Poverty Simulation

Last week I had the privilege of photographing a Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) at Decatur High School where my son goes to school. This simulation provided the freshman class the opportunity to experience the day-to-day realities of living with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. The students cycled through three different activities. The first group I photographed was packaging bags that contained rice, vitamins, dehydrated vegetables and soy. In just under two hours, 100 students had packaged and boxed 18,000 food packets. These boxes were slated to be shipped overseas. The second group of students I photographed were “role-playing the lives of low-income families, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self sufficiency on Social Security. The task of each family was to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities during the simulation while interacting with various community resources staffed by low-income volunteers.”   http://www.communityaction.org/poverty%20simulation.aspx

Poverty Simulation-1

Poverty Simulation-2 Poverty Simulation-3A family unit tries to make collaborative decisions as to how to spend their monthly income.

Poverty Simulation-4This individual is visiting Social Services to ask for assistance with cash, child care, clothing, employment, food or housing.

Poverty Simulation-5 Poverty Simulation-6Ms. Smith told me that she was role-playing an 78-year-old widow with severe arthritis. She said she was good at managing her money and that after paying off her bills she had $140.00 to spare at the end of the month.This student mentioned that it was interesting to watch how the simulation progressed. The participants experienced a typical month living in poverty in the 2 hour simulation. At the beginning the participants were moving slowly and did not appear concerned but after some time they were scrambling to secure the services and assistance they needed. The tension in the room was palpable by the time I arrived.

Poverty Simulation-7At the end of the simulation the students were divided into groups to discuss what it was like to live with a shortage of money and the resulting stress.

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5 comments
  1. Hildy Diaz said:

    What a valuable lesson and awareness for these students to experience. Hopefully It will bring some of them to actions in the future.

  2. marney richards said:

    This looks like an incredible program. It seems impressive to get it into a high school. So interesting to look at the faces of the students involved. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I was impressed as well that the high school sponsored this project. We were lucky that the Decatur Education Foundation helped to pay the cost of bringing it to the school.

  3. Margarita Montalvo said:

    What a useful project!!!!!! It made me think of Braulio, who…as a joke…used to say that to end poverty, all that had to be done was to make ALL millionaires spend one weekend every 1 or 2 years as a homeless person!!!! In order no to go through that again, something would be done to end poverty. Margarita

  4. You are right! a person cannot really understand the challenges and difficulties involved unless they have experienced it first hand. This is the closest many of these young people came to finding out what it meant to live under such stress. I hope it gave them the inspiration to compete their schooling and to also be empathetic to those less fortunate.

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