The primary goal of Communities of Transformation is to move families toward self-sufficiency and away from instability, isolation, and dependence.
The United Methodist Church worldwide has committed to Ministry with the Poor as one of four focus areas. Communities of Transformation (COT) is just that – an initiative that works with the poor, not to the poor or for the poor. COT is designed to transform lives through the building of intentional relationships across socioeconomic, cultural, and racial lines.
Though Communities of Transformation is an initiative of the United Methodist Church, the goal is to become a collaborative effort involving denominations and agencies throughout the community.
What is Communities of Transformation?
Communities of Transformation is an initiative of reconciliation, restoration, and healing.
It is a transformational approach that partners community volunteers with adults wanting to make the journey out of poverty. A circle of support is created by matching participants with two or three community volunteers who provide encouragement, guidance, and support. Time and time again, a new-found hope is born in the participants.
Employment is a primary goal of Communities of Transformation. Surprisingly, fewer than 2% of churches across the country focus on jobs as a way to help families in poverty, yet jobs are the only way to move families toward financial self-sufficiency.
What is happening in our communities?
Our pilot site, Dothan, launched in 2013. New Communities of Transformation sites launched in Brewton, Eufaula, Mobile, Phenix City, and Selma in 2015. Montgomery's site launched in 2016. Evergreen will launch in the fall of 2017. Sites under development include Union Springs, Baldwin County, and the Demopolis District.
What is the method?
Participants are families in poverty who volunteer for this initiative. They spend the first twelve weeks in a training class with their peers learning about budgeting, about goal setting for themselves and their families, about both positive relationships and toxic ones, and about exploring a new future story. Volunteers also receive extensive training, spending eight weeks in preparation for the work they will do. During this experience, they become familiar with the program. COT builds structured friendships designed to encourage and support. After training is completed, small circles of support – customarily two to three volunteers with one participant – are matched. These circles of support meet regularly, assisting and nurturing the participants as they work toward the goals they set in their training experience. This all happens around a weekly meeting, which includes dinner, child care, and positive, hope-filled experiences. In addition, through Communities of Transformation, the COT community identifies systemic issues that hold families back and identifies strategies to remove those barriers that plague our neighbors in poverty.
Does it work?
Participants are getting jobs, getting GED’s, working on education and training goals, paying off debt, opening savings accounts, and setting important goals to build a new future. Listen to some of the actual words of participants who have completed the training portion of COT:
“Communities of Transformation is a way to help you actually build a better bridge to the tomorrow that you’re looking for.” - José Maya
“I feel renewed inside every time I come to Communities of Transformation.” - Gloria Ebikake
“Communities of Transformation is a positive place where people help other people through the obstacles of life.” - Rosalynn Richards
“Communities of Transformation is… where you meet good people with good and positive hearts.” - Stella Patrick
"Communities of Transformation helped me find who I wanted to be. It helped me align my thoughts and actions with who I was meant to be and wanted to be. It showed me that I can choose who I want to be and act accordingly." - Rechelle Kelley
Hear these words from volunteers who have been engaged in this work for the past two years. They point to the deep change that occurs in those who participate.
“You don’t get to do this when you go on mission trips or give money, or you help at the soup kitchen… Those are all good things, but the long term is what we’re looking at with Communities of Transformation.” – Mary Kate Keel
“Many initiatives address the symptoms that result from living without enough resources, but they don’t address the root causes. Communities of Transformation seems to me to be one of the most effective ways to address the root issues.” – Andy Gartman
“There are so many things out there where we may help for a little while, but it’s short-lived, and you’re doing it over and over again. This is similar to education in that the benefits you gain from it are long term and lasting. You’re taking people and helping them move to a stage where they can be self-sufficient… This has a ripple down effect through the whole community. It’s a way to make a difference that really lasts.” – Jeff Moody
How can I get involved?
Congregations interested in learning more about this initiative can call Communities of Transformation Coordinators Laurel and Fred Blackwell at 334-524-3652, or email them at email@example.com.