Our latest installment of Lives Transformed features three different, but equally inspiring, Circle Leaders from across the United States and Canada—all winners of our 2021 Impact Award. The Circles curriculum supports each person’s efforts to “break through” and expand what they think is possible: for themself, their family, and their community. As Circle Leaders reach milestones in their journeys toward financial stability, we document their achievements to highlight joy and hope as valuable tools in combating poverty.
“All my well-being now, I got it from people in Circles. It’s perseverance and trust.”
—Patricia Zepeda, Circles Canada, Simcoe County, Ontario
I grew up with my grandparents in El Salvador. When I was 18, my life took a drastic turn when I stayed with my girlfriend’s family overnight, against my father’s wishes. Then all the changes happened in my life because my children’s father didn’t allow me to do anything. I later had three children by my girlfriend’s brother. He was a very abusive person. I escaped El Salvador with my three young children in 1990. We left our home country and went through Mexico and the United States with only the clothes we were wearing. I left everything I knew for the dream of things to come.
By 2018, I had been living in Canada for 25 years. My life was not good when I came here; I was using Ontario Works (social assistance), facing depression and anxiety, and I couldn’t make financial ends meet. I met a Circles staff member, Vicki Hannan, when I was taking classes at the local library—any course that was free, I’d take it! So when Vicki called and explained the Circles model to me, I said, “okay.”
I was like a zombie when I started Circles classes. I didn’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas. I didn’t have the education I needed. When you’re experiencing poverty, you’re ashamed. You lack a lot of things that can get you ahead in life. Then the universe opened up for me. My angels came. Little by little I started to feel more at ease with everyone there, and I began to understand: I have to get up and do something for my life. Circles helped me see why I was struggling, the trauma that I carry from my past.
In Circles, we go and work in the garden, we celebrate things. A lot of us get jobs. I went back to school for additional English classes and then graduated as a Personal Support Worker; now I’m employed through the County of Simcoe and I’m doing something that I love to do—working with the elderly in hospitals and in hospice. And I was able to realize the goal of purchasing my car!
I open up to my Ally, Simone Latham, about everything, and she’ll listen to me. We have fun, we spend time outdoors in the snow. And she’s always there—our partnership is made in heaven.
All my well-being now, I got it from people in Circles. It’s perseverance and trust. We come with different problems in life; but in Circles, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got you. We’re gonna be patient with you. There is nothing in this life if we aren’t together, if we’re not giving a little bit of love to each other.