The Poverty Simulation experience was held today by the School of Nursing at WVU. The facilitator, Susan Pinto, contacted the WVU Extension Office to organize some Human Nutrition and Foods volunteers to join the experience. Now, what the Poverty Simulation is… It is an activity that serves as a vital part of the School of Nursing’s Senior Community Nursing Student Orientation. During the activity, nursing students were introduced to what it might be like to walk in the shoes of a family struggling to keep it together on a very limited budget. Rileigh Johnson, Alexandra Smith, and I were the volunteers representing the Human Nutrition and Foods department. Being a volunteer, we were to act in one of the roles as a service worker. My job was a Community Action Agency Staff member. I was simulating, not playing, a role of a CAA that was responsible for referring people to the appropriate agencies and issuing out food vouchers, utility vouchers, cash, and Early Head Start vouchers.
As new volunteers, all 3 of us were to report to WVU’s Rec Center in the Multipurpose Room A at 9am. This was to give us time to get oriented by Susan Pinto and to really get a feel for what we were getting ourselves into today. The simulation lasted approximately from 10am-12:50pm. During 9am-10am, gave Susan time to explain everything to the nursing students, explain the rules, and explain why they were doing the activity.
The simulation was broken down into 15 minute intervals. Each interval was to represent 1 week. There were 4 intervals so; all together the simulation was to represent a month in the life of a low-income family. There were approximately 70-75 students that attended the simulation. They were given information about their family’s financial troubles and were told about each agency that was in the room. I was surprised that my agency didn’t receive that many more participants than it did. I only saw about 4-5 families. At the end of the simulation, each agency was responsible to tell all of the participants their own interpretation about the experience. I told the class, that I was surprised that not as many people asked for cash. I gave away all of my utility vouchers, and almost all of my emergency food vouchers but, only 1 family asked for cash from the CAA. I noticed people’s faces in somewhat shock from this. I realized that the reason the participants didn’t come to me, is because they figured they knew where to go and what to ask for. But the realization is that they didn’t. They didn’t know exactly where to go for certain things because the agency that cared for children had the same experience that my agency had.
I think this is a GREAT opportunity and experience. Especially for students who have never experienced financial struggles before. Even Susan said in the beginning, this is really good for those students that have always lived off of mommy and daddy’s credit card. I think this should be a mandated campus-wide experience for everyone from every aspect of life to do.