Poverty Simulation Debriefing, by Liv Swanton
On October 9th, I had the opportunity to participate in a Poverty Simulation at MSU. Before the simulation I had little knowledge about poverty and how many hoops people experiencing poverty have to jump through. During the simulation I was assigned to be a 9-year-old boy who lived with his father and older sister. My sister also had a one-year-old child. My family was under a lot of stress because our mother left us. She did not pay child support and that meant we had one less income in our household.
In the simulation my family went through a lot of hardship. We had our EBT card stolen, we had unexpected bills, and we did not have enough food for our table. This simulation really helped participants put their feet in someone else's shoes. When in poverty you might not always know when you will get your next meal or if unexpected bills show up and your family can’t afford childcare, what other sacrifices or necessities your family might have to go without.
Some people in poverty have mental or physical disabilities that go untreated because their family can’t afford medication. As a 9-year-old child, I had asthma and a learning disability. When I went to school I struggled to get my school work done. When I asked teachers for help, I was ignored. I’d ask my classmates for help and they would call me names. Having a disability and not having the same opportunities as everyone else was really frustrating. I fell behind in class and soon just gave up. It’s easy to give up if you don’t have a good support system.
There are a lot of aspects that people don’t consider when it comes to poverty. Many don’t consider someone’s mental wellbeing. Stress can put a damper on anyone’s life. Not only is there stress for adults in poverty, but children too. Most kids living in poverty live in unsafe neighborhoods, their family might get evicted, and they’re more likely to get bullied in school.
This simulation taught me a lot. Poverty is so much more than not having enough money to get your basic needs met. It means having poor healthcare and living in dangerous situations. It means not necessarily having enough food in your belly. It means not having the same opportunities as everyone else. People in poverty deserve to have the same opportunities to get a good education and to make sure their family’s needs are met. I think it’s important to educate ourselves about poverty because that education can help to eliminate the stigma attached to poverty. People experiencing poverty are not lazy and do not choose to be in poverty. There are many reasons why someone may experience this type of hardship. Unless we as a society try to understand poverty, we won’t be able to help. I would caution all people to not be quick to judge others because you never know what kind of battle they are going through. Take the time to listen and understand so that real solutions can be offered to those most in need.
Author: SLM Intern and MSU Student Liv Swanton