Anti-poverty rally hears message of hope

Oct 27th, 2010 | By | Category: Uncategorized

by TARA JEFFREY of The Observer (click here for video)

Friday's anti-poverty rally at Sarnia's city hall was an emotional event for Charlene Gordon.

The single mother stood up and spoke to a large crowd about what it's like living in poverty.

"I knew that starting over would be far from easy, but I was not prepared for the challenge ahead," said Gordon, who recently moved back to Sarnia after leaving as a teen. An abusive relationship derailed her life and the last 12 years have been a struggle to make ends meet.

"I could not get a job, due to problems with paperwork, and, for the first time in my life, I had to ask for help," she said.

Gordon was invited to join Circles, a poverty reduction program that allies volunteers from the middle class with families in poverty to help them overcome life obstacles. She said it's changed her life.

"It's nice to get a view of what happens in the middle class world while being able to share what it's like to live in poverty," said Gordon, who was matched with two allies in May. "We have formed a bond that gets stronger every day."

Dozens gathered for the 7th annual rally. Similar events were held at Lambton College, where students raised $500, and at St. Patrick's High School, where students raised $100 to support the Inn of the Good Shepherd.

Some 3,300 people are currently using a foodbank somewhere in Sarnia-Lambton, 100 eat a hot meal at the soup kitchen every day, and an average of 14 people stay at the homeless shelter each night, said Myles Vanni, executive director at the Inn.

"Those numbers are very alarming for a community this size. It's overwhelming sometimes for people, and they think, 'I really can't make a difference, so why participate?'"

"Poverty is a huge issue," he continued. "But the ability to deal with it is in our hands."

That's where the Circles program comes in, said Laurie Freer, one of Gordon's allies.

"Circles is realistic, it's not a fancy government program," she said. "A lot of people want to help but don't know what to do — well, here's a way you can."

Gordon, who is now in college, said she's gained a new outlook on life.

"I want sustainability," she said. "The vicious cycle of living below the poverty line can stop if I make the changes.

"I look forward to the day when I am no longer a Circles leader, but instead have become a Circles ally for someone who needs me."

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  1. As the Executive Director of a Pregnancy resource centre,I would be very interested in finding out more about this program and if and how we can impliment this in the Midland,Penetang area. I have seen 229 visits since Jan. and really feel God is tugging at my heart as to how I can help these young families more.  I would appreciate a call or visit to discuss what is involved.  Hoping to hear from you at your convenience,  Diena Abel

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