Internships inspire careers in geriatrics

Yasmin came to A Helping Hand as an intern in the fall of 2016. At the time, she wanted to go to medical school, but didn’t know what specialty she wanted to pursue. She didn’t have much experience working with older adults, but was interested in learning more about geriatrics and elder care. “[The internship] helped me realized the health disparities that exist among older populations, and how this is a growing problem as the baby boomer generation ages that not many people are talking about,” she said. The firsthand experience she gained working with AHH clients pushed her to consider a new career path. Instead of medical school, she is now pursuing a master’s in public health, in a program specializing in health of an aging society.

After finishing her internship with AHH, Yasmin continued to be involved with older adults in the community. She continued to work at Charles House, one of the sites where she volunteered as an intern. She also got involved with the Orange County Department on Aging’s Caregiver Respite program. She’s continued to volunteer her time with A Helping Hand, serving on our holiday committee that organizes and distributes gifts to charitable program clients. She’s worked with Amanda Borer, the associate director of Charles House, on starting an NC branch of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, a national organization committed to addressing the current and future workforce crisis in caring for an aging population. As part of the Gillings Student Interest Group on Aging, she is helping plan their annual aging conference.

Yasmin clearly has a passion for helping older adults and bringing awareness to the public health issues, and it all started with the AHH internship program! Typically our interns come to us with limited experience working with older adults and adults with disabilities. However, their experience with us often ignites an interest in continuing to work with this group. One of the aspects of the program that we’re proudest of is being able to inspire young people to pursue geriatrics-related fields.

Yasmin, we appreciate your continued advocacy and work on behalf of older adults in the community!



Denise serves clients and companions with compassion

When potential clients and companions find out about A Helping Hand, the first person they meet is Denise. Denise Matthewson is our director of client services, which means she helps all of our new clients and companions through the onboarding process.

For clients, this process typically starts with a phone call from a potential client or a family member. Denise describes the type of services AHH can provide, and learns about the client’s particular needs. Then, she visits the client at home, to assess their needs more clearly and go through the enrollment paperwork. Back at the office, she shares information about the client with Rebecca, who manages and schedules the companions, so we can make a perfect client-companion match!

Denise also manages the hiring process for our new companions. She meets each applicant and completes a thorough interview, to determine if their skills match up with our clients’ needs. Read more



Steffi serves ceaselessly

Happy Giving Tuesday! In celebration of this day of giving, we’d like to honor Steffi, our volunteer and internship program director. Steffi provides the backbone for all the work we do at A Helping Hand, managing the entire charitable program, with more than 90 clients, 60 volunteers, and up to 15 new interns each semester.

Steffi first started working in the nonprofit world with AmeriCorps, where she served a variety of nonprofits throughout the Northeast. She knew she wanted to continue working for a nonprofit, but didn’t know exactly what area to focus on. She found AHH through a friend who was working as a program coordinator here at the time.

Steffi started out at AHH as a backup companion. She did some office work, but her primary role was as a companion – working with several clients consistently and covering any last minute companion call outs. She then became a fellow, working in scheduling for both the private pay and charitable programs while still assisting clients regularly. After an incredibly busy and stressful fellowship year, Steffi packed up for a year of teaching in Spain.

When she returned to the US, Steffi came back to AHH, this time as the volunteer coordinator, where she has continued for the past two years. She juggles countless tasks on a daily basis, including volunteer and intern recruitment and onboarding, maintaining client and volunteer schedules, managing AHH’s social media, attending trainings, coordinating special events, assisting with paid program scheduling, donating to AHH fundraisers, and occasionally visiting clients. Read more



Hannah stands up to age bias

Hannah first came to A Helping Hand as a volunteer. She had previously volunteered in hospital settings, and enjoyed the one-on-one interaction she had with patients. She realized that treating patients with a positive attitude and respect made a difference in their experience at the hospital, and she hoped to make a deeper impact by working with older adults and people with disabilities in the community. She volunteered with AHH for a year, and then applied to participate in our internship program.

Through the internship, Hannah got to visit several clients on a more consistent basis, as well as meet with other interns to share experiences and attend events in the community related to aging and caregiving. Read more



Kayla discovers Durham through volunteering

Kayla is a 24-year-old transplant from Honolulu, Hawaii, who came to Durham, North Carolina, to study physical therapy at Duke University. In school, she enjoys learning about the human brain and how it influences body movement, but in her spare time she also enjoys dancing and going to different community events in the Triangle. But she didn’t always feel this way.

When Kayla first moved to Durham, she felt like an outsider—disconnected from the community and unfamiliar with the area, culture, and city history. After a few weeks in the area, she decided to become more involved in the community to establish her connection to Durham and discover what it had to offer. After perusing a handful of nonprofits online, she found A Helping Hand. Kayla had previous experience working with older adults, and as a future health care clinician, she knew the value and significance of this kind of work. She immediately felt compelled to get involved.

Since becoming a volunteer at AHH, Kayla has met many people from different walks of life throughout the Triangle. By serving her clients, she gets the chance to hear their life stories and discover what brings meaning to their life. Read more



Zarin’s clients are people first

Zarin had just finished her freshman year at UNC when she started interning with A Helping Hand. Like many people her age, she’d had very little interaction with older adults. She read Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal,” which piqued her interest in health care for older adults and prompted her to get involved with elderly members of her community. Through the internship, Zarin assisted one client on a weekly basis, and then filled in with other clients and worked in the AHH office as she was needed. This adaptability was extremely helpful to our office staff and our clients. If a last-minute need cropped up (as they often do!), Zarin was available to help out with just a few hours’ notice. Her flexibility and willingness to take clients to emergency doctor’s appointments or fill in for other companions who called out sick was invaluable.

Working with her clients one-on-one allowed her to get to know her clients well and hear their personal stories. As a future medical practitioner, she learned to get to know her clients as people first, and not just as patients with medical conditions, and to adapt to each client’s needs and personality. Read more



Advocating and educating

Ms. Reynolds has been an AHH client for more than four years, and she’s also one of our strongest community advocates. Ms. R gets weekly assistance from one our interns every semester, which gets her out of the house for doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping at Aldi, and ice cream at Maple View Farms. She calls the office regularly to chat and keeps us up to date on the latest gossip. Ms. R loves getting to know the young people she meets through A Helping Hand, and often stays in touch with her interns long after they complete their semester working with her.

Ms. R also spends time advocating for A Helping Hand. In the past month, she has attended two events at UNC with us. At these job and volunteer fairs, Ms. R talked up AHH and used her charm to get students to sign up to volunteer or apply for jobs with us. Her engaging personality drew people to our table, and she had a carefully honed pitch to describe what AHH does and how important our work is to her.

Last Friday, the fall interns had their first team meeting. Read more