Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Can You Make It Through the Month?

 Spent. 8.24.12

(image courtesy Urban Ministries of Durham)

by Robin Stephenson

Simulating poverty does not give one the lived experience of poverty, but it can begin to expose the truth about choices—or lack thereof—that people working low-wage jobs face every day.

We are called to compassion—meaning to suffer together, but it can be hard to make a compassionate connection when paths don't cross. So when I’m invited to speak to church groups, I  emphasize personal stories, knowing that statistics don’t always engender compassion and solidarity.

A few years ago I gained greater compassion and  insight into the realities of poverty when I participated in an elaborate simulation. Even though it was imaginary, the activity made me stop and think about poverty as a time consuming and complicated condition.


A full poverty simulation, like I experienced, is far too long for most church or community forums, but even a short view into poverty can help break down barriers.  Urban Ministries of Durham has created an online poverty simulation that could be a great discussion starter for your group. The interactive game begins where many Americans start their day—a low wage job.

Try it yourself. Can you make it through the month?  Can you pay rent, health insurance, fund the upkeep of a car, raise and feed your children, and dodge the myriad of curve balls life throws?

Click here and start the challenge and then reflect on the questions below. 

  1. What changed your perspective?  Do you now or have you experienced poverty?  What might be some adjectives to describe the experience?
  2. Do you think it might be difficult to climb the ladder of prosperity from a low-income job?  How do you think you could save or build assets?
  3. With a low-income wage and a full-time job, do you think that you would take advantage of government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) and depend on tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit to help make ends meet? 
  4. What other questions do you think would facilitate a good group conversation?  How might you use this simulation?

 RobinHS2 (2)Robin Stephenson is Western regional organizer for Bread for the World.


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