1 Year And A Heartbreak Later, We Became A Big Deal In Morocco.
Fail, learn, rinse, repeat.
Everyone knows that we successfully delivered the prosthetic arm. Moroccan media, friends, family, and the social media (where just like everyone else, we bragged about it) congratulated us for what we did. But nobody knows that we failed in our first attempt 1 year ago.
For those of you who do not know, in addition to working at my day job as a product specialist, I work at my startup, Dextra with two other amazing co-founders Olivier and Midia. This specific project started 1 year ago when we were approached by Hassan Al-Mansouri — chairman of an NGO in Morocco with a unique ask. He asked if we could develop two prosthetic arms for an 11 year old boy who lived almost 6000 kilometres away from us. The boy who could become the first person in Morocco to wear a 3D printed prosthetic.
The boy’s name is Badr. His hands had not developed completely when he was born, but that never stopped him from playing soccer in his Juventus jersey — he’ll kick your butt in the game. He is a good kid.
Just like a beautifully crafted movie-story, this story contains some hurdles as well; the biggest of which was communication. We could never talk to him because of limited internet access in his neighbourhood. So, Hassan used to contact Badr and then used to get back to us with the answers to our questions. Imagine the communication in the movie The Martian but, with a comparatively quicker but still agonizing reply-frequency (1–2 days).
Not getting into the technical stuff, we received pictures of Bader’s amputation and built upon an open source design to create a prosthetic arm for him. The challenge was to figure out the dimensions of his hand while being 6000 km away from him. Bader and his folks were extremely helpful as they sent us whatever pictures we required in order to create the arm. It soon became clear to us that they were waiting anxiously for the prosthetic arm to arrive.
Crunching the time, doing whatever we could, pulling in some favours from the University of Ottawa Makerspace, and working till late after our day jobs to complete one prosthetic arm (instead of two) just a couple of hours before Hassan’s departure to Morocco last year.
Two weeks later, we heard from Hassan. The hand did not fit Bader. The hand, did not fit Bader.
Trust me, the ramifications were not as simple as the line written above.
Let me try to describe the situation to you. That kid was waiting for the hand which would have helped him in his day-to-day tasks, helped him in holding his darling mother’s hands, holding the soccer ball, holding a glass of water, and holding a spoon to eat his food; but when that thing arrived, it did not fit him. He tried to make alterations in a desperate attempt to somehow make that thing fit, but eventually, all the efforts were unsuccessful.
He woke up daily looking at that thing which (if fitted) would have helped him live more easily. That thought broke my heart.
We did our best to design the arm to fit the amputation we saw in the pictures, but we failed. I was sad. Not because we failed. As a matter of fact, personally, failures are like challenges to me. I was sad for the boy. The thought of not being able to help him did not feel good at all.
That was the sad part. Fast-forward to August 2018. Hassan visited Ottawa to meet his kids and contacted us again, and asked if we could give it another shot. Midia talked to us about it and hell yeah we were down for it!
“Are you going to bring my hand this time?” Bader asked Hassan before he departed Morocco for Ottawa.
This was the moment. We created not one, but two hands this time and delivered them to Hassan before the deadline. This time, I and Olivier used a different approach to make sure that the hands fit Badr. On top that, we ensured comfortable usage of the prosthetic during longer periods.
We shipped the hands and after waiting for one month, I couldn’t resist but ask Midia for updates as she was in contact with Hassan. 6am, Sunday, just before I was about to hit the bed, I saw Midia’s message. She sent us the video in which Bader was wearing both the hands.
He was showing off his new gadgets and seeing that made my Sunday before it even started. He said, “Shukran Midia, merci Olivier, shukriya Malik.”
The kid whom we never met, never talked, was thanking us while flexing his new hands — literally.
I do not want to tell you what we did — that’s why the story was brief. I wanted to share the idea of resilience and constant improvement. If you are passionate about something, then don’t let it go. There must be a reason behind what you love to do and it is completely okay to suck at it at some point. Instead of letting go of it, the key is to learn from your mistakes and improve yourself to do better next time.
This teaches you two things. First, to respect the process and the people who are in the same boat as you. Second, to be humble and help others in achieving their goals.
Just imagine, a world where everyone empowers and helps the other person to do what they are passionate about. Beautiful, innit?
Keep hustling, keep working, make mistakes, improve yourself, utilize the power of diversity, and always stay open to receive suggestions from anyone. You never know, the person living on the other side of the world might have an ingenious solution to the problem which you are trying to solve.
If you’re interested, here is the prosthetic arm in action. Story covered by Télé Maroc:
We have started working on other projects. I’ll keep you updated on them in my future posts. Feel free to comment or tweet @JumaniMalik if you have any thoughts/suggestions.