By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — What is life like at the poverty line?
Most of the time, it means making one tough choice after another. Medicine for your child, or food for the family. Paying rent or fixing the car. It’s a world that few of us can truly comprehend, with dilemmas we hope we’ll never have to make.
But for thousands of people in our community, poverty is a gritty reality. Nearly 17 percent of people in Wausau live at or below the poverty rate, according to census figures. a number that is higher than the 14.7 percent national average.
Now, the Wausau School District is teaming up with UW-Extension and NAOMI to offer a unique look at living in poverty. This week, participants at a poverty simulation event will walk in the shoes of a low-income family for a few short hours.
The power of this unique learning resource, leaders say, is that it creates an insight into the state of chronic crisis that consumes so many families.
The free event is being held from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at The Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist, 330 McClellan St., Wausau. Registration is encouraged but not required.
NAOMI’s Poverty Task Force Vice President Linda Glazner said the experience can be deeply emotional and eye-opening. The end goal is to promote positive change in the community through evaluation and understanding.
Participants receive an assigned identity and family proﬁle, then experience “one month” of poverty compressed into the real time of the simulation. Volunteers play roles of community members who are vital to families, such as social workers, medical personnel, and educators.
Afterward, a debrieﬁng occurs where participants share their insights. The result, Glazner said, can be a very special kind of awakening.
A spring event is also being planned for March 17.