Poverty simulation challenges students

Written by Ashley Ramirez

After students got past the shock of hearing they would live in poverty for the next 28 hours, they made their way to the cardboard boxes labeled “Helping Hands” and “Hope for the Hungry,” where they would shop for their new wardrobes among the donated clothing.

The special events committee of Missions Emphasis Week organized a poverty simulation, giving a group of Crusaders 28 hours to experience life without their daily comforts and usual resources.

The idea came from Mission Waco, an organization that does the event multiple times throughout the year for entire weekends.

Sophomore nursing major Morgan Greer helped lead the project.

“We are trying to bring the life of someone living in poverty to UMHB,” she said.

The one piece of information students were given was to meet at the BSM building at 6 p.m. on Wednesday packed for a retreat. Students arrived with backpacks filled for a camping trip — sleeping bag, Bible, toothbrush and other items.

Sophomore education major Casey Jones (center) rests in the quad between classes with freshman nursing major Mia Mayo Oct. 28. The group constructed a sign asking for food after only having stale chips and flat soda for breakfast that morning. Photo by Brittany Montgomery

Sophomore education major Casey Jones (center) rests in the quad between classes with freshman nursing major Mia Mayo Oct. 28. The group constructed a sign asking for food after only having stale chips and flat soda for breakfast that morning. Photo by Brittany Montgomery

Freshman nursing major Laura Spence was nervous to find out what they were going to do.

“I thought it might be camping, but I’d never been camping before. I knew we were going to be sleeping on the ground,” she said.

Students were surprised to hear they would spend the next 28 hours living in poverty. They were asked to hand over everything they had except their books for classes and three items they were able keep.

Groups of four or five people made up a clan. Each person received $25 to use for food, shelter and clothes, except one clan received nothing. The other groups tried to share the little they had with them.

Students were asked to choose new outfits from a box of donated shirts, pants and shoes from Helping Hands and Hope for the Hungry.

Shoe sizes were limited. Spence could not fit into any of the donated shoes.

She said, “They were three to four sizes too small, so I had to keep mine.” Unfortunately, they counted as one of her three items.

They left the BSM unable to tell anyone what they were doing and were kept from going to their dorms and apartments.

Freshman graphic design and communication major Diana Fadal was in Spence’s clan. She got little rest Wednesday night while she slept on the hill next to Luther Memorial.

She said, “I had to sleep backwards on the hill to get my head on the pillow,” one  that she shared with other members of her group. They did not stay there long because campus police made them to move.

After a night of little rest, followed by stale chips and flat soda for breakfast, the groups faced classes with their fellow students.

Spence sat at the back of her class and a friend asked, “What are you wearing?” Others gave her strange looks.

“I see these people every day, and they don’t want to talk to me,” she said.

Getting lunch was humbling. Spence’s group made a sign that read “Got food? We don’t.”

In the SUB, Fadal and another clan member decided to draw people for food. After receiving cold nachos for their art, the university’s president left a lasting memory.

“Dr. O’Rear asked us to draw one of his friends and then gave us $5 to buy a sandwich,” she said. They cut it into four pieces and shared.

All of those participating in the simulation agreed that their pride was shattered as they became dependent on others. They were comforted when around one another because they related to each other’s circumstances.

Fadal said, “It was a humbling experience.”

Author: The Bells Staff

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