Community Poverty Simulation Workshop Raises Awareness on Low Income Challenges

An interactive workshop designed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by low-income people and better understand the issues and emotions behind the statistics of poverty will be conducted Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 7-10 p.m. in Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center.

Community members are invited to join Lawrence students, faculty and staff in a poverty simulation in which they will assume the roles of families dealing with economic hardship.  Interested participants are asked to register in advance.

During the workshop, participants will be assigned to different “families” who are facing various obstacles: some are recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), some are recently deserted by the household “breadwinner” while others are senior citizens living solely on Social Security benefits.

Role-playing families attempt to provide basic necessities and shelter while navigating community resources such as banks, grocery stores and utility companies over the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” A debriefing session in which participants share their feelings about the learning experience follows the exercise.

“The Poverty Simulation will give participants a chance to understand poverty right here in Appleton,” said Chuck Demler, AmeriCorps VISTA Service Learning Coordinator at Lawrence. “We’ll unearth poverty issues hidden right around us.”

Although not an official part of Lawrence’s current month-long “Engaging Human Rights” series, the simulation offers participants an opportunity to actively learn more about social justice and human rights issues as they apply to life in the Fox Valley. As many as 40 percent of students in the Fox Valley come from households that have incomes low enough to qualify them for free or reduced price meals at school.

The workshop is sponsored by Lawrence’s Office of Engaged Learning, the Lawrence Volunteer and Community Service Center and CAP Services, Inc. Founded under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, CAP Services began as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” The organization, which serves Outagamie, Marquette, Portage, Waupaca and Waushara counties, seeks “a permanent increase in the ability of low-income individuals to become economically and emotionally self-sufficient.”

Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,520 students from 44 states and 56 countries.