I had the pleasure of taking part of a poverty simulation. This is where a group of 30 plus people who take on roles of actual people and go through a 4 week scenario in 2 hours. It puts you in the shoes of those who live in poverty. I can’t speak highly enough of it.
Everyone would benefit from going through such an exercise. It’s hard to understand what people go through when you’re stuck in old stereotypes of what poverty looks like. Educating yourself is the best thing you can do for you, your family (for prevention of you ending up in poverty), your city (to know how you can engage) and for your faith, if you have one. My question throughout the poverty reduction discussions I’ve participated in is: “Where is the church??”, who I feel has a great opportunity to be on the cutting edge of poverty reduction.
The roles we played were based on real-life people who the United Way had helped. There are 23,000 families in Calgary who live on less than $20,000 a year. Here’s what the participants said of what it felt like to walk in their shoes after the simulation was finished in our debriefing: (please note, we did not take actual buses or travel outside the simulation room but it was amazing how real they made this experience)
- confusing, not knowing where to go to find resources that would help
- thoughts such as, “I thought I was capable”
- had to have doors continually shut on you
- you start losing hope, making it hard to function
- easy to lose the desire to try
- see how easy it is to be willing to go against your morals to make money
- felt the stigma those in poverty feel. You are associated with stereotypes that somehow you are unable to work, parent your children properly and be educated, just because you’re impoverished.
- there was no time to do anything else but survive
- hard to get a job
- thought living in the homeless shelter might be easier than trying to pay bills and feed the family
- spent a lot of time on the bus just getting from one place to another trying to do things to survive (like groceries, pay bills, go to places that could help assist)
Once you understand the need, you can’t help but want to be a part of the solution. Now that I know, how can I go back to “business as usual”? I’ve missed so much of the reality that too many live in. I must do something.
Somewhere in the last few generations, we’ve become individualistic and narcissistic. We don’t care about the legacy we’re leaving for the next generation. We don’t even think about making our communities stronger. We think about whatever is next on our hectic schedule and what package we’re going to microwave for dinner.
But you and I have the opportunity to engage in what our grandparents took pride in: making our cities great. We can build community around us, get to know our neighbors and respond to needs around us.
It doesn’t take money to know your neighbor and exchange resources to create a thriving community.
The United Way of Calgary is willing to do this poverty simulation to any group of 30 or more who are willing to step out and begin to discover present day poverty. If you are interested in hosting or attending one, let me know. I would love to provide this opportunity for you.