Program to help Wesleyan students to focus on poverty

College students often plead poverty, complaining they have no money left over for weekend activities after paying for tuition and books. But thanks to the West Virginia University Extension Office in Buckhannon, West Virginia Wesleyan College students will get a different perspective on not having enough money in their pockets.

As part of the third annual Operation Neighbors in Need, about 70 students will participate in a simulation exercise in which they receive a lifestyle scenario and then try to make ends meet with a severely limited income.

“This will allow students to experience first-hand the frustration of poverty,” said Morgan Downing, one of the event coordinators, “and will allow them to be more empathetic to the struggles of some of the community members around them.”

Students will be given a monthly income, and then have to make simulated visits to a store, the bank and the various governmental agencies required by their lifestyle scenario. This is the first year the event will include an educational component about clients who need help from charity.

Operation Neighbors in Need started three years ago on the Buckhannon campus, and it includes Greek organizations, sports teams and other groups on campus coming together to raise money and gather household supplies, school items and other practical items to help those in the community. Then, bags of the items go to the Parish House for distribution.

Groups raise money to purchase the items or they get donations for items that people need, but don’t always have the means to purchase. Several students came together this week to pack the bags, which also included information on healthy lifestyles.

“Wesleyan is very community service-oriented,” Downing said. “There are numerous opportunities to donate overseas or to contribute to national organizations. But this is a great opportunity to give back to the local community. It’s wonderful for the students who are local to help out in their home, and it’s a great chance for the students who are from out of state to feel like they are a part of the community.”

Event coordinator Jacki Stow agreed that the project makes a difference for students and those in need.

“I think this project is one of the bigger things we do throughout the year,” Stow said. “It means a lot to the people we are helping, and it means a lot to those of us who help. It makes me feel good that I am making a difference in someone’s life.”

She added that the education piece of the simulation “will give students a better appreciation of what the people they help go through every day.”