October 25th, 2020

College students experience effects of poverty

By Bobinec, Greg on November 21, 2019.

Herald photo by Greg Bobinec Lethbridge College students in the Child and Youth Care program undergo a poverty simulation in which they have to figure out how to live day-by-day with limited resources and time, Tuesday morning. @GBobinecHerald

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald


Lethbridge College students in the Child and Youth Care diploma programs participated in a poverty simulation on Tuesday to help them understand the causes and effects of poverty.

United Way of Lethbridge put on the simulation for the second year at the college which guides the students through the experience of homelessness. Students see the realities of landing under the poverty line as well as the struggle to get out of it.

“The poverty simulation is an interactive learning experience,” says Connoly Tate-Mitchell, marketing and communications co-ordinator with United Way Lethbridge. “It was developed in the U.S. by the Missouri Community Action Network and it is designed to give people a quick look at what it’s like for about 12 per cent of Lethbridge people who are experiencing poverty on a regular basis, so it’s just a quick little immersion experience to see how difficult it can be to get out of poverty, but also how easy it can be to fall into poverty.”

Students are divided into family homes where the parents, week after week, with limited resources, try to make sure their family has what they need to make it to the next week. Organizers of the simulation say that the activity is something people in public jobs should undergo as it teaches them about poverty and builds empathy and understanding toward people’s circumstances.

“They have three main tasks in the activity. They have to keep their family fed and housed, they have to go to work or school, and then they have to learn how to deal with the curveballs that the activity throws at them randomly,” says Tate-Michell. “For anybody who is going to be working with the general public such as students in the criminal justice program, nursing, people who are going to eventually become teachers or child-care workers, working with people who are experiencing poverty is going to be part of their daily reality, so it is important to know how to treat those people in daily life when you encounter them.”

Students were thrown curveballs by volunteers who walked around giving them life lessons of sorts, including medical emergencies, criminal charges, robberies, theft, assaults and winnings. Through each obstacle, the students have to manage their resources and work with organizations that can help them to keep their family afloat. Manager of Student Wards and Financial Aid at the college, Linda Sprinkle, brought the program to the students at the college as a benefit in the work they do once they leave the institution.

“I thought it was really valuable and that it would be really relevant to students in programs that work with a population that is living on the edges of poverty, so that seemed more relevant than having a general group come and attend,” says Sprinkle. “It is so much more effective than doing a little role play in the classroom, or watch a video that shows lives in poverty This gives them the luck of the draw and that really is how life works.”

Throughout the simulation, students were able to experience the challenges of poverty, the challenges of working with organizations in time frames, and learn about how a family can fall below the poverty line easily.

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