Lewis Hine has spent his life in and out of the hospital. Being away from school so often means it is hard for him to maintain friendships and keep up academically. At the age of 15, he created a charity to help others like him.
Friend Finder, founded in 2016, aims to help children make friends, specifically those with long-term illness, by bringing them together at events, like proms and discos.
At the end of the night, the young people go home with a smile on their face and with many new friends. However, Lewis remained discontent. He wished that these children could feel connected to their peers in their own schools and towns too. That’s when he came across AV1.
AV1 is a telepresence robot that connects kids to their schools and friends when they find themselves back at the hospital or on bed rest. He saw that AV1 could help them to maintain these local friendships.
Lewis was also saddened that not all Friend Finder kids could attend his events because their illness prevented it. So he launched a new initiative called Prom in a Box. The charity sends a package to those who cannot attend FF events so that they can have a mini prom experience from home or hospital. Amongst the cake and decorations, there is a secret code in their package, which connects their smartphone to an AV1 robot on the dancefloor. Interacting with others in the same situation helps to reduce their sense of isolation, and gives them the night of their life!
Lewis recently published a book – Looking at the Stars – which tells his fantastic story so far, and in which he pledges to fund 100 AV1s to help more children like him.
Help Lewis fulfil his pledge by donating here.
Despite living with drug-resistant epilepsy, and undergoing multiple surgeries, Lewis has found the time for college, amongst his busy work running Friend Finder. Lewis uses an AV1 himself to keep up with college work on the days he cannot make it in due to a night of exhausting seizures. The robot sits on his desk and he follows classes from home. Friend Finder and No Isolation believe that school is not just about education; it is also social learning and the importance of friendship for wellbeing and development.
Friend Finder has found a perfect partner in No Isolation. Both aim to eradicate loneliness through innovative initiatives; helping children with long-term illness find joy in their lives through interaction and to remind them of how important social connections can be.
AV1 is a technological solution to the same problem Friend Finder addresses, and therefore the possibilities and positives of partnering up are infinite.