Nonprofits to host community poverty simulation workshop

Local nonprofits Friends In Deed and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) will host a poverty simulation workshop this Saturday to give community members insight into the struggles those in poverty face on a daily basis.


Suzanne Van Dam, Friends In Deed and Circles program coordinator, says the simulation can be a powerful experience for those who work with people in poverty but have never experienced it themselves. The simulation is highly encouraged and required for some volunteers at Friends In Deed who work closely with people in poverty.


"A simulation isn't like the real thing, but it does a lot to open your eyes and heart to realize what it's like to work with all social services agencies and financial constraints," Van Dam says.


In the workshop, participants are given a role to play and have to go through the monthly motions of paying bills, finding transportation to work, and finding resources in social services agencies. Throughout the simulation, other situations also come up to give participants a chance to respond to and experience the unpredictability of poverty.


"Increasing empathy is the main idea," Van Dam says. "It's easy to read a book or send a check, but when you're really confronted with choices on the spot, you have a better understanding of what people are dealing with on a daily basis."


Van Dam says this empathy can inspire community members to fight for change in policies that would help people get out of poverty easier. Empathy is also crucial for volunteering and assisting the organizations that support people in poverty, Van Dam says.


The poverty simulation workshop will be held on Saturday, Jan. 11, from 9 a.m-noon at St. Luke Lutheran Church, 4205 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor. The event is free to attend. To sign up, contact Suzanne Van Dam by today, Jan. 8.


Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at


Photo courtesy of Friends In Deed.

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