The gym at the Goldsboro Family YMCA seemed like the perfect setting for Thursday’s poverty simulation and an experience to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
The NC Alliance of YMCAs, in partnership with the Goldsboro Family YMCA and the NC Community Action Association, hosted a Poverty Simulation Experience for YMCA leaders on Thursday at the Goldsboro Family YMCA.
The simulation was sponsored by WellCare of North Carolina and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina; both are Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs).
The Community Action Poverty Simulation was designed to help people better understand the realities of poverty. YMCA Leaders from Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Henderson, New Bern, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, and Wilson participated, along with local community partners.
“The North Carolina Alliance of YMCA’s out of Raleigh was thinking about our YMCA’s and some of the work that we do with underserved communities, and wanted to see if there could be a training that would help us to really negotiate that process a little bit better, and interact with empathy and sympathy and just really make a connection in some of our work in equity,” said Goldsboro Family YMCA CEO Mark Pritchett. “So, they reached out to the North Community Action Association, and heard about the poverty simulation that they did, and it just worked out.”
Using a simulation kit, participants role-played the lives of low-income families, as they navigated the stressful task of providing for necessities and shelter on a limited budget during four 15-minute “weeks.”
Participants also interacted with volunteers from the Goldsboro Family YMCA who served as community service providers, such as human service agencies, grocers, bill collectors, police and others.
During the simulation, participants also played different roles within their low-income families. Some participants had full-time or part-time jobs and others were tasked with caring for dolls that demonstrated similar needs that a baby would have such as being hungry, tired or needing to be changed. Additionally, other participants played the role of children within their respective low-income families.
“Some of the feedback we got and words to describe that was really amazing,” said Pritchett. “The idea that without knowledge of the various services in the community, that someone would not know, that it created a reference that most did not have, and the reference was literally seeing things of a viewpoint of poverty is complete different than having those needs met on a weekly basis. Even our policies and our laws are written that they’re not very helpful for someone who is living in poverty. You might have to negotiate all of the different obstacles that you find in front of you. It was a really amazing experience.”
In 2022, there were 1.3 million North Carolinians, including 388,000 children, below the poverty level. In Wayne County, 18.7 percent of the population, or one in five people, lived below the poverty level in 2022.
Pritchett believes Thursday’s poverty simulation is an experience other organizations will look to host in the future. He also believes it will serve as an experience that better positions the Goldsboro Family YMCA and other organizations to better serve those in the community living in poverty.
“We believe this experience will help us to really help us serve the community better,” Pritchett said. “For a lack of a better phrase, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, to see some of the obstacles, and to be mindful of how we interact and how we treat people. I think that was part of the conversation today, where multiple agencies that were here were looking to the North Community Action Association of possibly hosting the poverty simulation in other areas. It was just really an amazing experience.”