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Interactive program aims to open community eyes
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Volunteers are needed to participate in an interactive collaboration and learn what it's like to live in poverty.

The University of Georgia Family and Consumer Science center will be hosting a poverty simulation from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Oct. 14 at Veterans Memorial Park.

The fourth simulation of its type, the event is sponsored in conjunction with Dawson County Family Connection.

"We feel like it's important for leaders in the community that are making decisions that might effect that population to understand the roadblocks that these families face," said Nancy Stites, director of Dawson County Family Connection.

The simulation places participants in scenarios where families must accomplish a variety of tasks, including buying groceries, paying bills and caring for both toddlers and aging parents while surviving on low wages.

"Volunteers will be asked to provide basic needs for their family in four, 15-minute sessions," Stites said. "Each session is a week, so you will live a month. There's a lot of stress going on in this simulation, all different situations."

Family Connection currently has room for 25 more participants.

"The most common comment we get is that people just have no idea what it's like. I had one person comment about how stressed he was and how real the simulation became," Stites said. "People come in laughing and light-hearted and by the time that last simulated week rolls around, you can feel the tension in the air."

According to the 2012 census, 13.7 percent of Dawson County residents live at or below the poverty rate, slightly lower than the state average of 17.4 percent.

"It's an eye-opener. People are surprised at the things you need to know while in poverty," Stites said.

For more information or to participate, call Family Connection at (706) 265-1981.