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Briar Cliff University's Social Work Department Breaks Down Poverty Stereotypes

Updated: Oct 24, 2018

October 17, 2018 | by Liv Mason


At 2 PM on Monday, November 5th Briar Cliff’s Social Work Department will host their yearly poverty simulation in the Saint Francis Center. Through this event the public will be able to get a better understanding of what it means to live in poverty.


The first poverty simulation took place in 2005. The following year, Briar Cliff expanded to include the nursing department as well as the University of Iowa MSW students in the project, according to Heather Craig-Oldsen, a previous professor at Briar Cliff University.


Liz Rembold, director of the social work program and assistant professor at Briar Cliff, says that the poverty simulation is an interactive immersion experience where participants are able to gain first-hand experience of what it’s like to really live in poverty. During the simulation participants role-play the lives of low-low-income families, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security.


For years the poverty simulation has had a positive impact on the community and those in attendance.


“During one of the earlier simulations we invited a person from the homeless shelter to join us. I can’t recall how we connected with him but his real life stories strengthened the discussion even after the poverty simulation,” said Craig-Oldsen.


The poverty simulation has been successful in educating the community on what it’s like to go through these scenarios that people in poverty face on a daily basis.


“Poverty is a reality for many individuals and families. But unless you’ve experienced poverty, it’s difficult to understand. The poverty simulation breaks down stereotypes by allowing participants to step into the real life situation of others,” said Rembold.


For Rembold, being involved in the poverty simulation allows h

er to educate others on an issue people don’t always take seriously:


“Poverty is often portrayed as a stand-alone issue, but this simulation allows individuals to walk a month in the shoes of someone who is facing poverty and realize how complex and interconnected issues of poverty really are.”


The social work department says their main goal in the simulation is to bridge the gap of misconception about poverty. Their intention is to inspire participants to become a voice to end poverty in their community.



Social Work Department creates Poverty Simulation to educate the community on what it’s like to live in poverty. (Photo from Briar Cliff Marketing)

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