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COPE March 2013
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Students' Eyes Opened to Those Struggling in Poverty

Posted on Monday, March 25, 2013 [5:19 PM]

COLUMBIA, Ky. -- More than 75 Lindsey Wilson College students discovered what it is like to live in poverty.


The students participated in a Cost of Poverty Experience, held Thursday, March 21, in the college's Norma and Glen Hodge Center for Discipleship.


COPE is an event that offers participants a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families. The event was sponsored by Ohio-based Think Tank Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on social justice issues.


Think Tank member Ken Moss told LWC students to forget stereotypes they had about people who live in poverty and instead give in to the experience by essentially becoming a different person during the two-hour exercise.


To help simulate what a person in poverty experiences, LWC students were given new names and families. Some participants were assigned children or other dependents.


Throughout the Hodge Center were stations that simulated places in a fictional town -- schools, gas stations, low-rent housing, churches, prisons and judicial centers. In a frantic rush, students moved from station to station in attempt to get through a simulated month living below the poverty line to buy groceries, collect gas money, meet with parole officers and take care of their kids. If a  parental role wasn't taken seriously, students were charged with neglect and sent to prison.


LWC religion professor Cinda Swan, who helped organize the program, was encouraged how the event affect students.


"It helped sensitize our students to the utter chaos of people's lives and why they may be unable to plan for the future," Swan said. "Our students came away with greater empathy and understanding with respect to the reality of poverty and the struggles people have to deal with on a daily basis."


Students said they also gained an appreciation of what it means to carry out simple day-to-day tasks while having a limited amount of time, money and resources. They said they realized why people who live in poverty struggle every day just to survive and protect their family.


"Experiencing a simulation like COPE allows us to better understand what people in poverty experience and what we can do to help our fellow neighbors throughout the world," said LWC junior Emily Ramage of Columbia. "It made us realize that poverty is real and each person can help in some capacity if we reach out to those around us."


Swan said the event was a success because of the responses she received from students.


"Several students asked about volunteer opportunities and how they might become more involved in being a part of the solution," Swan said. "My goal is to follow up with a National Circles Campaign training event in the fall.

"Circles is a concept which utilizes the social capital of middle/upper-income citizens to bridge opportunity gaps for those wanting to get out of poverty in order to increase their economic stability. My hope is that our students will attend the Circles workshop in the fall to discover the gifts they possess and the joy that comes from helping others."

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