Poverty Awareness Simulation at Barry University

Barry University offered a new campus event to create awareness about the realities of poverty, and shift perceptions about individuals trapped in the system. The Poverty Simulation, offered at universities across the country, is designed to help par- ticipants understand what it is like to live in a typical low-income family and the overwhelming demands of everyday life. Barry’s outreach to local middle school, high school, and college stu- dents, as well as to community members, resulted in over 148 participants joining the experience. Upon arriving, each person was asked to role play a typical scenario as a parent or child in ‘families’ of poverty, and navigate through four weeks of logistics related to food stamps, transportation, employment, health care, and housing.

The Poverty Simulation supports efforts of the Office of Mission Engagement to create awareness about Barry’s Social Justice Mission and the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ mission to“Walks in solidarity with people who are poor and challenge structures that impoverish them;” feedback from participants suggest that these goals were reached. A social studies teacher from a local middle school shared: “I’ve always thought of myself-at least in recent years-as someone who possesses empathy, and who lives my life with understanding of and respect for those not like me. This experience, however, showed me that while I have indeed attempted empathy, I wasn’t even CLOSE to being equipped to place myself in the shoes of those who live each day just trying to get by. Last evening was not only a paradigm-shifting experience for me professionally (it will impact the way I teach government), but it also challenged my political views and my personal relationships. I need to spend some time reflecting…[and] I am eager to explore some of these issues further.”

Coordinated by Barry’s AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Shay Bellamy, sessions were led by trained facilitator Nyima Porter, MSW, who has led the experience at other universities and serves as a consultant on issues of poverty. Sponsored by the Community Learning Partnership grant, the Poverty Simulation was described as an experience that will be remembered at Barry for years to come.