Written by Edward Rella, Staff Writer
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live as an immigrant in the U.S., undocumented, and working for a mere $20 a day, or maybe a struggling college dropout living off of odd jobs for cash around their city?
On Thursday, February 2, Dr. Consuela Ward hosted a unique poverty simulation.
The simulation utilized cards that told the situation you were placed into along with a budget sheet with various expenses you may encounter, all with one goal: “Budget to survive the month”, Dr. Ward says.
Dr. Ward has been hosting the Courageous Conversations program since 2010, and has traveled throughout the United States with the intent “to expose and challenge people on how they can address poverty in their communities.’ Dr. Ward said, “There is only two to three people doing this in the country, and I am self-run, and very mobile. I can get onto a plane with everything I need and go anywhere that needs me.”
During this event, Dr. Ward began by opening with a bit about herself and how she came to become such an activist on poverty around her. Dr. Ward then shared the instructions of the simulation; the groups get labeled cards with situations like those whom would be in poverty. She then passed around budget sheets to each table, with around four to six people at each one.
As the event went on, many people went from talking and giggling to seriousness and concern when Dr. Ward continued to talk about how poverty in the United States is not improving and needs more support from anyone willing to help.
A group of people were to work together to budget expenses for an entire month. The budget sheet included things like housing, food for the family, healthcare, transportation, internet and insurance. Some of these things could be skipped out on to help alleviate the costs of others, but the decision ultimately was up to the groups’ discretion.
There were government assistance alternatives to dampen the costs of the expenses, but each group was only allowed to choose two for the month.
As for extra money to help the budget for the month, each group had two choices of a variety of ‘odd jobs’ such as pawning items, taking out a cash advance loan, committing theft, selling drugs, and even prostitution. If a group was to choose an illegal activity, they were to flip the ‘Police Station’ card, giving them a 50/50 chance of being incarcerated, spending 30 days in jail with a $500 bail, or never being caught for the month.
There were also children to account for in most scenarios which led to increased amounts of money being spent and the need to flip over the ‘School Visit’ card which prompts the group to decide to volunteer for their school and/or donating money for school supplies, both are completely up to the group to decide.
Once the group drew up the monthly budget, they were to process the entire experience with a few questions from the remaining card, ‘Processing Questions’. The groups took time to talk about how they felt, what they thought, and what else could have changed their outcomes.
Dr. Ward then began visiting each group, asking how they did and what their scenarios were. Some groups stuck with a more legal route, while others depended on prostitution and drug dealing to help get them through the month. Dr. Ward also addressed the problem of wealth inequality in America and prompts the crowd; “Think about what you can do to address poverty and what you can do to help,” she said.
Taylor Bennett, a senior middle grade education major, said “[This event] opened up what I thought was poverty and showed me what it really is.”
Rhett Ham, a junior psychology major, agreed with Taylor Bennett.
“[We] thought [we] understood what poverty was, but never fully. There is a lot more that goes into it,” he said.