Poverty Simulation Exercise Fosters Empathy, Understanding

Students at The College of Wooster learn what it’s like to live at or below the poverty line

21 November, 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — What's it like to wait in line for assistance with a heating bill, only to be denied by a local agency because of limited funds? How does it feel to be a single parent without the means to provide basic healthcare for your children?

Students at The College of Wooster learned just how exasperating it can be to navigate the social-service system by participating in a poverty simulation exercise earlier this week in the Scot Center.

Organized by seniors Elle Bacon and Molly Porter of Wooster's Poverty Outreach program house, the two-hour interactive session was designed to foster understanding for those who endure the stress of poverty. "The simulation was a chance for students to look beyond the Wooster bubble to the larger communities they are part of," said Bacon.

Each student was given a profile, which included family makeup, income, health issues, etc., and then directed to stop at various stations where simulated agencies would hear their case. "Our objective was to give students some sense of the frustration that people in poverty deal with on a daily basis," said Bacon, a religious studies major from West Hartford, Conn.

The stations were staffed by faculty, staff, area professionals, and student volunteers. Included in the group were Thomas Tierney (sociology), Charles Kammer (religious studies), Linda Morgan Clement (chaplain and director of interfaith campus ministries), and Melissa Pearce (director of Community Action Wayne and Medina Counties).

About 40 students took part in the simulation, and Bacon hopes they will be further encouraged to reach out and become actively involved in the community. In the meantime, she and her fellow residents in the Poverty Outreach program house will continue providing service to the community by assisting with the breakfast program at Trinity United Church of Christ in Wooster. Each weekday between 7:30-9:30 a.m., two student volunteers from the house prepare and serve a hearty meal and then mingle with the 40-100 individuals who attend on any given day.

"It's another way to engage with people in the community," said Bacon. "I really enjoy being a small part of the wider community outside of the campus. Conversing and listening to people's ideas and lives on a regular basis is something I truly look forward to."