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RCC-Workforce stages Poverty Simulation

On February 23, Rappahannock Community College’s Workforce Development Office sponsored a Poverty Simulation which gave community leaders and area social workers an opportunity to participate in “a virtual experience of life on the edge.” Facilitator Karen Munden of the Virginia Beach Cooperative Extension Office led 43 attendees in forming “families” that had to figure out, over four 15-minute “weeks,” where and how to spend incomes that were not large enough to cover even basic necessities. Twenty college and community volunteers helped to organize the program, and played the roles of agency workers in the scenarios.

RCC-Workforce stages Poverty Simulation

RCC-Workforce stages Poverty Simulation

One participant commented that it was interesting to see how creative people could get with their finances . . . how desperate they became, and how resourceful, when faced with the choice of feeding the family or paying the electric bill, for instance. Many were surprised by the feelings of helplessness that overwhelmed those playing the roles of caseworkers or vendors trying to alleviate a client’s situation.

The workshop was designed to evoke sensitivity to the plight of low-income families and individuals on the part of those who frequently deal with them, and to establish a better understanding of the day-to-day realities of poverty in local communities. Educators at all levels of instruction and administration participated, as did representatives of local law enforcement bodies, county social services departments, private poverty relief organizations, churches and church groups, several branches of the YMCA, and the Bay Consortium Workforce Investment Board.

A grant and Poverty Simulation kit acquired from the DuPont Fund through “Visions: the Northern Neck Asset Building Team” made the event possible. Experienced coordination was supplied by agents of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office (which stages these events regularly), including Ms. Munden; Doris Heath of the Williamsburg office; and Kathleen Watson, the agent for Northumberland and Lancaster Counties.

Photo: Jason Perry, RCC’s vice president of workforce development (standing at right), welcomes a group of educational and community leaders to an exercise intended to bring home the realities of poverty.

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