Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 1:17 pm
It is not a game.
It’s real life.
And it’s all around us.
And many agencies and organizations across Georgia, as well as in Cordele, are trying to let all Georgians know that the situation of poverty exists and also what it is really like to live in poverty.
According to the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service, more than one million people in Georgia live at or below the poverty level.
More than 50 percent of children in Crisp County live in poverty, according to kidscount.org, and that some of the families living in poverty receive food stamps or other forms of government assistance.
This is why the Crisp County Community Council, Crisp County Extension, the Crisp County Community League, and the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce joined forces to provide the Poverty Simulation program out of the University of Georgia – Coop Extension.
“The purpose is for the community to learn what it’s like for people to live in poverty,” said Shelvia Koontz, chairman of the Crisp County Community Council, “and to be more sensitive to that … and to facilitate improving poverty in the county by collaborating with various agencies.”
It is the first time this program has been presented here in Cordele.
Rachel Hubbard, county extension agent with UGA-Coop Extension, helped present the program and guide the volunteers in their roles.
“Work. Bills. Groceries. Childcare,” Hubbard said. Each group of roughly 15 sets of volunteers, made up of between three and five people, got an individualized and unique packet containing the information about their particular lives. “Including all the regular daily activities while having a low income. The purpose is for people to become sensitive to the struggles low-income families face.”
Those participating in the simulation assumed a role in one of 26 failies living in poverty.
“Participants were required to make decisions in order to simply survive,” according to information from Sherry Evans, executive director of Crisp County Community Council. “They had to keep their shelter secure, feed their family, keep their utilities on, make loan payments, paya for daily living expenses, like transportation, handle unexpected emergencies, keep their children in school, and access local support and resources all with an income one might have under impoverished conditions.”
For example, most folks might not think about banks closing their doors at 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Hubbard gave as an example. But if you are a low-income family, with only one car and someone else in the family needs the car, or you have a child and no childcare available other than yourself, and/or you are scheduled to work until 5 p.m.., etc., and the list can go on and on.
The question then becomes: How do you get to the bank to cash your check so you can buy food for supper, and the bank is closed?
What do you do then?
“We are hoping these participants will respond and have different attitudes (toward low-income families and their unique struggles),” Hubbard said.
Andrea Scarrow, another county extension agent with UGA – Coop Extension at the event, also hopes that a collaborate community effort will be started with more access to facilities and services, a stronger childcare network, as well as more money for education on this issue.
“(I hope) the community can collaborate,” Scarrow said.
Domonique Larry and Tina Underwood, both representatives from the Community Action Agency in West Central Georgia, and Bradley Brown, a representative from the EJB Outreach Service, were paired up as one low-income family scenario. But all three of these folks came to the Poverty Simulation event for the same two reasons. One, they all wanted to see what it would be like to have to live and deal with issues unique to low-income families, and, two, to find out better how to help low-income families become more self-sufficient.
Evans added she hoped that folks at the event would take away with them “a better understanding” of the condition of poverty and the difficulties of those dealing with poverty issues.
For more information, contact the Crisp County Community Council at 271-1054, Ext. 3, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.