Interns make an impact

Our interns are the lifeblood of our charitable program at A Helping Hand. We rely on them to provide assistance to 40 of our volunteer clients every semester. These clients depend on their companions each week in order to go grocery shopping, get to doctor’s appointments, and pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy. Without the help of our tireless interns, we would need to recruit 30 or 40 new volunteers to serve all of our clients!

The most recent class of interns, from the summer 2017 internship, provided nearly 1,310 hours of assistance to 62 local seniors and adults with disabilities. This made a huge impact in our community and in the lives of each of our clients. In all, the interns double our capacity to serve our community.

Interns have also shaped other aspects of AHH. Jiwon, an intern in the fall of 2015, introduced us to the Music and Memory program, and brought iPods full of favorite tunes to many of our clients. A Helping Hand has continued to partner with Music and Memory ever since. James, an intern in 2015 and fellow for 2016, enrolled AHH in the Presidential Service Award program, so we can honor our volunteers with this prestigious prize. Hannah helped organize an event last year with Ms. Reynolds, hosting a celebration for our volunteers and paid companions at Ms. R’s home. And last spring Koushik started what has become an ongoing tradition of hosting a client mixer at the end of every semester, as a culmination of the internship session.

Our interns do so much for our charitable program, and the program simply wouldn’t function without their help. Thank you to all of our wonderful interns for filling this need for local seniors!



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. Ms. R generously offered to host the meeting in her home. She had been a surgical nurse and shared insights and countless stories from the medical field with our pre-health interns.

The interns gathered on the couch in Ms. R’s sunroom, with Ms. R at the head of the circle in her office chair. She regaled them with stories of nursing in Hawaii, and gave tips on how to choose a specialty in a medical career. She also shared her own medical history, which includes a miraculous recovery from a broken leg and seven weeks in a coma. Her experiences both as a nurse and a patient gave the interns a better picture of the field that they’re aiming to start their careers in.

Thank you, Ms. Reynolds, for your work to shape the careers of future medical professionals, and your advocacy for A Helping Hand!

In the run up to Giving Tuesday on November 28, we’ll be featuring AHH clients and companions who give back. Stay tuned for more details about their stories and how you can donate.



Going the extra miles

 

When I was an intern last fall, one of the clients I assisted every week was Ms. L. She lived in an assisted living facility in Durham and was miserable there. The focus of her AHH interns each semester was helping her look for an apartment in Wilmington, so she could live on her own and be near the ocean. After years of working toward it, she finally was able to move to Wilmington in April. Although she was sad to be leaving her AHH companions behind, she was thrilled to finally be moving to a place she would be happier and more independent.

A few weeks ago, Steffi got a call from Ms. L. She was really happy in her new place, and she loved Wilmington, she said. But she’d lived there for four months, and she hadn’t been to the beach yet. Would any of her former companions be available to take her to the beach for a day?

Steffi told her that she couldn’t make any promises but she would ask the interns who had worked with Ms. L to see whether any of them would be able to go to Wilmington for a beach trip. I accepted the invitation. After looking up beaches that would be wheelchair accessible, I called Ms. L and set up a time for my visit. Last weekend, I hit the road for a day at the beach.

Ms. L was excited to show me around her new place. She had decorated her kitchen with blue towels and knick-knacks, some of which I recognized from our shopping trips in Durham. We chatted and it was clear that Ms. L was happier than she had been in the assisted living facility, although she missed the company of her neighbors. When I asked whether she was ready to go the beach, her eyes lit up.

I expected that sitting on the boardwalk at Carolina Beach would be the closest we could get to the waves, since Ms. L’s wheelchair could not travel over sand. But we stumbled upon a stretch of accessible beach surface at one of the beach entry points – a series of blue plastic tiles that allowed Ms. L’s chair to roll closer to the ocean. Ms. L slipped off her shoes and dug her feet into the sand. Her toe tapped along to the music a group of girls was playing nearby. As she gazed at the ocean, the bright blue sky, the seagulls and the people all around us, she had a smile of complete contentment on her face.

At the end of the day, I commented on how fun the afternoon had been. Ms. L responded, “There wasn’t a second of today that I wasn’t happy.”

All we had done was take a 15-mile drive to the beach, but it wasn’t something that Ms. L could have done on her own. All it took was a few hours of my time to bring her a carefree, joy-filled afternoon at the beach.