A Poverty Simulation

So, we hosted a poverty simulation after church on Sunday. It was run by the local United Way as part of the Pathways Past Poverty initiative.

What is a poverty simulation? It’s a role-playing experience where one gets a role in a family and must do what it takes to make ends meet, with a month broken into 4 weeks and taking about an hour. There generally are 20+ people role playing in families and another 10 role playing community resources (such as banks, pawn shops, grocers, etc). One starts with an inventory of items (perhaps a TV, a paycheck, a few travel passes, etc) and a family situation with details for each member. From there, you have to quickly figure out how to feed your family and pay bills with limited time and resources. I reminded me of a role playing game, though the goal isn’t to win, but to learn and empathize.

While a simulation is not the same a living in poverty, it certainly did me for my heart and mind than simply reading about poverty. It’s one thing to know a statistic. It’s another to emotionally feel poor for an hour. Personally, I’m a big believer in experiential education, and participating in this one reminded me why they are effective. It affected me emotionally, and I feel a lot more empathy for people in poverty than I have in awhile. It’s hard to talk about specifics, because I’m not sure how much sense it makes without knowing all the pieces of the simulation.

So, another step taken as we learn to serve people.