Blog by Cath Barton
Yvonne is warm and welcoming, loves to chat and is really good company. Yvonne is supported by Alternative Futures Group and started her Community Circles four months ago. The delight in being involved in her circle has not only come from achieving its purpose but also recognising the increasing relationships, connections and contributions that are developing.
As Community Circles Connector, my role is to find people who want a circle and match them with a facilitator, someone who is able to contribute a couple of hours each month. I had met Michelle, who owns a Ladies Only Gym, at an event organised by Alternative Futures Group. Michelle was interested in Community Circles and the role of the facilitator and attended the training. In order to match people up well, we support facilitators to develop a one page profile, which tells us what others appreciate about them, what’s important to them and how they want to be supported in their role as facilitator. The one-page profile is used to match people up well, thinking too about availability, location and shared interests. Michelle was available at the time Yvonne wanted her circle meetings, lives close enough to walk to Yvonne’s (which is important to Michelle as she prefers to walk everywhere) and loves to chat as does Yvonne. Michelle was introduced to Yvonne and the circle started, with the purpose being to support Yvonne to find a job.
As Connector I had the pleasure of supporting the first three circle meetings and it was clear that the one page profile had been really useful in matching Michelle to Yvonne. Over the next few meetings we could see relationships flourishing, new connections being built and developing contributions.
Yvonne wanted a job cleaning tables; she is now going to a local church’s luncheon club where she helps to clean up afterwards, meeting lots of new people and developing new skills and relationships. Yvonne is really enjoying her new job and can explore further opportunities if she wants to with the support of her circle.
Over the last few months Yvonne has had a couple of falls and we chatted about what we could do to support Yvonne. Michelle owns a Ladies Only Gym, where they do fall prevention exercises to strengthen stability. Yvonne is now enjoying going twice weekly to the gym, has support from Donna, one of the gym instructors and is meeting new people who regularly attend the gym at the same time. Yvonne is confident going to the gym as she already knows Michelle and is able to attend the classes without paid support. At the moment staff who support Yvonne drop her off and pick her up from the gym but we are exploring Yvonne being more independent travelling to the gym and going by taxi in the future.
Yvonne’s circle is continuing to grow; I met Pat through work and she expressed an interest in Community Circles and asked how she could get involved. As well as recruiting facilitators, there are also opportunities to become part of someone’s circle. Pat share’s many things in common with Yvonne and will be a great member of the circle. Yvonne is always interested to know what’s going on locally and Pat has a wealth of knowledge of things she may like to get involved with.
As well as new relationships that Yvonne is developing, we are seeing wider contributions develop. Michelle’s husband is an artist and has drawn some pictures for Yvonne as she loves to colour. Yvonne is also making her own contribution to someone else’s circle; knitting a blanket for someone who loves the feel of wool.
Throughout the circle meetings, Yvonne’s team have provided great support, contributing to ideas, sharing information and taking on actions to support Yvonne with the purpose of her circle. A collaborative approach which supports Yvonne to have the life she chooses.