'Circles' Breaks the Poverty Cycle

May 12, 2011

Could you survive in poverty? How would you do it? If you are attending the Annual Conference Session in June, you will have an opportunity to explore these questions as well as to learn about a valuable resource for "walking with" the poor in an effective journey out of poverty. With the sponsorship of the Conference Committee on Children and Poverty, the Circle of Support small group at First United Methodist Church in Carson City, Nevada will make a presentation on Friday (June 17) during ACS. The group will offer an interactive simulation called "A Day in the Life of Judy," along with a presentation about Circles of Support. 

At age 32, Judy has "been there and done that" – lived in a broken home, struggled as a single mother of three, fallen deep into debt to payday lenders, and become another generation of her family living in poverty. But now, through the "Circles Initiative," she is living with a whole new sense of hope and opportunity.
"Circles Initiative is giving me a whole new walk with life," Judy says. She and others living in poverty in Carson City are at the center of this radical new approach to breaking the cycle of poverty. And by collaborating in the Circles process, members of Carson City First UMC are learning to walk with the poor and are seeing hopeful results.  
Participants in the Circles Initiative work with struggling families and working poor in identifying and addressing the conditions that hold poverty in place, and finding and implementing ways out. The families undergo a 20-week training which introduces them to values, work ethic, and educational achievement that will help them to advance. Each family becomes the center of a "Circle" that consists of the family and three-to-four "allies." Allies are people who know "how to get things done." Allies befriend the family and work with the Circle for usually 18-24 months. As the "Circle Leaders," each family sets its own goals according to its unique needs and circumstances. Working toward these goals allows them to develop the emotional, financial, intellectual, and spiritual resources necessary for self-sufficiency. The Circle allies provide coaching, opportunities for networking, references, and other forms of assistance to Circle Leaders and their families.
Most of the allies at Carson City's Circles Initiative are members of Carson City First UMC. The church recruits allies, and provides rooms for classes as well as food for weekly dinner meetings for families and allies. Through these regular meetings and collaboration, leaders and allies create long-lasting relationships which help bridge the gap between the poor and the middle class. The small group at Carson City First meets weekly to plan how to expand the Circles Initiative and tries to connect with other churches and community agencies for the project. 
Several United Methodist churches in other Annual Conferences have joined the Circles movement. According to the General Board of Ministries, Carson City is among 40 cities in the U.S. implementing this nationwide program. 
Could you survive in poverty? Join CCCP to find out. Audience participation will be required in order to help "Judy" survive through each day. The presentation also will answer questions for churches interested in exploring Circles for their communities.
Join the Circle of Support at noon on Friday, June 17, in the main hall (Halls A/B) of the Sacramento Convention Center. You will need to provide your own lunch.