Oxford County Circles

Oxford County Circles

Oxford County Circles
What is Circles?

Circles Oxford County is a program that helps people of low-income connect with people of middle and upper-incomes to build supportive relationships through casual weekly meetings in an effort to lift individuals and families out of poverty.

At each meeting, all Circles members enjoy a meal together, connect, share and learn from one another. Members form long-lasting, real relationships built on mutual respect, and the goal of growing social skills, tools and understanding.

Circles happens through a high-impact, 18-24 month voluntary program that:

  • Provides practical and emotional support
  • Helps with challenging issues and problem solving
  • Grows the social capital of those living in low-income
  • Shares with the community the very real barriers that keep people in poverty
  • Helps those living in poverty to make real and positive changes in their lives
Why is Circles important?

In Oxford County, we believe that everyone has the right to thrive. Helping to lift people and their families out of poverty is a key piece to building a healthy and vibrant community.

Circles helps people living with low-income to take charge of their life by giving them the right tools and support needed to move up and out of poverty successfully. This can be done through individualized support, the dedication of staff and volunteers, and resources provided by community partners to create an environment that educates empowers and equips Leaders for success.

Who makes up the Circles group?

Circles is a group of people from different income levels brought together to build supportive, meaningful relationships.

Circles groups are made up of three types of participants, Leaders, Allies and coaches and an advisory committee:


A person or family working to get out of poverty. Leaders are program members who provide crucial, lived-experience feedback about the barriers that keep people stuck in poverty, while building their own resources and moving towards the goal of steady, reliable employment and self-sufficiency.


A middle or upper-income person willing to create a real, supportive and meaningful friendship built on mutual respect with a leader (and their family). An ally will work with a Leader to help them build a personalized action plan.

Circles coach

A Circles coach supports Leaders and Allies in fine tuning personalized action plans. The Circles coach is a paid position that has special training to support and manage the Circles program.

Circles Advisory Committee

The Circles Advisory Committee provides the inspiration, support, planning and leadership necessary for Circles to be successful. It is a potent force for changing the mindset of our community and addressing issues that require systemic change.

Each member is committed to attending weekly dinners frequently enough to become "known" to the Leaders and Allies. These relationships are the very foundation of the model, providing community members from all classes with direct access to one another.

The Circles Advisory Committee is responsible for modifying the Circles model to best fit the unique needs and resources of our Oxford County community.


>Group of people

How can you join Circles?

Become a leader

People receiving social assistance may be chosen to participate after completion of a workshop called “Getting Ahead.”

Leaders will be asked for a minimum two-year commitment, will be expected to attend weekly meetings that include supper, and must be on a path of change, and actively working to achieve goals. A criminal reference check is required.

The Circles Leader has three main goals:

  • Create life changes that lead to permanent self-sufficiency
  • Develop unique gifts and leadership skills to lead the circle, contribute to the Circles program, and give back to the community.
  • Use experience of poverty and leading their family out of poverty to advocate within the community for changes to barriers that keep poverty in place.

For more information on the “Getting Ahead” program, or how to become a leader, contact Dava Oliveira 519 539-9800 ext. 3345 or email circles@oxfordcounty.ca.

Become an Ally

Allies are volunteers from all walks of life that have attended the Bridges Out of Poverty training session and/or Ally training. An Ally works directly with a Leader and their family to help them in accomplishing their action plan.

Allies will be asked to make a two-year commitment to the Circles program which involves attending weekly meetings (including supper), for a total of 6-10 hours a month. A criminal reference check is required.

The Circles Ally has three main goals:

  • Make meaningful, friendship with the individual or family in poverty and join them in their quest for money, meaning and friendship
  • Increase awareness of one’s own stereotypes and class rules
  • Use experience of friendship to advocate within the community for changes to barriers that keep poverty in place.

 For more information on the “Bridges Out of Poverty” training, or how to become an Ally, email circles@oxfordcounty.ca. Alternatively you can download and fill out the application form  (required Adobe Reader, DC or Pro) or fill out an application online.

About Circles in Oxford County

In 2017, Oxford County Council passed a motion to eliminate poverty in our community, and in June 2018, the Draft Zero Poverty Plan was released after a committee and support team made up of community stakeholders was tasked with developing a roadmap to eliminate poverty in Oxford through innovation, leadership and the transformation of relationships.

As part of this plan, the need for a program like Circles was identified, and Circles Oxford County was launched in November 2019.