The Poverty Challenge is designed to encourage those who are not living in poverty in Canada to care about those who do.
The Poverty Challenge has five main objectives:
1. To raise awareness in participants about the realities of poverty.
This day-long simulation allows participants to experience something of what it is like to live in poverty, learn what agencies exist to assist people living with too little, and realise how challenging it is to navigate through these systems.
2. To raise awareness in volunteers about the realities of poverty and the social assistance system.
The volunteers at the Poverty Challenge experience the same challenges as the participants, but from the other side of the table, as they fill the role of case-workers and social service providers.
3. To provide an authentic and empowering opportunity for low- income citizens to share their stories.
The simulations in the Poverty Challenge are built around the real-life circumstances of community members. We work hard to ensure that these community members are able to take part in the day and that in some small way, their frustrations and concerns are validated by the conference attendees.
4. To build community.
This event involves the time and commitment of over 230 people. Annually we are able to enhance the understanding and empathy of the participants, their facilitators and teachers, and the volunteers who participate. It is our belief that armed with this understanding, we are all better citizens, neighbours and friends.
5. To increase participation in poverty reduction activities.
By creating an understanding of poverty issues and empathy for people living with less, we hope that students and volunteers will engage more in poverty reduction activities.
You’ve completed a Poverty Challenge. You might be thinking, “So now what?”
As an organization, our primary mission is to create awareness about poverty in our community. The “So now what” question is an important one, yet there is no one single solution to ending local poverty. We only wish it were that easy. Our role is a starting point; our goal is to inspire others to ask and answer that exact question.
It is our belief that participants must take what they experienced and learned during the event to their own places of work and study, and from there, decide how this new knowledge will impact the choices they make. For some, it will affect the way they vote; for others, it will affect the way they treat their patients and clients; and for many, it will affect the way they discuss these issues with their friends, families, and students.
The Poverty Challenge began as a program for high school students, and as educators we are constantly asking our students to critically engage with what they learn, raise the “so now what” questions, and come up with many possible answers. If we were to prescribe the solution, we would in fact limit the creative potential of our participants to discover different solutions for themselves.
Keep asking and keep acting.