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Poverty simulation returns to educate

Students and community members will have the opportunity to consider the real-life situations that people in poverty struggle with on a day-to-day basis on the Tuesday after spring break.

John Brown University is partnering with United Way of Northwest Arkansas to host a poverty simulation in Simmons Great Hall on March 29.

“The poverty simulation is an event that will allow participants to take on the role of a family member living in poverty, and will walk them through different decisions they would have to make
in that situation,” Kim Johnson, manager of the Child Pathway Out of Poverty Program for United Way of Northwest Arkansas, said. “It is a unique interactive experience that will allow participants to understand what it is like for both children and adults with limited resources and opportunities.”

Trisha Posey, director of the Honors Scholars Program at the University, had the opportunity to experience the simulation last year.

“It was eye opening,” Posey said. “I really understood poverty because I’ve studied it in the past.
When I experienced the simulation I truly understood the frustration of what it’s like to manage the stress of poverty every day.”

“A lot of people don’t realize that many people living in poverty are working multiple jobs. People also don’t realize that there are a lot of people who are living right on the edge of poverty, and often living paycheck to paycheck,” Johnson said.

Posey said that some common misconceptions of poverty are that impoverished people choose poverty, that they are lazy and that they have the same opportunities as others to advance themselves economically and socially.

“One of the real benefits of the simulation is that it allows you to experience the struggle of trying to manage life in poverty and gives you a sense of the stress and the real effect of poverty on emotions,” Posey said.

Participants will be presented with choices such as going to the dentist, paying unexpected bills or opting out of social events. For every decision made there is both a financial and emotional consequence that is tabulated during the test, according to United Way.

Posey said poverty in Northwest Arkansas is more prevalent than many people realize.

“It’s hidden partly because we’re a rural community,” she said.

Johnson said that people generally know that families living in poverty can’t meet their basic needs, but it can be difficult to really understand what that means. Often, it means that families have to make choices that cause a ripple effect.

“The simulation allows participants to gain a greater understanding of those struggles, allowing them to see the challenges that people in poverty face,” she said.

The program aims to challenge students, create awareness of the difficulties that come with living in a low-income situation and dispel common poverty myths.

“Members of the community will leave with a better knowledge of the harsh realities of living in poverty and a desire to address the problem,” Johnson said.

The poverty simulation will take place Tuesday, March 29 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. The event is free and breakfast and lunch will be provided, but registration is required.