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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014

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Poverty Simulation gives students a new perspective

Event creates awareness of low-income families' issues


On Nov. 8, about 70 Ohio University students experienced poverty – something that thousands of southeastern Ohio families experience every day.

The Poverty Simulation, which was sponsored by the university's Campus Involvement Center, attempted to give students a real sense of the issues that millions of Americans are forced to live with on a daily basis.

During the event, organizers set the Baker University Center Ballroom up like a small city, with "houses" throughout the center of the room. Each house was a set of four chairs facing one another and along the perimeter of the room were local businesses that families utilized to survive the week. The businesses consisted of
a bank, a school, a pawnshop, mortgage and utility companies, a jail, a food shelter, a social services facility and quick cash loan service.

The families ranged from one to four people, and each family’s lifestyle was riddled with many challenges. Single motherhood, minors with children, lack of health care or insurance, unemployment and crime were prevalent in 100 percent of the families.

"Generational poverty and situational poverty have similar and different characteristics," said Ohio AmeriCorps Vista's Pamela Pate, who co-coordinated the event with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest food bank. "The responses I've heard the most are that people are thought of as lazy and not wanting to work. That they want handouts, a free ride and to be taken care of. Not true."

There were four 15-minute sessions and each 15-minute set stood for one week. The program immersed students into the lives of their characters. Family members would spend their time at work, school or at home due to disability or infancy. The short sessions gave participants a real sense of how limits on time can add up to great amounts of stress.

"You cannot address what you do not acknowledge. It's my goal to create and partner with people to bring awareness of the issues of poverty to OU students," Pate said, "I always say service, real participatory service, can be the edge when students go to compete for jobs. Awareness gained can highlight a candidate's character, timber and resolve and that can be the edge."

For more ways to get involved, visit the Campus Involvement Center website at www.ohio.edu/communityservice.