By Pastor Lee Young
Poverty. It is difficult for many to really understand the reality of poverty in 3rd world countries. It is hard for us to even understand the concept and most often we can find ourselves redefining it because of our own worldview and experience. Poverty is a complicated and diverse issue that is hard to explain to adults, never mind 50+ middle schoolers and high schoolers. That is what we tried to accomplish last Friday night.
Mike and Rose Hack from OM (Operation Mobilization) and Aids Link visited us and led us through a game that teaches about poverty and issues that surround poverty. What is great about a game is that you can learn and have fun at the same time and that is a win/win for youth ministry!
We divided the High School and Middle School students into family groups, each family unit having 5 to 6 members. We then put each family in a 2m x 2m square that was marked out with tape on the gym floor. This was their home for the game. They were then instructed by their landlords (youth leaders) to make paper bags out of newspapers. Once they made 10 bags they were able to sell them to 1 of 2 shop owners for money. With the money they made selling these bags they had to pay rent, pay for food, and pay for toilet facilities. If they were unable to pay rent they were evicted and sent to the garbage dump.
After the first round, 8 of 10 families were sent to the garbage dump. Talk about a dose of reality! Between unfair shop keepers, the mean garbage dump owner and the constant pressure to make ends meet, our students were able to catch a glimpse of the harsh realities of the third world. They faced disease, natural disasters and even death. Many turned to stealing from each other in order to make enough money to survive. A few students were lucky enough to be able to go to school or get skills training.
Many of our students commented on how it was impactful in their understanding of poverty and issues like slavery.
Thank you to the Summerland Review and the Penticton Western for supplying the newspaper for this event. Also, thank you to our youth staff and volunteers for making the event so successful.