By Carlie Connolly
On Feb. 26 at the Chinook Village in Medicine Hat, over 80 students from Medicine Hat College got together to take part in a poverty simulation. Facilitated by the United Way, students were put in various roles to live out four weeks. Each week was 15 minutes long. During that time, they had to deal with some challenging situations, including making sure their bills were paid, utilities, providing food for their family, getting kids to school and transportation. Various faculty volunteers and others acted as service providers like the bank, the utility company and the daycare, all participating in the simulation.
“It was up to the students then to try and navigate accessing all of these services to find out who could offer them what in order to meet their needs,” said JoDee Wentzel, nursing instructor at Medicine Hat College.
The United Way put the simulation forward in September for community members, but Wentzel along with Sandra Fritz, another instructor with the nursing program wanted the students of the college to participate as well. They then spoke with the United Way to make that happen for the first time this year for Medicine Hat College.
“Its an experience for the students to give them a better perspective of just the challenges that people who live in poverty in medicine hat have to face every day,” said Wentzel.
Over 20 of the nursing students from the community health nursing class participated along with students from the social work program, paramedics, child and youth care and the addictions program.
“It was such a great experience for those students and really brought to life some of these issues for them.”
With the poverty rate in Medicine Hat at 10 per cent per population and a 16 per cent child poverty rate, the simulation was to give perspective to the college students and open their eyes to what it would be like to live in poverty.
“Hopefully when they go out into their practice now, they’ll have a different perception of the struggles that people living in poverty have to face. They’ll be in a better position to advocate for them when it comes to the provision of services.”
With this being the first year for the college to take part in the simulation, Wentzel said they don’t wish to stop it there.
“We would love to do this again in the future. It definitely was beneficial for our students.”