The year was 1988. I had graduated high school a mere 7 years earlier. I was young, social, enjoying the freedom the gay rights movement of the seventies paved for me and my generation. Then in one swift stroke my happy go lucky life changed forever. My very first and only HIV test came back positive. Back then it was a death sentence. I felt alone, scared and was certain that no one could possibly understand what it mean to be told at 24 years old that you were going to be dead at 30.
Then, I encountered Shanti Project. The staff and volunteers accepted me with open arms and hearts. They listened, without judgement, without fear, without advice, to my fears and concerns. The people at Shanti Project taught me that it was okay to be angry, afraid, to feel cheated. But they also showed me that those feelings and this disease didn't have to define my life. That I could live a quality life not in spite of it but because of it.
Shanti Project helped me to turn a corner and to view this as an opportunity to not only help and educate myself but to do so for others.
Thank you Shanti Project.
As one of the Human Development Facilitator based in Lubumbashi, DR Congo and assigned to the wide community of Kalebuka in the rural Southeast part of the city of Lubumbashi, I have the privilege of seeing first hand people’s lives transformed by the Participatory Human Development Process. You should see how proud they are to share their stories with visitors. Amongst them, maybe Phiri and Boni had the most tremendous change of their lives. Both are active members of local groups we organized in Kalebuka I and Kalebuka II. They are married and fathers of 7 and 5 children respectively. None completed his primary education.
Here is what Phiri said recently:
"Initially, when we started to get involved with Outreach International’s program, I thought that was as always, but things began to take shape for my life." Working on the project of clean water supply as a community, I had the opportunity to be trained in the repair of hand pumps with my friend Boni. I am now a craftsman repairer, with a certificate that proves that I can repair the hand pumps. At least Outreach International with its program gave me the opportunity to have qualifications. I was a mere hunter and casual farmer. Apart from the three hand pumps we receive from Outreach International that we maintain regularly, we receive more and more demands in addition, to repair many other hand pumps in our community and even in neighboring communities. I have started to feel that I am also being appreciated and valued as a worthy person, as compared to the time when I was without qualification. These people (Outreach International) came to help me develop; today I am also proud to help my community by repairing their hand pumps and by training others in the repair of pump. It is in this way that I participate also in the supply of clean drinking water to my community. Our training allowed us to have very good tools kits for the repair that many do not have.
Outreach International helped the two of us to have qualifications, with the possibility of getting employment in drilling companies.”
I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988 and told I would likely die within a year and I was angry and afraid of dying alone and in disgrace. I had read about Shanti's program offering practical and emotional support to people living and dying of this disease. I went and took the Shanti training in the early 1990's and my life was transformed completely. As the illness had progressed, I drank more and more and crossed the line from heavy drinker to alcoholic, and this two weekends of training gave me a new sense of hope and a window to recovery through which I entered and soon became involved volunteering with my own Shanti client as well as having my own Shanti volunteer and my physical health started improving as my emotional health grew. I experienced a world where men and women cared about one another with no expectation other than the possibility of helping another human being. I began a journey where I've come to believe in the infinite power of unconditional love and I'm forever grateful to Shanti for this great gift.
Shanti has been in my life for 4 years now. The level of concern and listening skills way surpassed my expectations. I've been a regular to the drop in on Thursday evenings which helped get me out of the house and into a positive and sharing environment. I've taken the L.I.F.E. course and changed bits and pieces of my health and behavior. (A good thing for me).
The staff has been so nice, loving, and caring. I grieve that this will not be around forever and hope that $ comes in to keep the programs alive.
What I'm really trying to say is... " Thanks to Shanti and everyone involved for helping me in my time of need" ..
Thanks so much
I can't help but be thankful for all the support that SHANTI has given me and other people who have had issues with HIV+... Since I've attended the SHANTI L.I.F.E. work group, I've been more careful to take better care of myself (hopefully living better and happier). With the SHANTI group, I've also felt that I had a place to go when I've felt like a recluse. I've met so many good people THERE with hearts that hug. (my favorite) .. THANK YOU SHANTI!
Shanti has been a major role in the San Francisco area helping people deal with HIV and everyday LIFE issues. I participated in one of their LIFE workshops and learned more about myself and how to better educate and take care of myself because of the program. The staff are amazing and well trained and extremely friendly, they also are non-judgemental and great at helping find other resources in the community to assist those who need them.