TLP Volunteers

The power of touch: How Ai Shikayama is lending a helping hand

{Lipstick by day: Nivea lip balm}

By Kristy Inouye - Ai Shikayama trained and worked as an esthetician in her native Japan before moving to Canada. While a healthy desire to one-up her older sister (who worked for a beauty company at the time) also drove her decision, she knew coming out of high school that she wanted to work directly with people rather than in a formal office setting.

Today, she has over 20 years of experience and works as an esthetician at Hands on Experience. Ai says that her relationship with her clients is more than just business: “They are like family and friends, many who I have known for 5, 10, 15 years.”

Ai enjoys her job, but felt she had space in her schedule for something more. She had been interested in volunteering but hadn’t found the right project when her boyfriend came across a write-up in the newspaper about TLP about a year ago. Just like that, the perfect opportunity fell right into her hands. “It feels good to do something useful with my free time, and do what I do best,” she says.

With a squad of other volunteers, Ai visits the Vancouver Hospice two Mondays every month from about 2:30-5pm. The six-room facility offers a home-like atmosphere for people with life-limiting illnesses who are no longer able to stay in their own homes. In contrast to the regularity and familiarity of her paid work, Ai’s volunteering with TLP constantly involves new people with new stories.

It’s always different: a man or a woman, young or old, hands or feet, traditional trim or playful polish. An animated chat about grandkids and travel, or a shared quiet time. No matter what mix of factors, the purpose is the same: appreciating the moment, and reviving a sense of “normal” at a time when such comforts are often neglected. Ai says that for her it comes down to the power of touch. This human connection facilitates positive change in both herself and the person she is working with, and is the reason she enjoys what she does.

In doing what she loves and connecting with others in her community to leave them feeling and looking their best, Ai Shikayama is, well, nailing it.