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SU students get a personal taste of the hardships of poverty during simulated exercise
SU students get a personal taste of the hardships of poverty during simulated exerciseNovember 07, 2001Nicci Brownnicbrown@syr.edu
Students in Syracuse University’s College of Human Services and Health Professions (HSHP) will get a taste of what it’s like to live in poverty when they take part in a simulated exercise on Nov. 11. The college’s annual welfare/poverty simulation will be held from 2-5 p.m. in the Goldstein Auditorium of the Schine Student Center. Tanya Horacek, assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management and director of the didactic program in dietetics, will direct the event.
As part of the exercise students will be organized into “families,” with each student playing the role of a family member. Over the course of the next “month,” which for the purpose of the exercise will be four, 15-minute weeks, the students will have to manipulate limited financial resources and attempt to provide themselves with food, shelter and basic necessities. Some simulated families will go without food for weeks or be evicted from their apartments. Others will turn to selling drugs or other illegal activities in an attempt to earn money.
Developed by the Reform Organization for Welfare in Missouri to educate lawmakers and government organizations about the realities of welfare, the simulation project was designed to be flexible, so that it could be tailored to the needs of the group using it. Horacek says it’s a valuable learning experience for all students at HSHP. “Because it’s a collaborative effort between different social services and health professions, it gives students a taste of how their fields are interconnected. Also, many of our students have not experienced living in poverty or on welfare. This event is a lesson in empathy, giving the students a chance to walk in the shoes of those living a difficult life.”
Students will be provided with detailed case studies of the characters they play, and with real-life props, such as food stamps, transportation tickets and furniture that could be pawned for money. A welfare office, a food pantry, an employment office, a pawnshop, a grocery store, a currency exchange and a host of other organizations will also be represented, staffed by faculty and members of the community. The exercise models itself on current welfare systems. It will end with small-group discussions and a panel debriefing with people who have lived or worked closely within the welfare system.