Our Peer Support Team

Our Wellness ...Our Truth

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Recovery is important for me so I can help other people, to share my experience and continue to set my goals and accomplish them in the mental health field. In the 3 years months, I've been working with Heart and Soul, I am enjoying engaging participants. I have compassion for everyone. I enjoy bowling, cooking and being a member of California Clubhouse, as well as working for Heart and Soul.

- Yvette Agua, Peer Support Specialist -

The importance of recovery for me is having a better quality of life. If you work on yourself and reach out to others, you can remain stable and free from drugs, and be somewhat happy. That's why these programs are important, so you don't feel alone. I have worked with Heart and Soul for 10 years. I enjoy helping and encouraging others to acquire their goals and maintain their independence. Most important, I like to show clients that I care. My hobbies are listening to music, dancing and cooking. When working at our Drop-in Centers, my motto is: "We Rise By Lifting Others".

- Karen St. Leon, Peer Support Specialist -

Recovery is important to me for two reasons: 1: I got to reconnect with my peers and family in a way to more acceptance without prejudice. 2: Life has a way of striking a balance. I lost and regained my balance. I have worked with Heart and Soul since June 2006, as a Peer Support Specialist. I like to organize. I like that I have helped bring people together and heal my peers. This work gives me a humanitarian sense of purpose. I love to cook. I like to be somewhat political about my association with mental health. We do this as a group. I love participation with work mates and peers. My hobbies are tennis, oil painting, writing music, reading, visiting with friends, gourmet cooking, church going, concert going, art collection and supporting others on the internet.

- Sara Eccleston, Peer Support Specialist -

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My name is Darryl Stubblefield and I am a man of long term recovery from mental health challenges, physical abuse, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and verbal abuse. I was able to overcome these diseases by being able to talk to people who I could trust not to tell my story to anybody else. And that helped make my life livable again. I have almost 8 years of being absent from drugs & alcohol and all the other things. Now I am a Peer Mentor, helping other people emerge from the bottom to the best of their lives.

Have a great day you deserve it!

- Darryl Stubblefield, HOPE Peer Mentor -

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Hi, I’m Mark Leavitt. I’m a H.O.P.E. Peer Mentor with Heart and Soul. Since being hospitalized due to my own mental health challenges about five years ago, I have been working towards building a life that is in line with my values, in order to maintain my wellness and remain in recovery. Doing so led me to working as a team building facilitator at the University of California San Diego’s Challenge Course, as an outdoor educator with a company called Positive Adventures, then as an outdoor adventure instructor at a summer camp called Avid4 Adventure, and most recently, as a Peer Mentor with Heart and Soul. Working for Heart and Soul is rewarding because I get to support others in their recovery while maintaining my own, by being immersed in a culture of wellness and support. 

- Mark Leavitt, HOPE Peer Mentor -

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Heading into my fourth year with Heart & Soul as a peer support specialist, I’m feeling more grateful, more excited, and more connected. I’m grateful to be a part of this organization that’s made up of passionate, compassionate, caring, supportive, and innovative people. I’m excited about the co-creation of an environment with our peer participants and our staff that support us in becoming more of ourselves. And I’m feeling more connected than ever with those I serve, the very people I’m learning from and learning with. Together, we are making this world a better place with each interaction. Thank you, each and everyone of you for walking alongside me on this journey of compassion, advocacy, reflection, and empowerment. 

- Xibin Wu, Peer Support Specialist - 

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Living with a mental health diagnosis, I’ve had a journey that didn’t involve true recovery until my introduction to peer support. My view of the behavioral landscape changed when I wasn’t seen as a patient, but treated with compassion as a peer. Since then I’ve wanted to lead my life in practice of this compassion and wellness that I received, and since joining the H.O.P.E. team I’ve been able to do just so! I’m grateful to be involved in the commitment of contributing to recovery and health.  

- Jessicka Knight, HOPE Peer Mentor - 

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I spent three years homeless in Santa Cruz, unable to get any services because that County is so overloaded with need, under-serviced, and unable to provide for all those who need help. I got to San Mateo after my son came and picked me up and got me out of that mess. Went to detox, then to MHA’s Spring Street Shelter. I started going to NAMI while I was still in the shelter, and got some training. Also I started going to the Insight Meditation Center at that time. With help from Spring Street staff, I got my housing voucher from San Mateo County Department of Housing, moved into my own apartment, and I was hired as a Peer Support worker at Heart and Soul soon after that. Heart and Soul has been an integral part of my personal growth and recovery process. I'm grateful to work here, and hope to be here for years to come. Thank you all.

- Daniel Jackson, Peer Support Specialist -

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I have been working in the Health Care field for over 10 years but I’ve never done Peer Mentoring. I always wanted to, however getting employed was difficult because of my past incarceration. I felt that my bad decisions in life could be a good example to young folks of what not to do. I felt, if only I could share my experience with the youth, I could reach them. We all have a way with words and I felt if I could talk to them with a motivational speech, if I could captivate their imagination and change their Hearts, then they could decide on choosing a life of Family, Education and Equality, and not have to suffer as I did. They could avoid incarceration, and not neglect their family with a dishonest character.

I found my niche here at Heart and Soul, beginning with challenging Peer Mentor work. I feel if I can support these Brothers and Sisters of Humanity, then when my time comes to help the Youth, I’ll be ready and able with ease to communicate with them and be a positive influence.    

- Michael Dunn, HOPE Peer Mentor - 

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Hello. My name is Chris Hoover and I have been a peer support worker with Heart And Soul since its inception. I have about forty years experience with mental health challenges. After I lost my career in television broadcasting I went to live with my parents family. I started acting out and becoming hostile to the point where a restraining order was issued. That began a long period of homelessness. Finally in 1994 I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and prescribed clozapine. In 1998 I completed a peer counseling  course. I am thankful to work for such an organization where I can help others who like myself deal with their challenges daily while on the journey through recovery.

- Chris Hoover, Peer Support Specialist -

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Liana has been with Heart & Soul since 2018, and is a Bay Area native, living on the Peninsula most her life. Right away Liana knew she wanted to be part of the Heart & Soul family and give back to her community by providing her peers with the knowledge, experience and social support in helping individuals of her community achieve wellness. She’s a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and strives to work with others to build a safe and excepting society. 

Since the Shelter In Place order began, she has been diligently providing support to her peers by staying in touch over phone and Zoom daily. Liana has stayed in her own wellness by spending time with her two children playing board games, cooking, watching Disney movies and snuggling with their beloved bunny "BB".

- Liana Garza, Peer Support Specialist -


Peer mentorship is the missing piece of the puzzle that would complete and revolutionize the holistic approach of biopsychosocialism. Devoid of the clinical underpinnings of a doctor (biological) and a therapist (psychological), a Peer Mentor underscores the importance of societal reintegration and/or familial reunification in relation to the Peer Participant’s current goals. As a Peer Mentor, with the help of various BHRS and peer-supported evidence-based trainings and fortified by lived experiences, I am in the best position to help instill and model independent (ADLs and IDLs) living skills, while supporting my peers in finding resources to accomplish their needs.  As a proud and privileged mother who has been winning against depression for 20 years, fought against the oppression of being a battered and homeless woman, and survived suicide twice, it is an honor to serve my peers in their recovery utilizing compassion inherent in human kindness and empathy derived from the acceptance of the trauma-transformed self.

- MayLynn "May" Viloria Castañeto, HOPE Peer Mentor - 

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I am in long term recovery.

I love mental health and giving back what I have learned in recovery.

I maintain my recovery through meditation and journaling.  

- Brenda Nicholson, HOPE Mentor Coordinator -