Poverty Simulation: a term that conjures up a variety of feelings depending on person, a term that has been on my mind since coming to United Ministries. This term may confuse you, for you are not familiar with it and do not understand what it is. For others, though, who are familiar with the work of United Ministries, this term means something. As an outsider with basic knowledge, it represents a poverty education effort in the Greenville community. For those who have participated in the simulation, it symbolizes feelings of frustration, anger, despair, and even hopelessness. This is what the poverty simulation aims for.
As an intern being virtually unaware of what the poverty simulation entailed, I embarked on my first simulation a few weeks ago with great enthusiasm. There was quite a large group of 66 participants, and I was assigned to be the police officer not knowing that it would be a difficult job to carry out.
At first, the simulation seemed like a game, but as it kept on through the first week, to the second week, and onto the third and fourth weeks, I began to see things differently. I watched as children were left alone at home with no one able to look after them. I watched as the dreams of young adults were shattered as they were forced to drop out of community college in order to work and help support their families. I watched as people went hungry and possessions were pawned off. Simply put, it was life getting in the way of…well…life.
During the participant discussion after the simulation was over, there was so much to say. Person after person described their situation in detail. They explained how they had felt, what had bothered them, and what had made them angry. The simulation had tested them mentally, but it weighed on them emotionally more than anything. As they sat there eagerly sharing their experiences, I had to hold back tears. That day these 66 participants were hit with reality just as I was. This is not a game. This is real life. Everything I had witnessed and everything they had experienced is someone’s reality every single day.
This is why this simulation is so valuable. Poverty is a word that is thrown around a lot but does not often resonate with people. We have become so numb to the word that we may be losing sight of what it is. In this case, it seems to take people being fully immersed in the experiences of poverty before they can relate and make connections. Sure, what I am speaking of is a just a “simulation,” but it is so much more than that. It is a means to open eyes to a world of desperate need.
If you are in the Greenville area, I encourage you to make a poverty simulation a personal experience. Volunteer to be a vendor in the community of the simulation, or sign up a group in which you are involved to be participants. We will come to you! Think about it, for I want you to learn and feel what I and many others already have.