Spring 2022 Newsletter
April is National Volunteer Month—a month dedicated to recognizing the importance of volunteering and honoring the significant contributions our volunteers make by generously donating their time and talents to helping San Franciscans reduce isolation, enhance health and well-being, and improve quality of life. To celebrate, we spotlight two special volunteers.

Valentina and Olena, a cultural connection

Valentina (left) and Olena (right) enjoy a meal together at a Chinese restaurant
We are delighted to introduce Valentina and Olena. Originally from Ukraine, Olena is a client in our Women’s Cancer Program who is monolingual Russian-speaking. Valentina, who was born and raised in the Republic of Moldova, is Olena’s Peer Support Volunteer. Matched since 2018, they share similar experiences as immigrants from the former Soviet Union and communicate in Russian. Having conversations and sharing perspectives came easy for them, and they established trust quickly.
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Dave provides steady support for PAWS

Dave is a Pet Food Bank volunteer with our Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) program. He sorts and bags up pet food and supplies each month, which he delivers to PAWS clients. The Pet Food Bank is one of the key services PAWS provides to keep people and their animal companions together, serving more than 300 enrolled PAWS clients each month. Dave describes his volunteer experience as, “the ability to assist other pet lovers in a way that makes both their lives and their pets’ lives better.”
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Q&A with Mark Molnar: a reflection on volunteering and empathy

Photo taken from a 2001 edition of the Shanti Voices newsletter. Shanti’s Peer Advocates, clockwise from left: Mark Arseneau, M.Ed., Mark Molnar, Philip Watson, Jennifer McGaugh, Laetitia Thomas, and Erwin Barrios-Kilchi, M.S.
Mark Molnar, Director of Volunteer & Community Support Services, reflects on his experiences with Shanti over the past 28 years. Mark started as a Peer Support Volunteer with Shanti in 1994 and joined the staff in 2000.
"There was a kind of ease that came once I realized that just being myself with another person, helping them out in different ways, just listening and being a witness to another person's life, is something that anyone can do to support a person in need." 
Q: What were your first experiences with Shanti?

A: My first experiences with Shanti were as a Peer Support Volunteer. The mid-90s were a very scary time for people with HIV. Although medications were available, this was before the effective modern regimens. The 90s medications were often toxic and people continued to die despite them. Although San Francisco has always been a place that has supported people living with HIV, that did not lessen the fear and isolation that many experienced, seeing their bodies change and their friends and lovers continue to die.
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Woman's Cancer Program ads run on SF
MUNI buses

Roam around San Francisco and you just might spot our new Women’s Cancer Program ads on MUNI buses throughout the City. Our multilingual “Don’t face cancer alone” bus campaign is supported by grant funding from Gilead Sciences, Inc. Gilead Sciences, Inc. has had no input into the development or content of these materials. Photo by Pedro Lepe.
About Shanti
Shanti is a pioneering nonprofit that builds human connections to reduce isolation, enhance health and well-being, and improve quality of life. We believe that meaningful relationships are essential for navigating life’s most difficult challenges. Every day, we ease the invisible suffering that can accompany isolation or illness, and combat it through the power of personal connection. Because when we take care of each other, we make San Francisco a healthier and more compassionate community, for everyone.
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