The Social Work Club and be:justice in conjunction with this year’s Malone Reads book, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, presented a poverty simulation on October 29 where students were challenged to walk in the shoes of the Americans who live at or under the poverty line.
“While we all daydream about what it might be like to be wealthy—fancy cars, mansions, massages, fantastic vacations—few of us spend much time imagining what it might be like to be poor,” said Amber Balash, content manager for publications and website and a coadvisor for be:justice.
At the simulation, students role-played the life of the working poor. They had to figure out how to obtain and pay for food, housing, transportation, utilities, childcare and other basic necessities.
“It made me realize that being poor sucks,” said Jake Bohrer, freshman youth and educational ministries major.
During the simulation, students could not afford everything and had to sacrifice things like food, clean laundry, and in countless cases, health care.
“It made me realize you really have to watch what you spend and what is important to actually survive,” said Emily Odel, freshman early childhood education major.
The goal of the simulation was to change the outlook students have on poverty and to help them gain more respect and compassion for the working poor. The participants were reminded that a person’s bank account does not define who they are.
“It made me realize how hard some of these people actually have it,” said Zach Misak, freshman business administration major. “Before now, most of the time when I thought of Medicaid or welfare recipients, I just thought they were lazy people who had decided not to work hard for their life. While I am sure that there are people out there like that, I can also realize now how many people there are who are working night and day to make minimum wage and just skate.”
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls gives a firsthand account of the hardships of the extreme poverty which Walls was born into and faced during her childhood, and how she managed to emerge and escape from it.
“I felt like the parents from The Glass Castle!” said Anna Jaimes, freshman nursing major. “I didn’t have the resources to provide for my ‘kids’ the way I would have liked to and I had to make decisions that put them in bad situations.”
Matt Shoup, junior communication arts major and a course assistant for GEN 100, hopes The Glass Castle will impact students beyond the classroom.
“I hope that students don’t take what they have for granted,” Shoup said. “I hope that students just see it as an opportunity to be in school, an opportunity to eat an unlimited supply in the cafeteria, and just be thankful for what God has provided because honestly, there are people who have it way worse.”
The closing speaker at the simulation was Corey Easterday, a Malone alumnus and the Ohio area director of a nonprofit called Current of Ohio.
Easterday grew up with a single mom. They constantly had to choose between essentials like getting laundry done, buying food, or paying for utilities.
During his junior year at Malone, Easterday received a phone call that he will remember forever: his family was getting evicted. He claims that if it was not for the support of others during this time, he would not be where he is today.
The simulation was closed by calling students to action, to take part in lifting others up and being agents of restoration. All students are welcomed to be involved with the Social Work Club, be:justice or Current of Ohio.
Simone Keibler is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.