Back in action

As a new school semester dawned this past January, three of our former summer interns returned to A Helping Hand as volunteers. These three students had enjoyed their time as interns, but their schedules hadn’t allowed them to continue volunteering after their internships came to an end. Now that it’s a new semester and their schedules have opened up, they were inspired to get back involved with the volunteer program!

Sumana interned in the summer of 2016. She was inspired by the three clients she worked with for several hours each week. She also got to meet a wide variety of clients that she assisted with one-time visits, providing transportation to medical appointments. When she decided to start volunteering again, she said, “I enjoyed my experience as an intern at AHH and wanted to continue with a volunteer experience that I felt was rewarding. AHH is a great experience because of the people you meet. I’ve found there is something new to learn from every client which has positively influenced the way I view the world.”

Anna Beth was also a summer intern in 2016. The connections she made with her clients made the experience meaningful for her. She had a strong affinity for one of her clients in particular, and they kept in touch after Anna Beth completed her internship. Now with a lighter course load, she was able to commit to volunteering with us again this semester. She told us, “I’m excited to get back out in the community and spend time with clients again!”

Juliette interned with us last summer. She was drawn to AHH for the service learning aspect of our internship program, as well as for the opportunity to learn more about working with older adults. Throughout the summer, the conversations she had with her clients stood out to her. “Every week gave me an opportunity to learn something new about each of my clients. They always told me how grateful they were for AHH and the help I provided them each week, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet people that I never would have without AHH,” she said. During her internship, she learned the importance of AHH’s work in the community, and she came back to us, in her words, “because I love being part of an organization that is so dedicated to advocating for a population that often cannot advocate for itself.”

Despite their busy school schedules, the connections these interns made to their clients and the community sparked an enduring passion for serving older adults.

Welcome back to AHH!

Maybe a senior, but always a sister

Today we have a guest post from Mallory, one of our volunteers, who shared a special experience with her client Ms. H.

I thought it would be a great idea to bring Ms. H to lunch at my sorority house when she told me that she was previously a sorority house mom for another sorority at UNC and she loved all of the girls and felt like they kept her young. I figured my sorority house would be very similar to the one she lived in for 7 years, so I asked her if she would like to come. She was SO excited that I asked her and said she couldn’t wait. We planned this two weeks ago and when I got to her house to pick her up today, she was dressed and ready and couldn’t wait to get in the car to go.

My experience was, in one word, rewarding. I truly could feel the joy Ms. H was experiencing as she walked into my house, looked around and complimented the furniture and decorations, and introduced herself to everyone she saw. It reminded me that something that seems so small to you can mean so much to someone else. Taking Ms. H to lunch was no big deal to me, but it was the happiest I have ever seen her. Ms. H told me as we were leaving that she hoped we could do it again one day because she absolutely loved meeting my friends and being back in a sorority house on a college campus.

Ms. H’s reaction was in the form of a smile on her face from the time we walked in the door until well beyond when we left. She was so excited to meet my friends, tell me about her time living in a sorority house as their house mom, and hear about some of the things we do. She talked to each of my friends as if they were her own grandchildren and told each of them she was honored to know me, which made me realize the impact I have on her life, as well as the impact she has on mine.

The response from the other members of my sorority was overwhelming. Each of them were eager to meet Ms. H, find out who she was and why I was with her, and hear a little about her life. She shared with several girls about her time at UNC and asked thoughtful questions that made each person she spoke to feel like she genuinely cared about them and wanted to get to know them, which is one of my favorite things about Ms. H.

Overall, it was a great experience for everyone involved. It was incredible to be able to bring Ms. H to my house, allowing her to get to know me better, seeing how her eyes lit up, and seeing just how much she enjoyed interacting with so many people.

Ms. H also shared her story with StoryCorps as part of the Great Thanksgiving Listen. You can hear her speak about her life as a sorority house mother here!

It takes a village

Two weeks ago, our new group of spring interns kicked off their internship with a day of orientation. Through this process, they learned the ins and outs of being companion. They discussed their perceptions of older adults, participated in a sensitivity training to simulate some of the physical impairments our clients experience, practiced using mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, learned about managing difficult behaviors associated with dementia, and heard from an A Helping Hand client about her experiences with companions.

In addition to their initial orientation, interns continue to learn throughout the semester through various events in the community, as well as team meetings put together by AHH. To make all of these informative trainings happen, we have a great team of people who volunteer their time to teach our interns how to work with older adults!

Kayla Chee, one of our volunteers (and our 2017 volunteer of the year!), is a physical therapy student at Duke. She provides our interns with mobility training, showing them how to use the assistive devices their clients might use – canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Stephani Deberry from Therapeutic Alternatives teaches our interns about managing dementia-related behaviors. Although not many of our interns’ clients have dementia, this training is invaluable future clinicians!

Brittany Halberstadt from the Nasher Museum provides an overview of the Nasher’s Reflections Program, a monthly guided tour for adults with dementia and their caregivers. This is one of a handful of similar programs across the U.S. that allows people with dementia to experience art.

Keegan Cheleden, a Duke Divinity School student and AHH companion, has provided trainings on a variety of subjects, including the importance of physical touch in caregiving, and death and dying.

Kathy Bonner, a former companion, has provided our interns with insights into the role of a companion. She shared her experience as a companion that our clients’ worlds get smaller as they age, and that a companion’s job is to open their worlds back up.

Jennifer Ashley, our Executive Director, provides the foundation of our training by making sure the interns understand all of our policies and procedures. She also provides an additional training during the semester on dementia as a human rights issue.

Our clients! Several of our clients have contributed their knowledge in training our interns. This semester, Ms. B answered interns’ questions and shared her positive and negative experiences with past interns. The previous semester, Ms. R, a former nurse, told the interns about her career in healthcare.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to educate our interns!

Holiday events at AHH

We’ve had a busy few weeks here at A Helping Hand! Along with our Giving Tuesday fundraiser, we’ve been a part of two great events in the run up to the holidays.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

On November 17, Activate Good gathered a group of volunteers to participate in The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a national project organized by Story Corps. A Helping Hand and several other local organizations arranged for seniors to come and be interviewed for the national archives. The volunteers used the Story Corps app to record each interview, and the interviews are published and collected here. Please take a listen – our clients have fascinating stories! 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

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

Be a superstar like Shalini

Before Shalini started interning with A Helping Hand, her main interactions with older adults were within her family. Her parents instilled in her the importance of building close relationships with and caring for her grandparents. She was always willing to jump to their side to tie their shoes, buckle their seat belts, or support them as they climbed the stairs. Her fondest childhood memories included listening to their stories and playing the board games that they grew up with.

As a pre-med student at Duke, Shalini wanted to build those same relationships with seniors and adults with disabilities in her community. After being accepted into AHH’s internship program, Shalini was matched with four clients whom she assisted every week. She viewed her time with her clients as adventures — field trips to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and even weekly dance sessions at the Duke Annex!

Throughout her internship, Shalini was struck by how just a few hours of her time meant so much to the seniors she assisted. Read more

Special K

Last year, Katarina was a senior psychology major at UNC on the pre-med track. She had been involved with many organizations on campus, but realized she was missing a meaningful way to connect with the broader community. As an undergrad student, many of the people she interacted with on a daily basis were her own age. Her grandparents had died in 2011, and since then she’d had very little contact with older adults. Katarina applied for an internship with A Helping Hand and was matched with three clients in the Chapel Hill area. She assisted each of her clients weekly, providing companionship for Ms. S, helping Ms. R get out and about to run errands, and helping Mr. M navigate his online classes.

Because of her work with us, Katarina’s perspective on the elderly population and her community evolved. She became more sensitive to issues such as fibromyalgia, lupus, diabetes, and chronic pain, having witnessed the daily toll these conditions took on her clients. After completing her internship, she said that the experience had made her a more compassionate and understanding person. It made her realize the importance of practicing medicine in a way that empowers patients, and she came to see seniors as complex individuals, deserving of equality and attention.

In addition to the ways Katarina grew from her experience as an intern, she’s made a huge impact on her community. Read more

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. Read more