Greetings from Katie, the Circle of Friends Program Coordinator
For those of you who don’t know, Circle of Friends is volunteer-based program of Mennonite Central Committee, in partnership with the YWCA and the Region of Waterloo. The Circle of Friends office is located at the YWCA-Mary’s Place, a 72 bed emergency shelter for women, trans-people and families who are experiencing homelessness in our Region. I work closely with the staff of YWCA Mary’s Place to help discern who could benefit from having a little extra support as they transition out of the shelter and back into the community. Many individuals, who lack family and friend supports, find the transition from homelessness to housing to be lonely, isolating, and difficult. The support we provide is in the form of friendship, or mutually beneficial relationship. We walk alongside 1 woman from the shelter and match her with a circle of 2-3 caring and supportive volunteers from the community. This “Circle of Friends” usually meets every week for a year. The kinds of things these Circles will do together is as varied as the women themselves. We are not professional social workers or counsellors, but just individuals that are willing to walk alongside women that have experienced persistent homelessness and poverty. It is not a question of rescuing, curing, or performing good deeds; it is about listening, caring and allowing ourselves to build relationship of mutuality with those who have been excluded from community.
Kindred Spirit Award Recipient
On May 8th, Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre’s (KDCHC) 5th annual Kindred Spirit Award was presented to one of Circle of Friends' long-time volunteers. This award was first developed by the KDCHC Homelessness Advisory Group and partner organizations YWCA, ROOF and Ray of Hope. This award recognizes the important work that peers play in the walking with those experiencing homelessness. It is presented to individuals who have been homeless at some point in their life, and are now working to support those currently experiencing homelessness in our community. Cindy MacRae has been volunteering with Circle of Friends for over 9 years now, and has supported and walked alongside many women transitioning from Mary’s Place. Cindy not only volunteers with Circle of Friends, but also with Community Justice Initiatives, The Working Centre, and Hospice of Waterloo Region. Cindy has encountered much on her own personal journey, and yet it has shaped and molded her into an individual who can walk with others that are dealing with their own pain, grief, hardship and despair. She is caring, compassionate, and is committed to this community – and the diverse group of individuals that are often excluded from our society. Congratulations, Cindy! We are so thankful for all you do in our community and celebrate with you on this well-deserved recognition!
Fun, Fun, & More Fun!
In addition to our weekly Circle meetings, we host a large gathering once a month. These socially enriching events are open to all volunteers and participants (and children) who are looking for other ways to increase community connectedness and have a good time! Since Christmas, we’ve had a blast together at the following events: A Pizza-Making Party, A Chocolate-Molding Extravaganza, Comforter Knotting & Thrift Shopping, Get Gardening Event, and a Spa Night!
We Need You!
The Circle of Friends program is entirely contingent on volunteers like you! We have many women currently living at Mary's Place that are interested in getting involved with the Circles program, but our capacity is entirely dependent on the number of volunteers that we have. With more volunteers, we can start more Circles. So, please share this opportunity with your friends! More information about volunteering with Circle of Friends is available here.