Advocates from across the country are in Carson City this week being trained on how to help families break the cycle of poverty as part of the Capital City Circles workshop at Western Nevada College.
“It’s going really well,” said Brenda Silis, coordinator of Capital City Circles. “Just having other people talking about what’s going on in their communities helps us get more ideas. And it always refreshes the concepts you’re already using.”
Twenty-five new staffers from eight states are participating in the four-day training that concludes Friday. They meet in small training groups, with a poverty-simulation workshop Wednesday.
As part of the workshop, participants were organized in families and each person was given an identity, complete with name, age, occupation, income, bills and other information.
“Today, we’re asking you to suspend your reality,” she said. “Do not think of this as an exercise or game. Think of it as your current reality.”
Each family acted out a month in its given household, with each day passing as 15 minutes.
Chris Apsay, a social-services worker from California, became a 22-year-old unemployed high school dropout.
“The only advantage we have is knowing what services are out there,” she said. “Some clients have no clue what’s out there. This really shows you the challenges they face.”
Circles is a program to help people become self-sufficient and end the cycle of generational poverty through a 20-week course called Getting Ahead. Once the course is completed, graduates move on to be paired with what are called “allies” — volunteers who meet with participants to help them see life outside of poverty.
Steve Shaw, who played the role of the sheriff during Wednesday’s workshop, has been an ally for four years, meeting for weekly dinners with people in the program.
“It’s really great to see the growth in the people struggling to get out of poverty,” he said. “And I get to see growth in myself.”
WNC counselor J.W. Lazzari, who has been on the Capital City Circles board of directors since 2009, said in a news release that the training was a good opportunity to gain recognition.
“The event will also allow the initiative to better inform lawmakers and local businesses about the value of our initiative, both locally and throughout the state,” he said. “This event will emphasize Carson City’s ability to eventually become a regional training center for the National Circles Initiative.”