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The Community program draws attention to the poverty crisis

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – In partnership with K-State Research and Extension and United Ways of Kaw Valley, the Greater Topeka Partnership hosted a poverty simulation retreat.

As the county’s poverty rates soared, the simulation event brought together over a dozen different community program leaders to engage with and learn more about the county’s rising poverty rates. Brett Martin, vice president of community impact for United Ways of Kaw Valley, said the experience has allowed the community to really see the struggles of those living on the border and living in poverty.

“One of the things we say from the start,” Martin said. “This is a simulation and not a game. “It may sound like a game to people, but this is very real to a lot of people in our family.”

The event ran from 9am to 11.15am where many were given a real life role and challenge to see the hardships many go through. Martin said it is definitely a revelation to many and he hopes it helps them step forward in their community.

“What are some ways I can go about defending?” said Martin. “How can I use my voice and position in the community to help improve the lives of others in Topeka and Shawnee County?”

Many community leaders in attendance shared personal experiences of events in their lives where they saw themselves or a loved one in the same position. Michelle Cuevas Stubblefield, vice president of Strategy for Greater Topeka Partnership, who played the role of a 9-year-old girl, said it’s really important to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and see how we can help.

“They set up challenges for more,” Stubblefield said. “Maybe food wasn’t available, maybe we got robbed, maybe I got suspended from school and how those challenges during one week get over you and make life difficult.”

Martin said there are over 100 different resources and agencies in Shawnee County that are there to help those in need of assistance.

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