With National Volunteer Week in full swing honouring volunteers from all walks of life, the voluntary role of two Kāpiti women at Waikanae Lodge on Te Moana Rd is more than a simple service.

Creating their own unique role 12 years ago, Joanne Ruscoe and Janet Statham have been giving the residents nail manicures every Monday morning along with conversation and friendship.

Caring for residents who have come and gone over the years, many a story has been shared while the popular pink purl nail polish dries on their hands.

Volunteer Janet Statham with Waikanae Lodge resident Helen Salisbury who turned 90 this week. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Volunteer Janet Statham with Waikanae Lodge resident Helen Salisbury who turned 90 this week. Photo / Rosalie Willis

"It's lovely to come and do their nails, but it's really about conversation, chatting about their children, where they've lived and so on," said Joanne.

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"The nails are the reason to sit down and have a conversation.

"Sometimes you don't think you have much in common but you sit down and realise you do."

For some of the ladies, their sight is failing and they are not in great health, but they can wave their manicured hands around afterwards and receive compliments.

"Manicured and painted nails provide the wonderful caregivers instantly with something positive to chat to them about – their pretty nails, such a lovely colour, how it suits them and goes well with their outfit."

Encouraging the ladies to chat with them and each other, the pampering morning is about getting together and enjoying each other's company.

"We encourage the ladies to chat about a variety of bright and breezy subjects which can evoke memories for them.

"Special occasions and dresses, their first job, their first high heels, their first date and what they wore, their favourite songs, their wedding(s), their children, their first house, favourite recipes, holidays … the list is endless."

It's a morning the ladies look forward to each week with Janet's granddaughter spending her childhood school holidays joining the ladies, giving them hand massages from the age of 5 and by the time she was 12, painting their nails too.

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"We chat about our grandchildren and their great grandchildren, keeping the conversation light and casual as it's about enjoying each other's company."

Jean De Menech at Waikanae Lodge with her nails manicured by volunteers. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Jean De Menech at Waikanae Lodge with her nails manicured by volunteers. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Joanne and Janet very rarely receive recognition for what they do. But they do it with the upmost love and care every single week.

"We had a lovely lady from Scotland, her son lived in the UK and her husband had died some years ago.

"She didn't like colour on her nails, she just liked them to be shiny and healthy and well-manicured.

"Part of what I would do is massage their hands afterwards.

"She said to me one time, 'It's so lovely to be touched'.

"She said 'every time my husband walked past me, he would touch me on the shoulder or the back, you just miss touch when you're older'. That was another thing that made me realise there are a lot things we can do simply by painting nails."

With more than 20 per cent of New Zealanders undertaking volunteer work, Volunteer Kāpiti manager Susan Ansell believes it is more important than ever to support the community through volunteer work.

"During lockdown we were impressed with the number of Kāpiti people that quickly volunteered to help and how our community worked together," Susan said.

"I hope we can keep this momentum as we move to our new normal.

"Now more than ever we need our volunteers – to help our community stay connected, to support the work our charitable organisations are doing and to help meet any new needs in our community."

Located at the Kāpiti community centre on Ngahina St, Volunteer Kāpiti can help you to find a volunteer role that will suit you and your lifestyle, along with helping community organisations find volunteers.

"Volunteering has so many benefits, not only for the receiver, but also for the volunteer," Janet said.

"Over the years we have met wonderful women who have led such varied lives and it is a privilege to know or have known them.

"There is a real opportunity for people my age (retired) to do something good, without a computer screen, no committee or organising, just lovely people to chat to," Joanne said.

"This volunteering is so different and so simple, it's just girls chatting - therapy and friendliness.

"All of these ladies have done so much so it is our turn to do something for them.

"I don't know who it's more beneficial for – them or us.

"We are thrilled that now we are in Level 1 we are allowed back to the Lodge as volunteers."

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