Virtual events bring connection to Shanti’s community

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David Smee, Client Activities Coordinator, is a client in Shanti’s HIV Program and began volunteering with the activities desk over 10 years ago, when his “T-Cell count was down to five”. Volunteering gave David a purpose, helped him put his own issues into perspective, and welcomed him into a community. “Shanti accepted me without question,” he said. “Shanti is a place that is run from the heart.”

Shanti offers clients an opportunity to enjoy some of the Bay Area’s cultural events and recreational activities with a supportive group of peers. Complementary event tickets are offered for live theater, concerts, sports, outdoor activities, opera, ballet, and more. Participating in community events can combat loneliness, isolation, and brings a sense of connection and belonging to clients.

David was hired onto staff six years ago and spent his time coordinating events, soliciting ticket donations, keeping the activities desk organized and staffed with volunteers, and managing the vendor database. One way Shanti brought connection to its community was to offer group outings to attend events, but then the pandemic happened.

COVID-19 hit Shanti’s Activities Desk hard because, “our whole purpose was to keep people connected to the community,” said David. In March 2020, Shanti made the decision to temporarily close in-person group events. While in-person gatherings and events were on hiatus, David ensured clients had access to virtual events around the globe. Clients were treated to streaming DJ sets from Berlin, virtual tours of international museums, film festivals, performances by The Tokyo Ballet, The Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Hermann’s Jazz Club in New York City, and much more. Offering virtual events brought diverse programming, and gave clients a fresh perspective they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Although many clients loved the virtual events, they are eager to attend in-person. Currently, David is hard at work coordinating a hybrid schedule of in-person and virtual events.