Friday, 01 December 2017 03:27

United Way challenges public’s knowledge of poverty

Written by  Demi Knight
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Members of the Chamber of Commerce sit down for an orientation into the evening ahead, where they learned first-hand the realities of living in poverty in the November #yqlChallenge Poverty Simulation Members of the Chamber of Commerce sit down for an orientation into the evening ahead, where they learned first-hand the realities of living in poverty in the November #yqlChallenge Poverty Simulation Connolly Tate-Mitchell

Poverty is a harsh reality that 12% of residents in Lethbridge face everyday.

 

From unemployment and homelessness to struggling to make ends meet on a minimal salary, low-income individuals and families throughout the community battle through each day just hoping to make it through to the next.
In an effort to show them they’re not alone, and create an awareness of the struggles these individuals face on a regular basis, the United Way of Lethbridge, brought to the community on Nov. 21 a poverty simulation event —  the #yqlChallenge.
At the Multicultural Centre, the organization hosted the event that challenged participants to put themselves in others’ shoes and battle through an hour of the life of someone struggling with low-income.
“This simulation is a really good chance to put yourself into someone else shoes and live life like somebody else might,” says Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the United Way of Lethbridge, Connolly Tate-Mitchell. 
“It’s a serious reality for many and it’s important to know how easy it is to fall into poverty. At any point in your life, it could be you so it’s vital to have empathy and understanding on these issues.”
With an effort to spread awareness and education on this important issue, the United Way have been running these simulation events since 2013. With targeted audiences each time, the organization regularly works with the University of Lethbridge and the faculty of Health Sciences. However, this November they teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to also offer its members this eye-opening experience.
With forty people registered, the evening kicked off by giving each participant a new identity, with other participants acting as their ‘mock’ family for the remainder of the night.
With this new identity, participants and their families were also given different situations to face, from unemployment and grandparents caring for their grandchildren, to low-income jobs and working to keep a roof over their heads.
“Participant’s job during the hour is to keep their families housed, fed and clothed. During the time they must go to work or school depending on what their situation is, and the overall idea is to come out in a better situation or keep it the same and see just how hard it is,” says Tate-Mitchell.
With each participant representing someone within the community facing these exact struggles throughout the year, the hour truly showed all those involved just how hard low-income struggles are in today’s society.
“At the end of the event, we have a big group discussion about how hard it is, and you can often tell with the body language just how difficult many found it. A lot of the time people come into the situation standing tall and so confident and then by the end they look softer and exhausted after all the challenges we throw at them,” says Tate-Mitchell of the consistent participant feedback the simulation garners.
Along with the #yqlChallenge that occurred this November, the United Way also did a similar poverty simulation recently at the University of Lethbridge in October, to teach students in health science programs similar lessons on living in poverty.
Although these events, which occur up to three times each year strictly pose to raise awareness and educate the public on the immense struggles many are facing within our community today, Tate-Mitchell notes that there is an opportunity in the future for these simulations to become fundraising events to provide additional help.

Read 303 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 November 2017 13:30

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