Approximately 60 people took part in an immersive experience of what it is like to live in poverty in Williams Lake.
Organized by Thrive Williams Lake, the event was held on Wednesday at the Cariboo Memorial Complex.
Thrive project lead Anne Burrill said the simulation was to raise awareness about the challenges of poverty while creating empathy for those experiencing it.
“They learned a lot about how hard it is, and we had kind of a newfound appreciation for the struggles, frustration, and the stress and anxiety of trying to cope with that level of income and trying to get your needs met,” Burrill said.
“There were lots of ah-ha moments that people shared.”
Before the simulation got underway Burrill said participants were provided with a bowl of soup and a chance to meet the other people that were there. They were then given an identity and assigned to a family that had specific circumstances and resources available.
“They moved through a month over the course of an hour. Each 15 minute period represented a week in the life of that family and they had a list of tasks that they had to accomplish: they had to pay their mortgage, some of them had to go to work, make sure that their kids were in school or in a childcare facility, some of them had employment, others had to go and look for jobs or go and get community resources if they needed it,” Burrill said.
“There were community resources set up all along the outside of the room, and they had to have a transportation pass to get to any of the resources or get to work and that represented for people who had a car gas money or for people who were dependent on public transportation a bus ticket, so they had to be strategic. They moved through these 15 minutes segments and had to try to accomplish all of the tasks over the period of a month while also meeting all of their basic needs.”
After the simulation, Burrill said participants shared information about the realities of people in our community and talked about some of the things we can do about it such as challenging stereotypes, volunteering, and donating goods or money to organizations that are trying to make a difference.
Burrill estimates about 15% of the overall population in Williams Lake live in poverty.