Circles of McPherson County Hosting Poverty Simulation Thursday

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
July 06, 2016

Circles is a nationwide non-profit organization made up almost entirely of volunteers who want to help people help themselves rise out of the cycle of poverty.

The local McPherson County Chapter of Circles is hosting a poverty simulation this Thursday evening from 6:00 to 8:00 for the public to come and experience in a small way what it’s like to live in poverty in the every day.

Rebecca Lewis is the Life Coach with Circles of McPherson County and has been instrumental in the success of the local program. She herself is a former graduate of Circles who now serves to help others who seek to understand the cycle of poverty that she knows very well.

“The experience is designed to help those who haven’t experienced poverty take a small walk in somebody’s shoes so that we can build awareness about what poverty is, and what it really isn’t, and how survival mode helps shape people’s thinking,” Lewis explained.

“I think you hear a lot from people who don’t understand poverty, ‘Well, why can’t they do this? Why don’t they just do that?’

She continued, “After you go through this simulation, you start to understand, ‘Oh, wow. This is a whole other set of skills that people need in survival, and my middle class skills don’t work in this setting.’ Planning and strategies, that all goes out the window very quickly and people begin to realize that.

“Poverty can be very circular,” Lewis went on. “You just kind of feel like you’re a pinball, from here to this to that. And you just never get a break.”

The Circles Poverty Simulation walks people through a month in the life of a family in poverty and helps participants begin to understand some of the decisions people in poverty might make because of the struggles they face on a daily basis.

Participants will also have an opportunity to discuss and share ideas of how to directly affect the lives of those in poverty in our own local community.

“When we’re done with the simulation, we’ll talk about some of the really key roles that community members and the community at large can play in helping families climb out [of poverty] permanently.”

Circles is hoping to repeat the success of last year’s poverty simulation, but they do still have several openings available for people to fill.

Neisha Dahlstrom is a Circles ally and also serves on the board of Circles in McPherson County. She participated in last year’s poverty simulation and knows first-hand how beneficial it can be for people in the middle class to experience.

“The most important thing you can gain from coming to a poverty simulation is just an awareness of what it means to just very briefly live in poverty,” Dahlstrom said. “What are those challenges those families face, and how we might behave differently if we were in that situation.

“I don’t think that some of us in the middle class understand what those decisions are that have to made every day,” she added.

“It’s just a great opportunity to kind of learn what Circles is about, observe the work we do, and how we go about making connections with our families.”

The poverty simulation is open to absolutely anyone who is interested in learning more about the cycle of poverty.

“It’s a very powerful experience,” said Lewis. “It’d be good for a family with older high school students to come and experience together; if this speaks to your faith culture, I think it’d be a great experience…

“No strings attached! We won’t ask for money; we won’t ask for anything from you but just your time, and just to come and learn about what our families go through and what they also need to do to get out [of poverty].”

Circles of McPherson County is hosting their second annual Poverty Simulation this Thursday evening from 6 to 8:00 at the First United Methodist Church in McPherson. For more information, contact Circles at 620-241-9011 or visit their website at

You can also reach Rebecca Lewis directly by calling her cell phone 620-755-8092 or emailing [email protected]

Or simply stop by the First United Methodist Church Thursday evening at 6:00. They’re located at 1200 E. Kansas Ave. in McPherson.