Interactive Simulation Reveals Impacts of Poverty to Belhaven Students

Poverty Simulation 2022

April 5, 2022 (Jackson, Miss.) - Belhaven University students took part in an immersive experience to build empathy and expose the impacts of poverty.Belhaven's Social Work Department and School of Nursing hosted a poverty simulation for students on Wednesday, March 17.

This interactive exercise involved students from across Belhaven University, and they encountered the struggles many low-income families experience on a daily basis.

During the simulation, students were grouped into family units and given tasks complete and scenarios to act out in 15-minute increments. They took on different roles that included: applying for jobs and housing assistance, buying groceries, keeping children in school, and managing transportation needs.Moderators guided the family groups but encouraged students to adapt in real-time for the well-being of their simulation family.

“Poverty is not an issue of individual failure or individual responsibility, but a systemic and structural issue,” said Social Work Department Chair Dr. Patricia R. Cruz. “By having this personal experience, students get an idea of how structures and programs interact together to create tremendous barriers and obstacles for people trying to get out of poverty. Families are 'doing their best' to survive. Understanding the challenges of people living in poverty can be significant and emotional.”

While the social work department served as coordinators and organizers, the University's School of Nursing played an important role in the event. They assisted in preparing supplies and developing a student module with preparatory activities and journaling form. Nursing students also participated as family members and volunteers to work various stations.

Associate Professor of Nursing Elise Turner believed this exercise had a significant impact on her nursing students. She observed, “Nursing students must be empathetic towards patients struggling with all sorts of social determinants of health. Students learned quickly that routine healthcare had to be bypassed to keep food on the table and a roof over their families' heads. All of our nursing students have a better understanding of how to serve others in a more compassionate way and use problem solving skills to help their patients overcome barriers to care.”