This week we spoke with  Michael Rosamilia, co-president of Duke Hand. This is what he had to say:

Q: What is your involvement in DukeHAND?
 A: Sonali and I are both co-presidents and co-founders of the organization.


Q: What inspired you to start this organization? A: Over the summer, Sonali worked with A Helping Hand in Durham, a local non-profit organization, and had a really great experience. There are other clubs on campus that work with elderly populations, but we like that we have both the educational arm on the neurological disorders and the volunteering component. We volunteer every week with the the Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and also with the Helping Hand of Durham.

Q: What has been your favorite experience with this organization? A: Certainly the conversations that I’ve had with people, especially those with dementia who don’t normally have an audience. You’ll go in and talk to somebody whose family doesn’t live nearby and who doesn’t get the change to talk to nurses or aids because they’re stretched pretty thin. They won’t remember what they had for lunch the previous day or the names of their children or grandchildren, but Alzheimer’s is a type of regressive dementia, so they remember the most recent things first. I’ll find a navy hat on his dresser or find a picture of her spouse, ask about that, and all of a sudden they’ll remember and give this really great and incredibly lucid conversation.

Q: How do you think the Duke community has benefitted from this organization?  A: In general I think the people who volunteer with us have learned a lot about ethical volunteering and have learned a lot from the residents because they have much different life experiences than us. The elderly patients are often in low socioeconomic classes, and so it’s a really educational experience.


Q: If someone wanted to get involved, how would they go about that? A: You can email either myself at mr251@duke.edu or Sonali at sb355@duke.edu. In order to start volunteering we just have a training session here and an orientation. We go as a groups to accommodate peoples’ schedules or you can volunteer individually once you have done it and start feeling more comfortable with it.