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Compassionate support of well-being with Shanti

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 19:09:00
Article by:
Chad Smith
The Shanti mission advocates compassion for others, including the elderly. Photo by Johathan Mcelod of www.shanti.org.
Have you ever wondered why many cities have such strong communities? Can you see how social circles are developed through excellent programs provided by nonprofit organizations? In our San Francisco Bay Area we are fortunate to have caring nonprofits that watch over our local neighborhoods and surrounding areas. 
   
One nonprofit in particular that extends a gentle helping hand in assisting people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and various mental illnesses is the Shanti Project. Dr. Charles Garfield — who worked at UCSF in the Cancer Sector of the university — started the Shanti Project in 1974. In 2014, the Shanti Project celebrated 40 historical years of providing local therapeutic health services to the Bay Area. Since its inception, 18,000 volunteers have been a part of the Shanti Project, all of whom reside in the Bay Area.

Throughout the nation, there are many other Shanti Projects and similar Aide Service Organizations — ASOs — based on its volunteer model introduced by Dr. Charles Garfield. “Shanti” is Sanskrit for “inner peace,” which is the focal point of the project. In order to reinforce his thesis, Dr. Garfield created a volunteer model based on a system of individuals sharing “heart spaces” with one another.  The three tenets of the sharing “heart spaces” model are to listen from the heart, speak from the heart, and act from the heart. By this means, the doctor formed a system based on developing a comfortable bond between patients and staff members through an effective communication method and peer support program.
   
The Shanti Project over time became a long-term solution for people seeking additional treatment after their diagnoses. This began to happen during the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area that was occurring in 1980s. The Shanti Project at the time was considered to be the first ASO to fight the epidemic and provide direct assistance to those affected. The program puts more of an emphasis on HIV/AIDS because that was the reason it was founded; however, now the program has extended its services to women with any form of cancer and individuals with mental illnesses.
  
 A new program, the Department of Aging and Adult Services — DAS — is also being developed. The program will specifically work with LGBT community and senior citizens who face isolation problems, while also simultaneously providing reintegration services.  Another well-known program offered by the Shanti Project is the L.I.F.E. program, or Learning Immune Function Enhancement. This is based on scientific research that connects performance in certain biological, psychological, and social Cofactors to immune system functioning, disease progression, and overall health. The program has two main goals — to reduce transmission, and also to optimize health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS. Overall, the program has reduced health problems by 27?44 percent, and other personal problems by 38-50 percent. The L.I.F.E. program is an essential piece to the Shanti Project because it “provides participants with the knowledge, motivation, skills, and support necessary to establish and maintain health-protective routines.”
   
Food for thought: Did you know that the Shanti Project conducts 90 percent of its services in the field? This is one of the best direct assistant programs that is a pro bono service in the City of San Francisco. Figuratively speaking, the Shanti Project is “a part of the fabric of the city” said Deputy Executive Director Mike Hickey.
   
The mission of the Shanti Project is that it “exists to enhance the health, quality of life and well-being of people with terminal, life-threatening or disabling illnesses or conditions. Through a continuum of services, including in-home and onsite patient and care navigation, emotional and practical support, Shanti strives to achieve the highest medical and quality of life outcomes for San Francisco’s most vulnerable.”
   
Ultimately, the program forges relationships in alignment with the Shanti Model and creates a suitable environment and atmosphere for its clients. Director of Development Mindy Schweitzer-Rawls at the Shanti Project said, “Our initiative is a voice and source of compassionate support for our clients.”
  
Another goal the Shanti Project strives to meet is helping clients deal with the intangible issues they may not be able to see or feel during the adversity of their illness. Bringing visibility to these clients and those intangible matters is a primary role the Shanti Project fulfills in order to make full-circle relationships between volunteers and clients.
   
However, volunteers are not there to “fix” a client’s problems. Instead, volunteers provide helpful services, such as accompanying clients or simple chores that alleviate stress on the client, and being an excellent vehicle for positive communication. Volunteers — who are not licensed therapists — are simply there to help the client solve their own problems through the Shanti model.
   
Walter Campbell, a volunteer with the Shanti Project, said that one motivating thing about the project is that it is “productive for other people” who are volunteers. Volunteer corps are the reason that nonprofits are so successful — because they do everything they can to produce effective results. Volunteers are paired up with clients by finding the best possible matching personal backgrounds between the two parties. However, before they are paired with a client, volunteers are inducted into an intense 1-day training seminar, followed by six months of additional educational training and commitment. During this training, they are learning to listen and to provide a nonjudgmental atmosphere. As Hickey said, “most people that volunteer want to give back, and they want to help someone.”
   
If you cannot volunteer, there are still ways in which you can donate and/or support the Shanti Project. You can pair up with various other city departments who are partnered with the program; you can be a small donor or big donor; or you can volunteer at fundraising events that are featured by the program — such as their annual gala, called “Compassion Is Universal.” So if you are looking to get involved and give back to your local community, the Shanti Project is a place to exhibit your consciousness and kindness.


 
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