Local non-profit shows the challenges of living in poverty

Sometimes it means walking in your neighbors' shoes.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A Wider Circle, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending poverty, hosted an interactive immersion experience to help people understand the challenges of living in poverty.

Its office typically serves as a shopping center to some of the community’s poorest members. It’s a place where they can pick up furniture, clothes and more. On Sunday, however, it was transformed into a set meant to resemble the lives people in poverty face every day. 

“I’ve done many of these simulations and they can sometimes get people to laugh or talk like how is this possible,” said Mark Bergel, the executive director of A Wider Circle. “But it is everyday life for so many people we love.”

The 100 or so participants were divided into families and provided a home, represented by a circle of chairs and identified with an address. Their homes were surrounded by services — pawnshops, payday advance, socials services — things often associated with poorer communities.

RELATED: Georgia father walks 648 miles for poverty

Samantha Desilva, a pre-med student at the University of Maryland, learned what it was like to be a poverty stricken 50-year-old grandmother taking care of two grandkids and a diabetic husband.

During the simulation, her days were spent worrying about how to get from one place to another, getting paid and caring for her family.

“I think getting these experiences, really give[s] you a chance to appreciate the type of struggles that people like this have,” Desilva said. “Because it’s easy to look at it from a far but never really understand what specific needs they have.”

That is the message Bergel wanted people to walk away with.

“For me the end of poverty is really paved by everybody who is not in poverty caring so much about it that they will commit their lives to it,” Bergel said. 

To learn more about the organization, click here.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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