It was a powerful afternoon as Duke Energy’s company-wide HR team participated in three simultaneous Poverty Simulations designed to give participants a small taste of life on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
Yasmin Benton took the helm of the Fuentes “family” as the mom and two teenagers tried to manage during a simulated month in the life of a low wage earner. Even with “mom” doing her best to work, get to the bank and the utility company, and manage everything else, they ended up evicted by month’s end.
The exercise creates many “a-ha! moments” for participants. For Yasmin, it was a reminder of her childhood during which her family experienced a few of the difficulties highlighted during the simulation.
“It really demonstrated all the day-to-day issues that may come up for those who are in poverty,” she said. “Getting assistance, applying for benefits, working a job, and handling all the things you need to do is harder than many people realize.”
Holding all those things together was the hardest part of the experience, according to Yasmin. “Doing everything, and making sure the kids stayed in school and my son got a job — it’s stressful. The kids in these situations sometimes have to work just as hard as the parent. I have been in their shoes before.”
Poverty Simulations follow a nationally recognized curriculum from the Missouri Community Action Network. The structured experience works best with groups of 40 or more, and takes about two hours to allow for an introduction and debrief in addition to the one-hour “month in the life” simulation.
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