Become an Ally
Circles of Support: What is my role as an ally?

At first, the notion of being an Ally might seem overwhelming.  Once you are in an Ally role, you may find yourself in situations where you are uncertain about your part in the—relationship. What do you do when you have different opinions on important issues?  What if you suspect he is experiencing trouble at home or work?  What is your responsibility? How can you have the most positive impact on a participant?


There is no one answer concerning what your role is or is not. The Circles of Support staff can provide clearer direction for you based program experiences and expectations. In general, here are some basic guidelines to help you determine your role with your participant.

YOU ARE . . .


. . . a friend. Like peer friendships, allies and participants do things together that are fun and engaging. They support each other both in good times and in tough times. They teach each other. They help each other. They’re honest with each other. And sometimes they have to have hard conversations about concerns they have, asking the right questions at the right time. By being a good listener and engaging in authentic—conversations with a participant, you are helping them develop important life skills.


. . . a role model. You are expected to set a good example to the participant for how to live your life. This is not the same as being perfect. Rather, it is about acknowledging your imperfections and sharing your strengths. It is also about advocating for a participant when dangers to their physical or emotional well-being are present.


. . . a confidant. Building a close relationship with a participant will help them build better relationships with others in their life as well, such as parents, children and peers. In the process, a participant may tell you things they do not feel comfortable telling anyone else. Sometimes they may tell you about their hopes, dreams, or insecurities. Other times they may reveal mistakes they have made. Unless a participant is in trouble and needs outside help, please keep their private comments between the two of you. Your role is to be supportive of your participant as a person with potential, regardless of the kinds of actions or attitudes they confide in you.


. . . a nurturer of possibilities. Your role is to see the gifts and strengths of your participant and help them flourish personally. You should help your participant channel their gifts toward actions that make them a resource to others in their family, neighborhood or community.  




. . . a social worker or doctor. If your participant tells you about experiences or health conditions that concern you, always turn to the Circles of Support program staff for help. Although arming yourself with information about, say, a learning disability or abuse may help you understand your participant better, it is not your responsibility to try to address conditions or situations that require professional help. The Circles of Support staff may be able to find additional help for the participant, including local information and referral services.


. . . a savior. You should not see your role in this relationship as coming in to make a participant’s life better or to fix their problems. Certainly your support can help your participant overcome hurdles. But don’t forget that everyone —regardless of his circumstances—has gifts and talents that make them more than a “recipient” of your support. Your participant should be treated as having much to offer to the world, because they do.

  • Contact Usfor information about the Circles of Support program.