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United Way Poverty Simulation

Posted on 11/10/2013 @ 08:00 PM

Tags: pep

The first day of Hunger is Not a Game has come to a close. The four teen coordinators – Brittany Bruck (BBYO Southern Region: Atlanta Council), Jordan Kotler (BBYO Northern Region East: DC Council), Daniel Roth (BBYO Pacific Western Region) and Michael Vivier (BBYO North Texas Oklahoma Region) – began with a program aimed at orienting the participants to what hunger truly is. In the format of “what would you do?” in various situations, the teens started to get a feel for what people suffering from hunger face every day.


United Way of Southeastern Michigan Representative Audrey Bloomberg explains the poverty simulation

Shortly after, representatives from the United Way of South Eastern Michigan joined the group to lead an interactive poverty simulation to help them try to understand what it’s like to spend a month living in poverty. The teens were divided into mock families and assigned roles (everything from mother to father, child to grandmother) along with sources of income, possessions, utility bills and identification documents.


Claire Akers (BBYO Keystone Mountain Region) and Danny Sills (BBYO Pacific Western Region), playing the role of a mother and son, review their finances and fill out social services forms.

The mission was laid out by representative and BBYO alum Audrey Bloomberg – the teens would be given one hour (representing a month, broken into 15 minute weeks) – to live a mock month by going to different stations around the room representing work, social services, school, the bank, a pawn shop and a community action organization.

“This may seem like a game, but it’s not a game,” said Bloomberg. “This is how people live in your cities across the world.”

The “families” were given eight minutes to strategize and then the simulation took place.

After, Bloomberg asked for words to describe how they felt. The answers: angry, stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, cheated, guilty, annoyed, scared, embarrassed.

One eye-opening realization that came out of the program was that many people weren’t aware of the organizations like the community action organization (in the simulation and in the real world) that are available to help people in these situations, experiencing these feelings.

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