all of the children with disabilities, supported by May We Help.
Adam and the other Bright Futures volunteers from the American Fan Howden team at Fairfield built 22 of sensory chairs and rewired 50 accessible toys. We asked Adam about the project:
Where did this idea originate from and what inspired you to get involved?
The inspiration to work with May we help initially came from Eric Boltz – Application Engineering Manager at Howden American Fan, Fairfield. Eric is also paraplegic.
In additional to Eric’s job with Howden, he runs a successful farm which he has designed to ensure it is fully accessible for people who use a wheelchair.
Eric has been involved with May We Help for a number of years, and he regularly hosts courses on his farm all to help other people who have a disability develop independent living skills. He truly is an inspiration, always encouraging and supporting people in overcoming the barriers and challenges they face in everyday life.
On a personal level, my father was also a major inspiration. He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, roughly ten years ago. This is a degenerative disease which causes him to lose a little more of his mobility every year and progressively disables him. He has been going to therapy and uses an ‘UP Walker’ which is a type of walker that supports his upper and lower body for the past ten years.
Understanding a little of the challenges my father faces on a daily basis, I appreciate the difference it can make for people living with a disability, when they have the right support and equipment.
For people like me and Eric, this was a chance to give something back. Together we realised that working in partnership with May We Help was an opportunity perfectly aligned with the goals of Bright Futures, and that getting the team involved would give us the opportunity to reach more people in the local community.
What impact has this project had?
From an employee perspective, I know many of the team were impacted on an emotional level. Working on this project provided them with a much better understanding of the challenges people with a disability deal with on a daily basis – and there was real empathy for the parents and carers of the children.
For the children, having the opportunity to play independently with toys that have been customised for their needs just makes them happy, and to see that, makes it all worth it for us as volunteers.
Each and every one of the volunteers who got involved with this Bright Futures project has gained something from it on a personal level. Many increased their understanding and awareness of the needs of people living with disabilities, and others felt fulfilled by doing something that would benefit people in need in their local community. Ultimately they all felt good about being part of something much bigger than themselves.
Why was the project a success?
We had such a passionate and motivated team of volunteers working on this project, I believe it was always going to be a successful. This is a group of people, who really care about making a difference through bright futures and also have the mechanical engineering skills to work efficiently on a project like this – so it was a great fit.
Initially we estimated we would need five hours to finish building the sensory chairs. However, we actually built 22 chairs in two and half hours earlier, which really goes to show the skill, motivation and passion of our volunteers.
What would you like to achieve as part of the next Bright Futures initiative in your region?
We would love to see more employees volunteering with Bright Futures in Howden Americas, because our team go so much out of the experience and we know others would too.
On a personal level, I plan on working with my local church in collaboration with May We Help to provide over 200 more adaptable toys for their Christmas Toy Drive. I’m already looking at how Bright Futures can support this initiative and can’t wait to get started.