Understanding social issues is very important for students, and the University of Calgary’s Centre for Community-Engaged Learning, as well as the United Way, are holding a poverty simulation on Sept. 7 from 12–3 p.m. to broaden these understandings.
The event is a part of CCEL’s Calgary Serves orientation that encourages U of C students to get involved in service programs on campus and throughout the city. More than six charitable organizations and groups will be sponsoring the event.
CCEL offers many service-learning programs, for academic and extra-curricular credit, that increase understanding and engagement with the community.
The United Way poverty simulation, occurring at CCEL’s office on the fourth floor of MacEwan Student Centre, is expected to have over 65 student participants that will play the roles of families or individuals living in poverty. The United Way is an international charity organization that looks to increase wealth, stability and health among struggling families and individuals.
According to CCEL service-learning assistant Brittany Vine, the focus of the event is to close gaps of understanding and give students a first-hand look into struggles many people in the community face.
“Calgary Serves orientation week is important overall because it gives students an understanding and a connection to issues that happen in the community,” said Vine.
The simulation will look into issues like unemployment, homelessness, families with small children, single parent families, senior citizens, new immigrants and abusive relationships.
“Learning about poverty in our community can help us understand the struggles many people face and can help us understand the many resources and services available to help people in need,” said Vine. “This exercise will showcase the struggles families face in their daily lives and it looks at the different causes of poverty.”
How does the simulation work? According to Vine, many stations will be set up, and participants will have four periods of 15 minutes, each representing a week, to work their way around the stations and fulfil their needs for each week.
“There will be a school, an employers office, a grocery store, different charity organizations and more,” said Vine.
Fifteen minutes doesn’t seem like that much time to carry out the tasks of a week, but Vine said, in retrospect, it will shed light on how people in Calgary struggle with daily life.
“If you have a part-time job, you spend maybe seven minutes of the 15 at the employers office, and then in the next eight minutes you need to pay your mortgage and bills, buy groceries for the week and other things like that,” said Vine.
Vine said this event is important because it reaches young people and gives them a different way to learn about poverty.
“Young adults and students — 20 to 30 year olds — are a key [demographic] that is not always reached in terms of learning about these issues, and it is important to build the understanding of what poverty really is and why people encounter these struggles,” she said. “The poverty simulation is really significant for learning. The idea that learning has to be intentional and students should be involved in reflective practice and we want to open up different connections.”