|3/10/2010 8:54:00 PM Article published in The Courier Times, New Castle, Indiana
'A window into the world of poverty' offered by event
Tony Personett, Patricia Crowe and Butch Baker, from left to right, participate in the Hope Initiative's poverty simulation on Feb. 20. (Photo provided by Dennis Hamilton)
By DENNIS HAMILTON
For The Courier-Times
On Feb. 20, the Hope Initiative, along with Housing and Urban Development and Interlocal Community Action Program, hosted a poverty simulation at the Henry Township Community Center in New Castle. Participants were assigned to "families" who were then told to, for a "month," take on various roles of those in poverty.
During the simulation, the family members, using the resources from various locations in the community (stations in the gym area), needed to keep their homes secure, feed their families on a regular basis, keep their utilities on, make all necessary loan payments, pay for miscellaneous expenses and meet unexpected situations.
The resources available to the families, such as a bank, church, school, grocery store or social services agency, were each run by someone who is living or has lived in poverty. At the end of the simulation, everyone involved had an opportunity to share their observations.
Elizabeth Whitmer, co-facilitator for the day, remarked, "Poverty is woven into the fabric of this community in a number of ways and has a significant impact on our ability to educate our children and provide adequately for basic human needs. It was very gratifying to see our community leaders grow in their awareness of poverty by role-playing in this exercise."
Henry County Sheriff Butch Baker, who participated as a family member, said, "This event was a unique window into the world of poverty. And, if another simulation is conducted in the future, I hope several of my staff members have the opportunity to attend."
And, Steve Walls, who works at The Courier-Times and is a New Castle Community School Board member, said, "This is a program that brings you back to the real world. It shows us that way too many of our citizens are experiencing extreme hardships every day. We as a community must step up and take notice and action to help our fellow man."
Another participant, Tony Personett, principal of Wilbur Wright Elementary School, remarked, "I have worked in schools with a high percentage of free and reduced lunch students for 16 years, and I thought I had an idea of what it was like for our students. This activity opened my eyes as to what some of my families go through. It has changed the way I think about activities (field trips, parties), extracurricular activities and priorities. It was a tremendous learning experience for me. I would encourage everyone who works with people to take advantage of this opportunity if it is offered again."
Hope Initiative has reported that another poverty simulation is already being planned, and the group will announce the date in the near future. Anyone who might be interested in attending should contact Dennis Hamilton at 465-4200 or at hamiltondennis @comcast.net.
The poverty simulation material was obtained from a grant provided by the Henry County Community Foundation.
Dennis Hamilton is a member of the Hope Initiative.