Simulation aims to create more empathy for those in poverty

Poverty simulation participant plays role of a struggling woman with a small child.
Poverty simulation participant plays role of a struggling woman with a small child.
Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 at 7:49 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Most of the volunteers at the “Poverty Simulation” have good jobs and a good salary. They came together to gain a new perspective about living day-to-day in poverty. Everyone plays a role.

Participant LaJeanne Blanchette says she thinks many people have the misconception that those in poverty make that choice.

“All of a sudden, I was transformed into a 14-year-old girl who’s having adult conversations with my mom on how we’re going to pay the rent, when I should be going to school, and hanging out with my friends and that just wasn’t the case," Blanchette said.

Participants seem to agree it made it more realistic to pretend to be in dire straits and face sometimes overwhelming obstacles.

Beth Bunch, who is involved in the Sulphur Christian Community Coalition, also called SC3, is familiar with areas of struggle for those in poverty.

Housing situation, transportation situation, food, clothing, child care—big issue,” she said.

Yet, she said the role-playing gave her greater appreciation for their struggles.

“I just know when I was at work, I couldn’t focus because I was too worried about my family,” Bunch said.

Margaret Harris with Entergy says they hope the exercise gives participants more empathy and willingness to help.

“I think any experience where you walk in the shoes of those who have limited resources and live in poverty and are able to relate and understand that experience. 'Helps us serve others better,” Harris said.

Denise Durel is the President and CEO of the local United Way. She says the simulation does help participants better understand how tough life is for some.

“With 40 pecent of our population here in Southwest Louisiana struggling to make ends meet day in and day out, I just thought it would be powerful if we could bring this to our community for people to see first-hand that it does exist and to put them in a position to see how strong those struggles really are,” Durel said.

Some, if not all here, hope to use their heightened sensitivity to make a difference for those in poverty. The program was presented by Women United.

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