For one afternoon, a group of volunteers are about to find out what it’s like to live in poverty.
Dawson County Family Connection is hosting its fifth poverty simulation from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 13. It is being facilitated by the University of Georgia extension service.
“It’s a simulation of what people living in poverty face on a daily basis, hardships, the roadblocks,” said Nancy Stites, Family Connection Coordinator.
Booths will be set up around the outside of the gym at Veterans Memorial Park that represent 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 will be set up around the park to make the simulation feel as real as possible. Participants will receive a packet of information detailing the person they are portraying and what their goals are for the duration of the two hour experience. The simulation is broken down into four parts, representing the passage of four weeks, in which time participants will need to keep their homes, feed their families and pay their bills.
“We really want this to be an education for the participants because we think with awareness you’ll be able to impact the way you address poverty in your community,” Stites said. “You’ll understand it better.”
For nearly 10 percent of Dawson County residents, living in poverty is a reality. Stites hopes that this year’s simulation will result in a way to help those living in poverty.
The 2019-20 Leadership Dawson class will be participating in the simulation, but it is open and free for anyone who wishes to participate. Stites said she would like to have around 50 to 60 participants this year.
“I think those people working with individuals in poverty, it will have the greatest impact,” Stites said. “It gives them a better understanding, the obstacles that people face so maybe you can help them get around those obstacles or prevent them from ever running into that obstacle.”
Over the years Stites has overseen the simulation, it always begins the same. Participants grab their packets and perceive the simulation to be a fun roleplaying game, but by the end of the experience, many are left feeling frustrated and anxious.
“There is not that lighthearted atmosphere. It’s like they’re taking it seriously and they’re realizing this is not a game,” Stites said. “It’s real.”
According to Stites, participants after the simulation felt more able to develop plans for community action addressing the needs of low-income families and had ideas they wanted to discuss about community actions that could be taken to support families.
“When you feel like someone understands you, the whole relationship improves and that’s what I’m hoping would happen,” Stites said. “I think it’s easier to make connections then and I think connection is often what holds people together.”
Anyone interested can sign up by calling Family Connection at (706) 265-1981.