I'm in the Rotary Club and today's meeting was quite different kind of role playing. Organized by http://thinktank-inc.org/ to inform us about the lives of those around us in poverty by simulating living in their shoes for a short while.
The center of the room all tables had been cleared and clusters of seats were formed with folders on each representing a housing unit. Some groups had one chair and some had six or eight. They explained that each person would need to take on their role and perhaps as a student go to the school, or if depending on their funds go the station to spend time walking, get some gas or get a bus pass. Maybe you had to sell some of your goods at the pawn shop to afford your medicine or daycare? Maybe you needed to check in with your parole officer. I didn’t play rather took notes on the group. I did read the role of Linda a young mother of a 7 month old who was thrown out of her house by her parents and would need to visit the employment office for a job, apply for housing, take her baby to the doctor, and apply for food stamps. All the participants with a child, such as mine, were given a baby doll that they had to carry around like a real doll.
"Sue" was a single person out of work who was bipolar and couldn't afford her medicine which made her act out and ended up in trouble with the courts. "Bob" was part of an older couple who from the outside appear to be well off but were struggling and could barely pay their bills. I found homes with Rotarians role playing children left alone with nothing to do but get into trouble.
The simulation lasted over three 15 minute “weeks” with everyone rushing around like crazy with most trying to get to the time station, then to their job, or their doctor’s office, or to the health services center or the bank all taking up valuable time showing us the hoops that people need jump through, how you may not have any choices when in these situations and how different some people's lives are than ours, and how few opportunities for fun they could have.
The think tank staff took some time debrief us and offered some thoughts and information as a take away: (1) - go and listen, (2) study and reflect, (3) discuss, and (4) partner. It was a very powerful presentation.