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Community participates in poverty simulation
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Becca Walsh tries to sign up for childcare during a poverty simulation Nov. 13 at Veterans Memorial Park. The simulation is facilitated by the University of Georgia in partnership with Dawson County Family Connection. - photo by Jessica Taylor

For some community members, they learned the struggles of living in poverty.

Thanks to a simulation facilitated by the University of Georgia, the current Leadership Dawson class was able to see firsthand the difficulties that come with living in poverty.

Dawson County Family Connection ran the poverty simulation on Nov. 13 at Veterans Memorial Park, and while the simulation only lasted a few short hours, it provided a very real learning opportunity for its participants.

“The poverty simulation was an eye opener to the resources that Dawson County provides to people needing assistance,” said participant Anna Duncan. “I learned that the difference is made we do more to educate our community on the local resources and that the more we, as a community, do to give back and help others then the impact in our community will always be positive."

Booths were set up around the outside of the gym at Veterans Memorial Park that represented different agencies and organizations that are often the roadblocks faced by low-income families.

From bankers to social services to pawn shops to community action teams, volunteers were set up around the park to make the simulation feel as real as possible.

Participants received a packet of information detailing the person they portrayed and what their goals are for the duration of the two hour experience. The simulation consisted of four parts, representing the passage of four weeks, in which time participants struggled to balance their bills, jobs, childcare and health.

The Leadership program chair, Carol Tyger, said the simulation was a way for the class to get a real taste of some of the difficulties those in poverty face as well as gave participants an opportunity to learn more about resources available in the community.

“They got a very real taste of what it's like for individuals living in poverty and the hardships they face every day. Many families experience frustrations and appreciate finding resources,” Tyger said. “The class learned about many of those resources in our county from some of the agencies that also participated.”

After the simulation, the participants came together to discuss their experiences and brainstormed ways they could be more aware of poverty in Dawson County and what can be done to address low-income needs in the community.

“Two common themes reigned at the Poverty Simulation – there is never enough time nor money.  Such an eye-opening experience when presented with the multiple constraints that are faced by families living below the poverty line,” said participant Kendy Bennett.  “Awareness is just the beginning of the solution, but we all have to start somewhere in order to better meet the needs of those in our community.”