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Triangle United Way uses simulation to educate on poverty

Posted November 14, 2011

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— The United Way of the Greater Triangle is using a simulation to show citizens the struggles that impoverished people face every day.

The nonprofit brought the poverty simulation to WRAL News studios last week. During the hour-long simulation, Capitol Broadcasting Co. employees were divided into family clusters. They were each given a card explaining their circumstances and a small amount of money to carry them through one month.

Information Technology manager Jeff Ritchie took on the challenges of a 34-year-old single mother of two. He struggled to find ways to feed his family, seek out a job and find a place to live.

Community resources, such as social workers, loan officers, grocers and employers, were available for participants. 

Ritchie turned to Social Services for help, while other employees started pawning items to pay the bills.

United Way educates on poverty United Way educates on poverty  

Ritchie said it was a powerful way to experience the obstacles people face when they want to overcome poverty. He said it was especially frustrating not knowing how to seek out help. 

The United Way regularly conducts poverty simulations for local organizations. 


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  • dumbhick Nov 15, 2011

    The real shame is not that the United Way spent time and energy developing the simulation. The shame is that there's a need for it. From my experience with UW fund raisers the major thrust from corporations and institutes is bragging rights. "Our company had 100% participation", "We met our goal of $X". The majority of folks give because it is expected, it's popular, it's the yellow plastic armband of supporting the poor. Most of the folks who contribute have no idea what life is like for those who are really in need, and probably don't want to know. Pledge a few $$ and they feel better with very little effort.
    The simulation cannot possibly show someone what it's like, but it may give a glimpse, which is more than many folks have ever had. I suspect that quite a few of the United Way administrators were enlightened themselves.
    What we really need is to grab a few of the "fend for yourselves" crowd, strip them of their funds and identities and toss them on the street for a few days.

  • Karmageddon Nov 15, 2011

    This is what they spend my donation dollars on? They won't get any more from me.

  • ncdixie1 Nov 15, 2011

    The simulation was for a month. That's almost laughable. Try living like that for MONTHS that turns into YEARS. I guess it helps feel good people to feel better about themselves because they gave and participated. Ahhh yes then the big cut for United Way admin.

  • zacksmill Nov 14, 2011

    Maybe they should do a simulation to see how much more they could help people if they didn't take such a big cut of the donations for themselves.

  • Zelda Nov 14, 2011

    Simulations can be incredibly effective, powerful learning tools.

  • timbo10.0 Nov 14, 2011

    Yep, me too Nancy. I prefer directly to food banks, etc...

  • Nancy Nov 14, 2011

    Timbo, I so agree! I donate a lot, but it goes directly to church groups or local food banks, not through some huge admin heavy group.

  • timbo10.0 Nov 14, 2011

    Maybe United Way needs to have a better percentage of how much donated money directly helps those who need it.