WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – It’s a harsh reality for nearly 30 percent of children from the Wyoming Valley. They are living in poverty. It’s why dozens of community leaders came together on Tuesday for an event aimed at awareness and solutions.

“Oh my God. I’m getting hit from all sides,” said Nicole Hurchick. The Leadership Wilkes-Barre member played the role of a married mother of two whose husband just lost his job. The scenario had her juggling bills for a family suddenly thrust into poverty. In describing her character she said, “I make, I would say, enough money to I guess kind of make it week to week hopefully.”

This simulated struggle is all too real in the United Way of Wyoming Valley coverage area. It’s why the organization held this poverty simulation. Many of these participants with actual good paying jobs are gaining a new perspective on what it’s like to live in poverty day in and day out. United Way of Wyoming Valley Vice President of Resource Development Ginny Craig said, “People really protect the struggles that they face and so I don’t think that we fully understand and the stories that teachers hear and the stories that social service workers hear really… can’t really paint the picture to the rest of us.”

Simulation participant Judy Greenwald is a Leadership Wilkes-Barre member and Pittston Area teacher who witnesses the poverty struggle of some of her students. “The breakfast program and the lunch program are possibly the only times the kids get to eat and so, you know, they go home and there’s nothing there.”

One participant is scripted to resort to drug dealing to make ends meet in this poverty simulation which was last held in 2016. While some might dismiss this exercise as unimportant, consider the impact it’s already had. Some teachers have stopped taking off points for kids from poverty households not doing their homework and even provided them resources to take a nap if they were sleep deprived.

The hope is through greater awareness, poverty can be transformed to possibility. “If we’re seeing more people with a compassionate heart, more solutions and more kindness will flow,” said Ms. Craig.

Tuesday’s simulation was part of the United Way’s Poverty to Possibility campaign. It aims to make lasting change in the community by reducing poverty among children and their families.

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