Meet Janelle Hinds — the founder of Helping Hands, an organization that pairs science and social change
Girls Who Code’s Canadian Women in Tech Spotlights
To many, engineering and social change might sound completely unrelated, but Janelle Hinds, founder of Helping Hands, learned long ago that the two work in tandem.
While studying for a degree in Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, Hinds launched her first initiative focused on inspiring social change among groups of students pursuing technical educations and careers; DeltaHacks.
The university hackathon was North America’s first student-run event of its kind; one dedicated to creating technologies for positive changes that align with its participants’ passions, be that environmental sustainability, access to health, or addressing barriers to inequality and education, among others.
But Hinds’ primary venture began in 2015, when Helping Hands was born. The app connects volunteers actively looking for opportunities to give back with organizations in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) that could use the extra hands.
“In Ontario [where Helping Hands is based] students need to volunteer in their community in order to graduate, but we noticed that many were struggling to find meaningful, relevant opportunities. Students who were new to the country struggled even more to find volunteer placements, and most didn’t have resources to help them. I asked myself how I could use technology to help them, and that was the beginning of Helping Hands.”
Working primarily with high school students, Helping Hands helps students to source volunteer opportunities where they will gain experience in STEM fields while giving back to the community and accruing the volunteer hours necessary to graduate.
Along with volunteer matching, Helping Hands hosts workshops for disadvantaged youth in an effort to give every student the chance to reach their full potential.
“We want to show students that technology and social good go hand in hand. We interact directly with the students who use Helping Hands because we want them to know that their success is our top priority. To date, we’ve brought our technology to 50 schools where we try to get the students talking about why volunteering is important to them.”
Helping Hands’ mission of pairing technology and social change is one that very much aligns with our mission at Girls Who Code. We know that tech, and computer science in particular, can be used to shape the future; we can use tech to craft the world that in which we long to live. To date, girls participating in our programs have used their computer science skills to create apps that address climate change, the refugee crisis and bullying, among others.
At Girls Who Code we believe that you cannot be what you cannot see. This is why we’ve created Women in Tech Spotlights featuring Canadian women in tech for our Clubs in Canada. These Spotlights are available to our Clubs Facilitators across Canada as teaching aids for the girls in their classrooms.