Lancaster Public School: Grade 7/8 Challenge

This Poverty Challenge was the first presented to senior elementary school students in grades 7 and 8, and it was a big success.  The event took place over 3 days: January 26, January 27, and February 15. On the first day, 40 minute sessions were presented to each class in turn.  Students participated in the exercises “Describe the Poor”, “Wealth Squares” read three profiles and developed questions for the three Profile Experts that they would soon meet.  During the second session, students met each of the three Profile experts in 25 minute meetings and asked the questions that they had prepared.

In the final session, each of three classes was assigned one of the three Profiles. The students examined their assigned profile closely, and were trained in role playing. Then the Challenge began, with students participating individually or in pairs. The TOMS visited the Health Centre, Rental Housing, ODSP (the Disability office) and OW (welfare).  The EMANUELS attempted to solve problems at the Health Centre, Rental Housing, OW (welfare) and OSAP (student loans).  The students taking on the role of MOLLY visited Legal Aid, OW (welfare), OSAP (student loans) and Rental Housing.

At the conclusion, all participants were debriefed and the organizers appreciated how much they had learned, how their empathy had grown, and how The Poverty Challenge can be adapted for senior elementary students.

Queen's University: Faculty of Medicine and St. Lawrence College: Faculty of Social Services

This September 29 event is the first time that we combined university and college participants. It was an excellent idea, only marred by lack of space which meant that these groups attended plenary sessions in different locations.

Approximately 70 college students studying social services served as the agency employees. They had been trained in their roles prior to the event, but we observed that some of them seem intimidated by their older university graduate school “clients”.

On September 29, these college students and 100 first year medical students studying the social determinants of health met at 15 Arch St. from 8:15 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. to complete four challenges in 40 minutes. The med students were divided into eight groups, each following a different profile. Once again, Queen’s University paid for their speaking fees, but this time, they also contributed $2 per participant to our Poverty Assistance Fund.  This sum was spent on dental care for one of our experts.

The eight Profile Experts who attended the concluding plenary session spoke about their experiences with the medical system, describing their best and worst doctors.

The students from St. Lawrence College met in a different concluding plenary session to discuss the challenges of working in social service agencies.  They learned that sometimes, their desire to help will be frustrated by strict policies and agency silos.