How a rubber band made my life better

- And how is this supposed to help refugees…? Karl Munte Kaas asked me directly.

I froze. This caught me off guard. Didn’t he catch the point of our idea? He handed the microphone back to me. I reached out and grabbed it, but my mind started racing and I still couldn’t think of a good answer. What now? Think!

- Hrgh, I responded.

Haakon, my co-founder took the mic and said that the proceeds of the project would go to the Norwegian Refugee Council. He as well, was flustered, and didn’t actually answer the question from Kaas.

When we got off stage people told us that they liked our idea and that we should go through with it. But at the time it just felt like they said it to make me feel better. I felt stupid for thinking that wearing a rubber band saying HELLO would actually make anyone’s life better.

That was our contribution to the “Techfugees” hackathon held in Oslo. Techfugees is social enterprise coordinating the international tech community responses to the needs of Refugees. It’s a great initiative and we were very excited to tell people there about our idea.

Wearing a rubber “Hello Band” on your wrist signalizes to yourself and everyone else that you are open and approachable and that you welcome people to say «hello» and start a conversation. We Norwegians are (in)famous for our reservedness and this band could hopefully help lower the barriers that we set up around us and promote social inclusion.

Although I felt silly for not being able to answer an obvious question to our pitch, I still liked our idea with its simple and positive message.

So I kept the prototype band we had worked on and kept my head up.

School, work and the start of the all-important skiing season meant my schedule was filled up in the following weeks. We had no time to work on the “Hello Band” project. But I continued to wear the band, and after a week or so I started to feel a difference in the way I thought and acted. Looking at the band and what it represented made me continuously think about how I acted towards people around me. Am I really as open and extrovert as I perceive myself? Do I greet people or do I shy away from them?

After I started wearing an HelloBand I’ve smiled to and said “hello” to more than a hundred people that I normally wouldn’t have. This has led to many really nice and interesting conversations with strangers.

So even if we stumble sometimes, it’s important to pick ourselves up and keep our focus on the things we believe in. And above all, just say “hello”.

Written by Benjamin Holsten

Amr and me during the hachathon weekend