‘Circles’ take on poverty


News staff writer

December 30, 2006

Cascade Locks began a four-part series of conversations about poverty on Dec. 16.

The town is one of three in Hood River County selected for a statewide project examining poverty through the Rural Development Initiative.

“How many of you knew what you were getting into when you came today?” Kristen Dahl asked.

She serves as the coordinator for RDI, which is working with 10 communities across Oregon that have a population of fewer than 5,000 and poverty rates of at least 10 percent. RDI adapted its material from the Northwest Area Foundation’s Horizon program.

The program is titled Listen, Envision, Act to end Poverty, or LEAP. The intent is to provide a way that large numbers of community members from different backgrounds and views can listen and share their experiences. Launch teams organized in October and trained facilitators to lead the various talking circles.

The idea works on the premise that through looking at poverty and envisioning how things can change, the community empowers itself to action. Cascade Locks took the first step when it changed the word poverty to prosperity in the LEAP program name.

Facilitator Greg Hauer said the launch team had hoped for a bigger turnout during the first talking circle Dec. 16 but believes numbers will increase during coming months.

“I think it was an excellent beginning; there was a lot of passion in the room and everybody left feeling like it was time well spent,” said Hauer.

About 25 people showed for the discussion. Dahl briefed them on the program and split them into three random groups based on the colored dot of the nametag they wore. She explained that the hope was that the groups could make it to all four of the talking circles because of their design as a progression.

The Cascade Locks circles began discussing their connection to poverty and what issues concerned them about the town. For two of the groups, the issues of transportation and communication surfaced as main themes. One group pinpointed the issue as getting the word out on what is already available. Other issues that came up were law enforcement and community involvement.

Parkdale and Odell have joined together for their project and plan a kick-off discussion for Jan. 9 at Mid Valley Elementary School. For more information, call Maija Yasui at 354-1023.

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