The Boulder County Circles Campaign is a community ending poverty one family at a time.
Circles is an innovative national movement to end poverty in our community, one family at a time. The Circles model complements and builds on existing efforts of Boulder County human services agencies, including Bridges Out of Poverty(Bridges).
Rather than providing financial or material support for people leaving poverty, the Circles Campaign focuses on developing social capital (primarily relationships and resources) in support of long-term empowerment and self-sufficiency.
A "Circle Leader" is the head of a family who has completed a 15-week Getting Ahead class and has asked for support from the larger community in order to permanently move out of poverty. Each Circle Leader is matched with 2-4 "Circle Allies", who are community members trained in Bridges Out of Poverty and interested in developing relationships with people from different backgrounds and walks of life. At monthly meetings, Allies support their Circle Leader as they take steps towards achieving their future plan.
Each Circle is supported by a professional Circles Coach. Everyone involved in Circles is invited to a weekly family-style dinner for relaxed conversations and community connection. Dinner and child care are always provided.
I have been an ally with the Lafayette Circles community for 2-1/2 years. I have had the pleasure of helping my Circle Leaders reach their goals, solve problems, celebrate progress and move forward. I have learned so much about my community, made new and lasting friendships, and have been rewarded in many unexpected ways. I don't know of any other volunteer opportunity that benefits both the recipient and the volunteer in quite the same way as Circles. This is one of the best ways to give back to your community and to pay it forward.
For some years I have volunteered in a garden established to supply food banks with fresh produce. The Circles program gives me the opportunity to know some real people on whose table the vegetables I'd harvested might end up, and that complements my garden efforts. Beyond that Circle trainings have given me deeper insights into the situations faced by those living in poverty and how we all tend to make assumptions according to our class background. I've gained so much from getting to know wonderful, caring people who attend the Circles meetings and am inspired to see what the Circle leaders accomplish. When teaching, I've often struggled with little success to build relationships with young people with backgrounds very different from my own. In Circles, allies are coached in giving support and encouragement to the leaders, and I find that the techniques and skills we learn and practice in our circle are strategies that also help me improve relationships in other areas of my life.