Walk A Mile: A Poverty Simulation Experience
“I did not get to work since I had to go to the social service offices that are only open during my work hours….” “I paid a hefty fee since I was late to pick up my baby brother from daycare….” “Since our parents are both working two jobs, we have not seen them awake for the last five days….we buy our sparse food at the local convenience store and it is really expensive…”
These were the statements of our members who participated in the United Way of Central Maryland’s Walk a Mile Experience (WAM), a poverty simulation, which the Circle co-hosted with the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation (JWGF), and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG). Each of the 52 participants assumed a specific role in a family or as a service provider. The goal of the WAM experience is to simulate poverty experiences, and through those experiences to build empathy and understanding for more than 300,000 Central Maryland residents living below the poverty line. For those who participated in this exercise that goal was achieved.
The family profiles are based on real-life situations and the sense of desperation was profound. One participant noted “the experience reminds me that my problems are nothing compared to poverty” and another participant who took on the role of the mother of her family sadly shared “I did not touch my baby in four days.” The group debrief revealed many poignant and provocative observations, ranging from a sense of helplessness regarding the dire straits to some hopefulness at families collaborating to do the best that they can, with very limited resources.
For more information on how to participate or to host a WAM simulation, contact Lizzie Devereux at the United Way of Central Maryland at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Karen M. Singer