Angel Mayberry of ESU 7 believes people should walk a mile in others' shoes to have a better grasp on the hardships some in the Platte County community face.
From 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 2, those interested will have that opportunity to do just that by attending the “Poverty Simulation: A Unique Learning Experience – not a game” workshop held in the Educational Service Unit's north building, 2657 44th Ave.
“It breaks down stereotypes of poverty by allowing participants to step into the real-life situation of others,” said Mayberry, early learning connection coordinator of the organization which is geared toward providing leadership and services to support to schools in Boone, Butler, Colfax, Merrick, Nance, Platte and Polk counties.
Mayberry said that to the best of her knowledge, this is the first time area residents will have the opportunity to participate in this sort of simulation. Ruth Vonderohe, extension educator and unit leader at Nebraska Extension in Knox County, is serving as the workshop's instructor.
Those wishing to attend the free workshop have until Sept. 28 to register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/elc-poverty-simulation-a-unique-learning-experience-not-a-game-registration-48375086185.
Workshop attendees will be broken down into groups and assigned roles, such as a grandparent raising his or her grandchildren or a young adult raising younger siblings. Each group of families will then be given a variety of simulations -- from figuring out how to get food or trying to get to work after their car broke down and only having $20 in their pocket.
“These are the things that a lot of our families that we serve are going through,” Mayberry said. “So it’s a very eye-opening experience for those who participate in it.”
Mayberry said attendees will have the chance to see how differently poverty-stricken families prioritize when it comes to finding shelter and food versus something like making sure their children get to school on time.
“A lot of times when we are offering services to families that are in poverty. We forget that some of the simplest things that we think are common sense are not,” she said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Platte County in 2015 had a poverty rate of 8.5 percent, which is slightly higher than Butler County’s rate of 8.1 percent and Polk County’s rate of 7.9 percent. Despite that, the numbers fell below the state’s overall poverty rate of 12.2 percent.
“I think we are average,” said Bernie Hansen, Columbus office manager for the Nebraska Department of Labor.
Hansen noted the rates in Platte County are a lot lower than Madison County, which is 13.8 percent, as well as surrounding rural communities.
Nonetheless, poverty still is certainly a pressing issue.
Mayberry hopes to instill more empathy and compassion in the community during the workshop in conjunction with highlighting different resources available in the area.
“It just knocks that barrier down on the professionals to be more empathetic and compassionate about what these families might be going through,” Mayberry said.
In addition to area families, Mayberry said she believes the workshop can also benefit childcare providers, agency workers, educators, attorneys, law enforcement and religious leaders.
“There are so many things going on in Columbus right now that our professionals have many opportunities to connect our families to resources that, maybe, were not identified in the past few years,” she said.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.