Six community partners have been successful in securing a three year regional grant from United Way Simcoe Muskoka to provide a sustainable and transformative approach to poverty reduction that ensures everyone has enough reasons, resources and relationships in their lives to thrive.
The project will provide annual Bridges out of Poverty trainings for community members and service providers in Muskoka; extend the Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World program to a fourth community in Muskoka; and strengthen the regional delivery of Circles. It is anticipated that Muskoka will host the Circles Canada conference in the next few years. YWCA Muskoka is the lead agency working in partnership with YMCA Employment Services; The Hub Huntsville (New Vision Unlimited); CAP Debt Reduction; Muskoka Community Church and Faith Baptist Church.
“Circles is a community-based initiative that creates intentional friendships across economic boundaries to reduce poverty,” said Liz Angell, YWCA Circles Coordinator. “It matches low-income families (Circle Leaders) and individuals with community volunteers (Circle Allies) to form relationships across income groups and build a support system to help individuals and families move forward out of poverty.”
Graduates from Getting Ahead 15-week programs become Leaders, so named because they are at the ‘centre of their story’ in Circles. Those who have completed Bridges training are eligible to volunteer and encouraged to become Allies. The average Circles individual or family participates over a period of 18 months. Volunteers are asked to make a similar commitment. During the Covid pandemic Circles groups have been holding weekly zooms and connecting individually virtually and via phone.
“My Circles Allies support me through my goals. They helped me get started on working on my financial plans to become free of debt. They have been a greatly appreciated support system that I have never had before,” says a current Circle Leader participant.
Circles first launched in Huntsville in 2015. A second Circles site in South Muskoka was added in 2018 with the generous funding of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Getting Ahead programs have run with annual District of Muskoka funding since 2014. The United Way Simcoe Muskoka funding will enable the partnering organizations to provide these services to Muskoka communities until 2023.
For more information and statistics about poverty in Muskoka, please see below.
YWCA Muskoka champions positive change for women and girls through education, leadership and advocacy. We envision a future in which all women and girls are thriving. For more information about YWCA Muskoka and Circles® Muskoka please visit the website at www.ywcamuskoka.com