By INONGE CHIMWASO
Alberta’s wealth is among the highest in Canada, yet the rate of poverty is still alarmingly high.
More than 91,000 people in the province are impoverished, and 11,500 of those people live in Central Alberta.
In order to give Red Deerians a perspective of what it’s like to live in poverty, the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance and United Way will host the first Poverty Simulation in Red Deer on May 14.
“People will get to experience the day to day trials and tribulation of getting to make ends meet,” said Lori Jack, community impact development officer at Central Alberta United Way.
For three hours, 85 participants will experience a month of living in poverty.
Participants will be divided into diverse family groups, including individual, two-parent and single-parent households.
Each family member will be assigned a profile that describes their background and financial situation.
Volunteers will also be on site to play the role of individuals in the service industry that people living in poverty might encounter.
Throughout the course of the event, participants will experience different challenges and obstacles that low-income families experience in their daily lives. This includes not being able to meet basic needs such as food, shelter or clothing.
While Jack said people will simply be role playing, the scenarios being played out aren’t far-fetched.
“It’s a reflective of people living in Alberta,” she said.
According to Jack, poverty affects more than just the adults.
Out of the 91,000 impoverished Albertans, 11.3 per cent are children. And of these 10,283 children, half are under the age of six.
Jack said children living in poverty often live in stressful environments.
They are deprived of opportunities that are crucial for brain development, and also miss out on social activities in the early stages of life because of financial difficulties in the family.
Poverty is a vicious cycle that many have difficulty coming out of, said Jack, attributing the struggle to “income inequality.”
“Wages go up in some industries, yet others don’t follow suit,” she said.
The event is designed to create awareness and an understanding of those living in poverty in Central Alberta.
As more people become empathetic to the issue, it is hoped that will aid in finding more solutions to reducing the stresses for low-income families.
“We want to help more people get involved in these efforts and make Central Alberta a vibrant community for all,” said Jack.
To register for Poverty Simulation, visit caunitedway.ca. The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon on May 14 with no cost of admission.