To combat the increasing levels of poverty and misinformation, Garden Valley School Division (GVSD), Garden Valley Teachers Association (GVTA), and Central Station Community Centre held a Community Action Poverty Simulation.
Bev Wiebe Executive Director for Central Station said this sort of simulation can help open the eyes of participants to the reality of living in poverty.
"I was speaking to one of the participants and she said ‘I thought she knew what it felt like.’ She’s a school teacher and she said ‘I thought I really understood from my students what it was like to live in poverty. To be actually in it now you have an emotional involvement.’"
The simulation had participants take on the role of a person living in poverty. Only given limited resources and time people had to survive living through the week, some were evicted, some had their kids taken away some lost their jobs.
As the session progressed, Weibe says people began to become desperate and frustrated as they struggled to make ends meet.
In Canada 4.3 million people live in poverty, 1.3 million of those are children under the age of 18. As poverty increases in Manitoba and in Winkler as it grows, Wiebe said it was important to show people what that means living like that.
Though many walked away with a new understanding of the dire reality, Tina Fehr-Kehler Program Director for MCC Manitoba’s Low-German Services Program said she thought there were still some who walked away with a misguided interpretation of how people end up in that situation.
"Even after a session like this and people experiencing certain things that were out of their control, it seems like some still have the idea that a vast majority of people who are living in poverty that it is their own bad choices that have brought them to that situation."
Fehr-Kehler works with people every day who live in poverty and explained that this is not that case, as many factors lead to someone living in poverty. Some just do not have the resources to get their or their families essential needs, food, water, clothing housing.
"How do we get people to understand that there are so many things that impinge on a persons ability to afford these basic necessities? As a society we should be supporting each other to get those basic necessities, that should just be a given." Said Fehr-Kehler.
One of the participants Zahid Zehri was intrigued by the concept of a poverty simulation, attended with his wife to better understand what living in poverty is like.
"I came with my wife, I told her it’s a very good opportunity to learn how the people live. Maybe we're not in the same shoes or the same situation but I think a majority of the people in the world live like this, like what we had experienced."
Zehri explained the message he will take home was communication in the family if there is no communication life will be exponentially more difficult, and how people must utilize their money. When resources are limited people must make the tough decisions on what needs to be sacrificed in order to try and make it through the week.