CORNWALL – Regional Economic Community Action Program (RECAP) hosted a poverty simulation on Thursday, January 12 for teachers and administrators of the Cornwall School District. Held nationwide by nonprofits and community action groups, the interactive events let participants experience the issues faced by people living in poverty. Almost 30 teachers and administrators from the district were assigned identities of low-income families and visited stations occupied by RECAP staff, board members and volunteers. Stations include police, social services, education, health centers, and financial institutions. Families were assigned tasks to complete using various amounts of money and transportation vouches, as well as personal hardships such as medical issues, children with learning disabilities, and unemployment.
RECAP’s Chief Operating Officer Michele McKeon moderated the event and ended it with a debriefing. The conclusion revealed, not surprisingly, that affordability of transportation within Orange County has long been a hardship facing low income people. Participants were allotted or needed to purchase transportation vouchers representing the costs of public transportation, cab fare, or the price of maintaining their own vehicle. A cab ride from Cornwall to Goshen, an expense of up to $30, can be a major stumbling block to increasing self-sufficiency. Other hardships noted by participants were children with learning disabilities, an unplanned closing of day care, costs for school activities, loss of a job, and a language barrier at the grocery store.
“It is our responsibility, as a community, to help dispel the myths and misperceptions about individuals and families who live in poverty,” McKeon said. “A Poverty Simulation provides a small opportunity to walk in the shoes and feel the stress of how poverty may change someone and we’re so thankful to Gail Duffy and the Cornwall School District for joining us.”
“This was a very valuable experience for members of the Cornwall Central School District staff to participate in,” said Gail Duffy, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. “It gave us a hands-on perspective into the challenges that some of our students and their families may be experiencing. We all went home that night with insights into poverty and issues that that may people can face. It was humbling to say the least.”
The experience of seniors raising grandchildren generated discussion about how poverty changes parenting. Though we all face the stresses of daily life, situations like lower intelligence, a history of trauma such as sexual abuse, addiction, and mental health issues, can exacerbate hardships and force people to compromise on parenting, self care, and priorities.
The event gave participants a look into not only the issues facing low-income people, but also insight about the focus of anti-poverty groups as they work to break cycles of generational poverty.