More than 100 community members joined the Mission Outreach Council of Good Shepherd Catholic Community in Colleyville last Saturday morning, February 29, for a Poverty Simulation exercise. Kim Campbell from TXU Energy helped facilitate the simulation. GRACE CEO Shonda Schaefer and Development Manager Kristina Davis represented GRACE.
The exercise was the brainchild of Lisa Goodwin, a member of the Good Shepherd Mission Outreach Council. She attended a simulation produced by Catholic Charities in Fort Worth and she wanted to share the same experience with the Good Shepherd parishioners.
The focus of the simulation was to allow others to empathize with those in poverty and learn how to assist them.
“Volunteer participants typically walk away from these simulations with a deeper understanding of the struggles families face in making basic ends meet,” said Shonda Schaefer. “They become more aware of the resources available in the community and how they can support those efforts.”
Good Shepherd recruited TXU Energy to facilitate the simulation program, and contacted GRACE and its other outreach partners to see if they wanted to be part of it.
Representatives from Catholic Charities in Fort Worth, Mid-Cities Care Corps, St. John the Apostle Outreach Services, SafeHaven of Tarrant County, and Cassata Catholic High School joined GRACE in telling of the struggles and challenges faced by those in need.
Deb McNamara, a member of the Good Shepherd Mission Outreach Council, said teenagers in the parish had attended similar simulations in the past to help them understand poverty.
“This is first time Good Shepherd has offered a program open to teens and adults,” said Ms. McNamara. “We hope to offer more simulations in the future.”
As the simulation was designed, volunteers were assigned to a family and given a family member role, either a father, mother or child in the family.
They were also given information regarding their family’s situation. They may have been in a family where the dad had lost his job, for example. Mom worked but was not making enough money to cover all of the expenses for the family.
Throughout the simulation, the volunteers decided how to pay for their mortgage, rent, utilities, food, medical bills and other necessities. They visited several simulated service agencies and organizations to help address their mounting needs.
“As you might imagine, the decisions are difficult. The volunteers have to make trade-offs, such as deciding to buy food or pay the mortgage,” said Ms. McNamara. “They can’t afford to do both.”
“The simulation provided experiences and context around the challenges and barriers to success that our low income neighbors face daily,” said Ms. Goodwin. “Our hope is the volunteers will embrace the lessons they learned, share them with friends, and take the next step by volunteering with and supporting one or more of our partner agencies to provide a hand-up to those in need in our community.”
“I have the utmost respect for the volunteers who committed to this simulation,” said Shonda. “Clearly it is only the first step, but based on the feedback, there are now over 100 people in our community who have a better understanding of the needs and are prepared to get involved with the solution.”
GRACE sincerely thanks Good Shepherd Catholic Community and TXU Energy for embracing this mission.