Poverty Challenge highlights struggles of less fortunate

It can be difficult to truly understand someone’s struggles without experiencing them for yourself, and this especially holds true for money-related troubles. Thursday, the community got a chance to catch a glimpse of what these daily struggles might look like.

Students got a chance to learn how poverty actually works Thursday as various community organizations hosted the Poverty Challenge, taking participants through various ways living in poverty can be more challenging than they might have realized.

Carter County Drug Prevention Director Jilian Reece said the event provides participants context into how those who live in poverty have to survive.

“This can help a lot of people understand what it is like to live in poverty,” Reece said.

Participants received a scenario for their character when they first entered, all of them based on actual Carter County residents, and had to use that information and resources to apply for loans, get food stamps, find child care and more. Some of them featured moms with one job trying to find child care, while others featured veterans trying to reintegrate. Unlike other simulators of this kind, the Poverty Challenge booths actively worked against the participants each step of the way, either discriminating based on their scenario or trying to scam them into predatory purchases, like pay-day loans.

“We hope it is a reflection of reality,” Reece said. “Sometimes adverse childhood experiences really can cloud the way they are able to navigate the world.”

As a result, she said part of the goal of the challenge is to teach why empathy for the underprivileged is so vital.

“It is easy for us to say ‘Get it together,’” she said. “They say to ‘Pull yourself by your bootstraps.’ What if you do not have straps, or boots?”

The event featured representatives from a dozen different organizations, including Red Legacy Recovery, the Health Department and more.

“It is cool to see the community come out and recognize the importance of this,” Reece said.

Regarding the challenge itself, she said she has developed it as a kit, and any organization can contact her if they want to try it out for themselves.

“What I am most grateful for is people can take away actual resources from this,” she said.

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