COE hosts poverty simulation event

Nisheeka Simmons, Staff Writer

More than 100 nursing students from Francis Marion University (FMU) recently participated in an exercise that gave a glimpse into the lives of low-income families.

The poverty simulation, hosted by the Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty (COE), took place in the hallways of Cauthen Educational Media Center (CEMC) and the Lowrimore Auditorium.  Markey Bee, associate director of the simulation and school, parent and community liaison, oversaw the orientation of the volunteers and participants.  Bee explained that the simulation was designed to help sensitize the public to the realities and obstacles that families living on low-income face.

“This is a simulation, not a game,” Bee said. “The situations that the students face today are things that occur in the everyday lives of those living in low-income homes.”

Dr. Tammy Pawloski, director of the COE, said this is the second time COE has hosted a poverty simulation.  During the exercise, participants demonstrated a month of living with the funds and resources of a low-income family.  Volunteers would act out the various roles in the community, such as a police officer, while participants would try to survive the month.

“The simulation is an accurate representation of the obstacles that families living in poverty experience every day,” Pawloski said. “The stress that you will see is really profound.”

Pawloski said the participants, grouped into families, would have several obstacles to overcome.  Two of the biggest problems the families would face, according to Pawloski, were transportation and time-management.

“Periods of 15 minutes will represent each week, and the participants will have to attempt to finish that week’s tasks in that set amount of time,” Pawloski said. “However, each activity requires a certain amount of trans-passes before it can be completed.  It is truly a cycle of obstacle after obstacle.”

Ranesha Stuckey, junior nursing major, acted as one of the community leaders in the poverty simulation. Stuckey, who ran the healthcare station, became aware of the simulation through the involvement of several nursing professors.   At the station, families could receive prescriptions and referrals for follow-ups.  Stuckey said the healthcare table was one of the least-visited stations.

“It shows how healthcare gets put to the side by people suffering from poverty because they cannot afford it,” Stuckey said. “People get here and they have to leave because they do not have enough money or trans-passes.”

Pawloski said she was glad that nursing students participated in the simulation because they will lead a life of service once they graduate and hopes the exercise will make them sympathetic to the plight of their future low-income and poverty-stricken patients.

After the simulation, the participants gathered in Lowrimore Auditorium for a debriefing led by Pawloski, who asked questions about the obstacles faced during the simulation.  They responded with comments about unreliable transportation, low-wage jobs, health problems, unaffordable medications, lack of insurance, drug problems, long-term unemployment, lack of child care and high utility bills.

The question-and-answer session also revealed that many participants were unable to complete all their tasks in the allotted amount of time, and some families ended up homeless.

According to Pawloski, the COE plans to hold another poverty simulation in mid-April.  She said the center wants to continue the demonstration with community groups and would also like the general public to become involved.