Danville community members go through poverty simulation

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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) It's hard to believe that in 2017 there are still millions of people going hungry and living in poverty every day. On Thursday, some Danville community members tried to get some insight into what poverty feels like.

They were each assigned a fictional person that they had to pretend to be. It was kind of like the game of LIFE, but the organizers stress that this is not a game because it's real for too many people.

Participants come in and get their assignment. They could be a single mom with three kids and a full-time job, a grandfather raising grand-kids, or even a child.

"So we have some adults being nine-year-old little boys and acting as if a 9-year-old little boy that hasn't eaten, that's family is stressed what that would be like," Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Karen Tanner said.

They are encouraged to immerse themselves in their "character" and really think about how the family circumstances and poverty would affect them.

Thirty percent of Danville citizens live in poverty, and 41 percent of those are children.

"As a future teacher this really gives me insight into what I'll be dealing with and how to accept that from my students and deal with them every day," Averett University senior Kelsie Aherron said.

City council members, the Rotary Club and other community members all participated. They went through a month's worth of scenarios. Some got evicted, others went to jail.

"Things that I've never experienced before. A lot of heartbreak, what it can be like at homes for the families, and for the relationships that can come from all of this," Aherron said.

The final question asked at the end, is what do we do now?

"We can't imagine what that is for so many of us, what it would be to experience that, but we hope that we create some empathy. With that empathy our goal is to create some impact that's gonna cause some change," Tanner said.

The main ways that organizers say change can be made are commitment, education, volunteering, writing letters and socializing. They say even just how you treat someone in the line at the grocery store can make all the difference.