Service turning strangers into friends
Ella Jenkins may not be a spring chicken anymore but she still loves a bit of girl talk.
The South Auckland senior citizen, who lives with her husband, is among the people using Age Concern Counties Manukau’s free accredited visiting service.
‘‘When I got cancer I had to give up driving,’’ she says. ’’That was the worst thing because I didn’t see anyone.
‘‘I just sat at home. I thought it would be nice to have someone come and see me.’’
That someone turned out to be voluntary visitor Nina Barnes.
Barnes says she and Jenkins enjoy ‘‘gossiping’’ during her visits, which are for an hour or two once a week. They enjoy each other’s company and have become friends, she says.
‘‘Ella is housebound so my role is to give companionship. I’m just someone who comes and sits and chats.
‘‘We do girl talk and sometimes we go out together. You’re [the visitors] just helping other people who are trapped at home and need a little company.’’
Barnes says she and Jenkins share a love of knitting and gardening and like swapping stories about their families.
‘‘I’ve gained another friend. It [being a visitor] makes you more compassionate as well as understand how illness affects not just the body but also the mind.
‘‘It also develops you as a person. You just have the time to give and learn and be open-minded.’’
Jenkins says the visiting ser- vice has stopped her from ‘‘going within myself’’.
‘‘I didn’t feel like I was locked here in a cage. It doesn’t worry me at all now. We [she and Barnes] just looked at each other and I knew I’d like her.’’
The visiting service is coordinated by Lisa Wall and Lynn Cicero. Wall says visitors are needed in Papatoetoe, Ma¯ngere, Manurewa and Takanini.
They need to have a giving nature, patience, and a willingness to help others, she says.
‘‘The biggest situations where we need a visitor are where someone loses a driver’s licence, or becomes restricted through loss of mobility or sight.
‘‘We need people who are available during weekdays as the clients often have family see them at weekends.’’
Visitors undergo a police check and receive ongoing training and support.
Phone 09 279 4331 for more information.
Age Concern Counties Manukau Accredited Visiting Service visitor Nina Barnes, left, with Ella Jenkins, who’s one of the service’s clients.