Poverty simulation aims to increase empathy for families


By Kierra Frazier

The University of Illinois Extension and Live Healthy DeKalb County Food Security Council will run a poverty simulation 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 20 at the DeKalb Farm Bureau Building, 1350 West Prairie Road in Sycamore, to show participants the day-to-day realities faced by those living in poverty.

The poverty rate for DeKalb is 30.8%, according to the 2017 American Community Survey. Illinois’ poverty rate is 13.5%.

Jayeeta Chowdhury-Woodstrup, the DeKalb county program coordinator, said the simulation is designed to show participants how their lives change under financial constraints.

Participants will be assigned to a fabricated family and a role in that family. They will be asked to remain in character during the four sessions of the simulation, where each session simulates a month, she said.

“Each family has its own financial crunch that they face,” Chowdhury-Woodstrup said. “You have to allocate your finances and time in such a way that you’re able to meet everyone’s requirements, including your own.”

People’s brains are often not oriented to deal with these situations in a time crunch, she said.

“[The simulation] opens up avenues of information for people who work with that particular community to see how [individuals in poverty] live their lives,” Chowdhury-Woodstrup said. “We are made more empathetic and sympathetic to their lifestyle.”

The purpose of the simulation is to motivate participants to become involved in activities which may help reduce poverty in DeKalb County, according to the extension’s website.

The simulation has no charge and is open to anyone looking to increase their awareness of those living with low income, according to a press release from The University of Illinois Extension.

Registration is required by Sept. 16 and participation is limited to 80 individuals.

For more information and to register for the simulation, visit the UIUC Extension website or call the DeKalb County Extension office at 815-758-8194.

Noah Thornburgh contributed reporting.