Understanding People In Poverty

We want people to understand why the people we serve need the resources and programs we offer, but it’s hard to understand what resource scarcity is like when you haven’t experienced it. That’s why, as part of the Forward S.T.E.P.S. initiative, we run Poverty Simulations – a two-and-a-half-hour role-playing training in which participants must survive a month in poverty. The work of Forward S.T.E.PS. is important because we develop skills and communities that help people understand, move out of, and stay out of Poverty.

“I’ve experienced poverty, and I felt validated in what I experienced. I understand better why my parents had to make some of the choices they made.” – A Student

A school that ran a simulation in October will have another this month – they realize that their students are completing their education with no knowledge of the people they’re going to work with.

“I tell people trying to survive poverty to pray, and yet during the simulation it, it never crossed my mind. The tools we assume we have go out the window.”  – A Pastor

At the start of any given semester we run 3-5 simulations. We’d love to run more, but it’s a time and labor intensive program. In order to run the simulation for 80 people, 16 to 32 people facilitators are needed, to make sure the roles are filled and to bring their diverse perspectives and experiences. This opens a dialogue for change in the community.

“You have to come in with an open mind, and be willing to engage in the process. You don’t really live in poverty, you get to leave. But the stress is high…if you take it seriously.”  – A Facilitator.

Many people will have an “Ah-ha” moment – when a fixed understanding of the world comes undone, replaced with a more complete understanding of being under-resourced. Empathy is just as important a resource for Second Harvest to store and share as food or diapers – it allows us to do the work of opening each other’s eyes.

If you think that your organization would benefit from a Poverty Simulation, we encourage you to contact Dorica Watson.

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