The Junior League of Tulsa’s (JLT) Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, along with the Training and Education Committee, partnered with past JLT President Dr. Brenda Lloyd-Jones to bring League participation to the Poverty Simulation hosted by Dr. Lloyd-Jones and OU Tulsa. The simulation was a two-hour program that took place on October 6th, 2016. Participants in the simulation were required to assume specific roles within a family living under the poverty line, where each role must work together to provide food, shelter, and necessities. The simulation required participants to stay in character for four 15-minute intervals, each interval counting as one week. Within the four weeks participants in the simulation were required to meet basic goals such as reporting to work and school, paying bills, and buying groceries. However, these basic goals proved much harder once in the simulation. For instance, most families did not have a car to travel from place to place, and many families had to sell and pawn items to pay bills or afford groceries for the week. The objective of the Poverty Simulation is to help individuals who don’t live under the poverty line realize the stereotypes that surround the people who are living in poverty through their assigned roles within the simulation.
JLT: The simulation gave each person a role to play within a family, as well as a community. Each family had their own struggles of living in poverty. Going into the simulation, what were your expectations?
Lauren: I was really excited about this. I knew several people that had participated before, and they said it was a great experience.
Lacey: The simulation was much more interactive than I expected. Once we got our roles we were expected to play, I was immersed in being that person and living in a lifestyle that I was not familiar or comfortable with. It was very eye opening.
JLT: Did anything happen that you weren’t expecting during the simulation?
Lauren: Pretty much every situation and experience during the simulation was a surprise to me. I don’t know what I was necessarily expecting, but it was far more than I knew we would go through.
Lacey: We were thrown into so many situations that I wasn’t expecting. I played the role of a single mother, who was also tasked with taking care of my younger brother while our father was at work. There were many times I had to miss work to take care of the children. Because of this, we had a hard time paying bills and had to pawn a lot of our stuff to afford food and keep the bills current.
JLT: Leaving the poverty simulation, what feelings or emotions did you feel?
Lauren: I felt a mix of emotions after the Poverty Simulation. First of all, it was heartbreaking; it’s sad realizing how many people are affected by poverty. It was eye opening to learn how difficult things are and seeing how hard it is to escape poverty once you are in it. Lastly, the experience made a strong impact on me. Junior League’s mission was brought to a whole new light in my mind. I always knew that we worked to help women and children in poverty, but I don’t think I realized the sheer importance of our organization until I experienced this simulation.
Lacey: Post simulation I felt very anxious. The whole time we were participating in the simulation I felt like I could never catch a break. From trying to keep our heads above water on paying bills to having money for food, many people I interacted with throughout the day at my work, daycare, the bank, and different companies I paid bills at were very short and rude to me. It was a really sad realization that this is reality for so many people.
JLT: Did your opinions on poverty change after the simulation?
Lauren: Yes! That was one of my favorite things about the experience as a whole. Going through the motions and seeing the difficulties that people face in poverty on a regular basis was extremely eye opening. I think far too often, people don’t understand poverty and how dramatic and difficult normal situations can be because of it.
Lacey: Absolutely. Going into the simulation, I was sympathetic to those living in poverty and I thought that I had a basic understanding of what it may be like living in poverty. What I didn’t understand was how emotional of an experience it really is. Going through daily life tasks can be incredibly difficult because your basic needs aren’t able to be met. Realizing that was really hard for me to walk away from and go back to my house with a fridge full of food, furniture, a television, and reliable transportation when there are people fighting just to keep a roof over their families’ heads.