Sarah Summerall

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Last month, Winthrop University hosted its annual poverty simulation, entitled Walk a Mile in Someone’s Shoes, which was intended to be an immersive and interactive experience to help participants understand the realities of living in poverty.

The Nov. 6 event, hosted by the Center for Career and Civic Engagement, asked the roughly 60 participants to live by a script through four 15-minute periods, which represented one week, to try to understand how it feels to live at the poverty line.

Each participant was placed in a different hypothetical situation with varying family experiences, such as having children, being pregnant or living as a single parent.

Some participants were asked to deal with the challenges of work or school while others were asked to barter at a pawn shop, in order to make ends meet.

Laura Foster, program director for volunteer and community services, said she hopes the simulation teaches participants empathy, because no one knows where they will end up in the future.

“Anyone can be homeless at any time, given the nature of one bad accident and you don’t have insurance. Given the nature of what’s happening with us politically, if there’s new births or deaths or just all kinds of things that traditionally happen to anyone,” Foster said.

“Many people don’t know about poverty, it’s kind of the sad case,” said Malik Frazier, a junior social studies education major. “I think this event really helps students grasp an understanding of poverty and what it all entails.”

Participants had access to community and social services, such as food or housing assistance, to receive help during the simulation.

“During the poverty simulation, I was kind of taken by surprise,” said Frazier. “It really taught me a lot about perseverance and just making do with what you have.”

However, by the end of the simulation, all of the participants had been evicted.

Foster said she hopes the simulation helps those living well above the poverty line realize how difficult life can be and it encourages them to take action to help those who are less fortunate.