Learning What It’s Like to Live in Poverty
September 16, 2013   //   By:   //   Real-world Learning

IMG_4832 (4)“Instead of focusing on school work, children are worrying about whether their family will be okay,” said junior Ashley Testino, who recently played a youngster in an Elizabethtown College poverty simulation. “They are questioning if their family will be able to get what they need to make it.”

Students and faculty members learned what it was like to live below the poverty line last week at the Friday, Sept. 13, Poverty Simulation held in the KAV.

“I walked away learning everyone has their own story,” said senior Shayna Perella, a  simulation participant. “You need to remember that when you talk to people, because you don’t know what they’re going through every day.”

Instead of focusing on school work, children are worrying about whether their family will be okay.

Participants began the simulation by receiving packets that outlined the identity they would be role playing. The packet also listed how much money and the items each family had. Using 15-minute “weeks,” participants had to figure out how to make it through the month with the little they had. Ultimately, the simulation is a scenario of what a family must go through for several weeks and what choices they make to stay together. Participants not only saw how poverty affected adults but also its effect on children.

“You really gain a lot [of insight] about children and their experience in poverty. I got to see how children were affected in school,” said Testino.

The event was sponsored by the Center for Community and Civic Engagement.

“Our goal for the simulation is to bring poverty, hunger and homelessness issues to the forefront, so that we think about that in our daily lives,” said Nancy Valkenburg, director of the Center. Students who have participated in the past said they had no idea poverty was that prevalent and didn’t realize there was urban poverty as well as rural destitution.

“Students learned there is poverty in places we just don’t think to look because we just have no idea,” she said.

About the Author :

Melissa Nanna is a 2015 graduate of Elizabethtown College.

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