April 14, 2015
Plymouth member Anne Kiemle and Justice Leadership Program Intern Honah Thompson recently attended a poverty simulation workshop, an interfaith, inter-generational event held at the Seattle Mennonite Church and attended by more than 50 people. Through role-playing, participants learned about some of the real struggles people face every day.
“My role was as a 57 year-old grandmother who had suffered a partial stroke and lived with my unemployed daughter, her husband and 15 year-old child,” says Kiemle. “All of us had challenges that made our economic situation precarious. We had to pay bills, go to work or school and deal with emergencies that fate cards delivered. We used special tickets for transportation and were often short of those. If we had better understood this part of the bureaucratic system, we could probably have survived without becoming homeless. It was stressful and confusing! As the grandmother with partial paralysis, I felt helpless and useless while the rest of my family struggled. My son-in-law was arrested and after we were evicted, we had to go to a homeless shelter but did not have the transportation card to get there! While trying to help, my son-in-law was late to work and lost two weeks wages. I was astounded by how heartless people at the bank and utilities treated us. The ONLY compassionate and helpful people were faith communities. The welfare office declined our request for help twice, so we gave up on any hope of receiving assistance.”
“My biggest take-away was realizing that maybe helping struggling families with rides, so they can better navigate "the system," is the best thing I can do to help.”
Kiemle suggested this could be a productive intergenerational activity to share with Plymouth people – maybe even at N-Sid Sen.
Honah adds, “The workshop was an eye opening experience to the trials and stresses of poverty. It wasn't at all easy to ‘just go get help’ as most people expect. In the limited time we were allowed to gather resources and responsibly apply them, I always missed a step which proved detrimental to my ‘children.’ As a member of society who hopes to be caring and considerate of other people's needs and struggles, I found this workshop to be very valuable.”