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HPU social work students receive lessons in poverty, blessings from strangers

Poverty Simulation 2014 for webBROWNWOOD – November 21, 2014 – Seven Howard Payne University social work students recently took part in Mission Waco’s annual Poverty Simulation, an experience designed to give participants a firsthand look at poverty in America.

Dan Humeniuk, assistant professor of social work and chair of HPU’s Department of Criminal Justice, Social Work and Sociology, takes a group of students to the simulation each year. He shared his takeaway from the experience.

“All of us are blessed to be where we are in our lives,” he said. “It also struck me how quickly we can fall into situations that are out of our control and end up destitute or homeless.”

Mission Waco creates safe and controlled weekend experiences that are designed to increase empathy for those living in poverty. In addition to other planned activities, participants slept outdoors and experienced what it is like to find meals with little or no money.

Humeniuk shared a story of a stranger who helped the HPU group acquire a meal.

“We had $2.88 to buy food for eight people,” he said. “We went to a restaurant and asked what we could purchase for that amount. The man working there offered us water but, after we left, he met us outside and told us he found money on the floor that we could have. He gave us six one-dollar bills.”

Humeniuk and the students were very appreciative and used the money to purchase inexpensive items from a fast-food restaurant. Humeniuk later wrote to the gentleman to thank him for his generosity.

“It really showed me how you can be blessed by strangers,” Humeniuk said.

Vanessa Marquez, a junior social work major from Seguin, said Poverty Simulation was one of the greatest experiences of her life.

“The simulation really opened my eyes to those who are homeless and in poverty,” she said. “I learned two specific things through this experience. Those who have less give more because they know what it is like to have little to nothing. I also learned that I chose the right major from the beginning.”

Paula Johnson, a junior social work major from Spring, has participated in Poverty Simulation twice.

“Since we got back, I have realized just how much poverty we have here in Brownwood,” she said. “I have learned that I am blessed with so many material things that I too often take for granted. As a Christian, it is my duty to help those who are in need and are less fortunate than myself.”

In addition to Johnson and Marquez, other students on the trip included Tonya Bloomer, senior from Houston; Mackenzie Gill, junior from Brownwood; Angelica Gray, junior from San Antonio; Stephanie Gutierrez, senior from Brownwood; and Rebekah Steadman, senior from Fort Worth.

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Photo cutline: Seven social work students and a faculty member recently participated in Mission Waco’s Poverty Simulation. Pictured on the HPU campus, from left, are Vanessa Marquez, Tonya Bloomer, Angelica Gray, Mackenzie Gill, Stephanie Gutierrez, Paula Johnson, Rebekah Steadman and Dan Humeniuk.

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