Vermont Woods Studios Handmade Furniture

Monkeys Offer Helping Hands

July 10th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh

Capuchin Monkeys Helping Special Needs People

David Yellen, journalist for USA WEEKEND tells the story of Ned Sullivan who is paralyzed with a brain injury.  Kasey, a capuchin monkey trained by Helping Hands in Boston,  helps with everyday tasks like turning lights on and off and turning the pages of a book.

Usually I write about fine furniture or Vermont artisans or our environmental mission at Vermont Woods Studios.  But I just read an article about capuchin monkeys in USA Today and had to pass it on.  These clever little guys are being raised by the non-profit, Helping Hands, to be companions and assist people with special needs.  The primates go to Monkey College and learn such tasks as putting on glasses, operating TVs and DVD players, turning lights on and off and getting a glass of water.

I remember meeting a tribe of capuchins on a trip to Costa Rica when the boys were little.  We were hiking in Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.  It was a lucky day– we saw howler monkeys and spider monkeys hanging out in the rainforest canopy.  But no chapuchins until we finished our hike and stopped at a seaside hacienda to meet with a local naturalist.  The capuchins had invaded the guide’s open air kitchen and were stealing nuts and bananas.  It was obvious– this was not the first offense.  After watching them at work in a kitchen (opening cabinets and drawers and using pics to crack nuts) I can see where capuchins would be skilled at tending to small motor skills for people who don’t have that ability.

I’m sure having a monkey in your house isn’t for every family with special needs but if you’re interested and want to learn more, visit Helping Hands.  On their website you can find out who they serve (emphasis is on veterans and people with spinal cord injuries), apply for a monkey and donate to a great cause.

These capuchin monkeys at Helping Hands are raised in captivity but if you’re interested in conservation of the species, check out the work our friend Kevin Peterson is doing at the Eco Preservation Society in Costa Rica and Central America.  He is always looking for donors and student volunteers to help conserve the rainforest and it’s inhabitants.

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