Saturday, November 6, 2010

Groups hope poverty simulation will increase empathy

How would your family Thanksgiving be affected if you had to live on fewer than $1,000 per month?

By Morgan Meade

Holidays can be a time of plenty or a time of simply doing without.

Thanksgiving is a time when many celebrate a time of harvest and surplus, but many will be making do with less.

Donations are already being accepted by food banks to help supplement this lack.

Students at Ohio University have been doing their part by donating extra meal swipes to pay for groceries going to this cause.

At a local food bank, less fortunate families begin to stock up on the donated holiday essentials many of us take for granted.

(Interview expected with food bank staff and/or patrons.)

America, widely considered the world’s largest economy in terms of spending, is one of the many regions of the globe experiencing alarming increases in poverty rates during these tough economic times. According to the U.S. Census:

“The nation's official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 — the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004. There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase.”

Ohio is a prime example of this, with more than 1.75 million Ohio residents, or 15.2%, living under the poverty threshold (Athens County Job & Family Services). On the county level, Athens County, home to Ohio University, is currently experiencing one of the highest poverty rates in the state and subsequently in the nation, at nearly 30%.

Students groups on the Ohio University Campus constantly work to raise awareness of this local and global situation among their peers who may have never experienced having to do without, encouraging donations and fostering a passion for volunteer work such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Habitat for Humanity.

One of the methods used to increase the tangibility of this issue to students is the annual Poverty Simulation hosted by Ohio University in co-facilitation with The Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks.

70 participants including faculty, students, and community members had the opportunity to get an idea of what some of their neighbors are going through on Monday, November 8th.

Four fifteen minute “weeks” of living under a newly assumed identity were role-played by each participant to deepen their empathy towards those who are less-fortunate.

The experience was followed by a group discussion of the problems each group-member endured throughout the simulation.

(Interview with organizer and participant in simulation expected)

Organizers hope this experience will spur increased efforts in the greater Athens area to make the holidays everything they should be for the impoverished.

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