In Their Own Words: “Humbly acknowledging how little we really know about poverty”

Brad Ackermann and Kay Nickey are developing a ministry outreach program for their church, the King of Glory (KoG) Lutheran in Carmel, that will provide economic empowerment, healthcare, educational support and legal assistance to those in need. This program led them to participate in a United Way of Central Indiana poverty simulation, an experience they will never forget. Brad and Kay share about the powerful experience below.


Connecting the Dots

Although our church’s outreach effort is less than a year old, our eyes have become opened by the level of need within two miles of our church, which is located at 106th and Keystone. Our program connected us with Nora Elementary, a school with many students in need, plus refugee and immigrant students who face their own unique challenges. Our group decided to become allies of the staff, students and families there.


About this same time, we received an email notification from United Way informing us about an upcoming Poverty Simulation. They needed volunteers to role play various roles in community organizations and businesses, while the faculty role played as families with limited income, going about their day to day living. We immediately responded yes!


Kay Sees the Stress and Anxiety Poverty Brings

I role played as the Homeless Shelter Supervisor and had several people housed there during simulated evenings and nights. During the four “weeklong” segments, people came to me with a multitude of social, marital, health and economic problems. I made several referrals to many of the community services during the exercise, appropriate I hope, but at times, felt I was adding to their anxiety by shuttling that person to another location for advice or help. Despite having over 50 years of nursing experience, I have had little direct experience with the social and economic problems of patients; this simulation truly opened my eyes.


The exercise was excellent in demonstrating the stress and distress that low-income family members experience in day to day living, their need for help in many areas, and the impediments that families experience in attempting to get help. Participating in this exercise, especially as a family on limited income, really brings home the problems that impoverished families experience, such as transportation availability and costs, healthcare and child care. On a personal level, it also showed me how important one interaction might be for the affected person.


Brad Develops an Understanding of the Everyday Effects of Poverty

My role at the simulation was to serve as one of two employees of the “U Trust Us Bank.” Over the course of the simulation, we transacted over $9,300 for 26 families. Role playing as a banker was fun but quite intense; there were long lines of people, mostly cashing their checks, who were obviously under a lot of stress.


The families were all trying hard to keep up and stay ahead of the challenges they were facing. One major challenge I noticed was transportation. People who came to the bank had to give us a transportation token to use the bank. This adds up to a big cost for someone on a limited income, and when you must rely on public transportation as your only means of transportation, it’s an added hassle that confronts you at each step of your day or week.


Another thing that stood out for me was that as busy as we were at the bank, other institutions had little traffic. In particular, I recall that very few people went to the health clinic and only in cases of dire emergency. It’s amazing how poverty impacts priorities.


The Poverty Simulation Creates Lasting Impact

The simulation is a fun, simple and proven way to get people acquainted with the issues families in poverty face on a daily basis. We learned how people in poverty are facing several challenges and that it never stops – it’s fatiguing physically and emotionally.


After the simulation, we arranged for United Way to meet with our Community Ministry Grants Team to discuss doing a poverty simulation with the members of KoG. We are a very spiritually motivated congregation and as we listen for what God is calling us to do, we must humbly acknowledge how little we really know, particularly about issues facing people in poverty. This is certainly new ground for the members of KoG, and it will help generate awareness and participation in our Community Ministry work that we have started with Nora Elementary.


Learn more about United Way’s Poverty Simulations