Pictured above and in the video below, students participated in a poverty simulation hosted by the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center. (Photos and video by Cliff Hollis)

Students learn hardships of life on limited income

Jan. 25, 2012

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

About 50 students, most from East Carolina University’s Department of Child Development and Family Relations, gathered at the Mendenhall Student Center on Wednesday to learn what it feels like to support a family on limited income.

Grouped into nine families, many were tasked with managing a household budget. Others acted as service providers that the families could interact with: An employer, a bank, a public school, a utilities company. The simulation was broken into installments representing four separate weeks in the families’ lives.

Extra challenges like flat tires and medical experiences cropped up throughout the simulation. And participants had to beware of an “illegal activities” actor who might rob families of their possessions and money or attempt to persuade family members that crime could help pay the bills.

The Volunteer Service-Learning Center began hosting poverty simulations last fall. They are intended to educate people about the stress and challenges that accompany having a shortage of money.

“We hope students leave the simulation experience…sensitized to the day-to-day realities of life in poverty,” said Service-Learning Coordinator Jessica Gagne Cloutier, “As well as (with) a stronger desire to engage in service activities related to poverty relief.”

A past simulation was open to the entire campus and community, and center staff hope to run another one this spring. Gagne said they will organize simulations for classes or departments upon request.
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