On Friday, Sept. 13, a poverty simulation took place in the KAV for any students interested in learning more about hunger and homelessness. The event took place from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. During the simulation, participants were given roles such as “father,” “mother” and “child” and then experienced what their assigned life would be like if they lived in utter poverty. The experience was put together and made possible by the Community Action Program of Lancaster County — an organization focused on the elimination of the conditions that result in men and women being forced to live on the streets.
While the majority of learning at Elizabethtown College takes place in the classroom, the poverty simulation helped tear down the walls that shield students from the outside, poverty-stricken world. By asking participants to take the time out of their day to experience what it really means to be poor, the poverty simulation does what books and films cannot. Thus, students are armed with knowledge and experience. Through charities and other support groups, they can make a difference in the lives of those for whom poverty is a stark reality and not just a teaching exercise.
The Poverty Simulation’s message was received by the many students who attended, all of whom were able to take something positive and worthwhile away from the experience. One student, first-year Nelli Orozco, who was required to attend the event for class, stated that the most memorable part of the simulation was “being able to experience what people who live in poverty actually experience on a daily basis. I learned how poverty is a harsh reality for many people in the U.S., including Lancaster County.”
Learning of how close to home poverty can strike is a sobering fact to hear and is given even more weight by observing and taking part in the struggles that plague the underprivileged. Orozco elaborated on how startling it was to learn about the state of local homelessness and hunger. “I didn’t know that so many people from Lancaster County lived in poverty. It really opens your eyes to how many people live this unfortunate life,” she said.
The Community Action Program of Lancaster County’s mission statement is “Championing the achievement of long-term self-sufficiency for individuals and families through services and advocacy targeting the elimination of poverty.”
When an event such as the Poverty Simulation brings attention to the issues of homelessness and hunger, especially on a local level, it is a triumph for the program. However, giving such societal ills publicity does little to actually solve the problem itself. It is up to the program, those who took part in its activities and the community as a whole to continue combatting this issue at all times. The simulation itself was an opportunity to learn of the gravity of the situation and how it affects a community and its citizens. Now we must use our knowledge and experience to build a better world.