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HPU social work students rethink poverty following simulation

BROWNWOOD – November 10, 2016 – Nine Howard Payne University students and two faculty members recently took part in one of Mission Waco’s poverty simulations, an experience designed to give participants a firsthand look at poverty in America. This was HPU’s eighth year to participate in the event.

Mission Waco creates a safe, controlled weekend of experiences that is designed to increase empathy for those living in poverty in America. HPU students joined approximately 30 other people of various ages to go through this simulation together.

Dan Humeniuk, assistant professor of social work and chair of HPU’s Department of Criminal Justice, Social Work and Sociology, takes part in the simulation with his students each year.
Humeniuk commented that one of the most interesting aspects of the weekend was the lunch-on-your-own project on Saturday and how students got to experience people in Waco who were very benevolent to the homeless.

“The whole point of the simulation is to take the participants out of their comfort zones,” said Humeniuk. “They send you out on your own so you get to know the lack of food and security a bit. It also emphasizes a Christian’s responsibility in reference to how people of faith should respond to poverty. It is my hope that the students brought back with them a sensitivity to those in need and a clearer understanding of their obligation as Christians to advocate and assist those in need.”

Brittiny Kelley, a junior from Brownwood, attended the simulation and gave her perspective of the event.

“This weekend humanized the word ‘poverty’ rather than allowing me to continue to believe its terminology was a dollar sign,” said Kelley.

The poverty simulation participants were not given any luxuries, including transportation. They walked everywhere they needed to go which totaled about 18 miles over the weekend.

The group had the opportunity to experience a church service and worship under the I-35 bridge over 8th Street in Waco on Sunday morning. Mission Waco conducts the church services and, as part of the simulation, participants have to walk one-and-a-half miles from the site to the bridge. On the way to Church Under the Bridge, they walk past two large, affluent churches. Groups of people from all over Waco including college students, families and homeless people join together to worship under the bridge.

Attendees experienced a very small sample of the hunger, tiredness and aggravation many homeless people have to endure on a daily basis. Dr. Millard Kimery, dean of the School of Humanities, chair and professor of English, had the opportunity to attend the poverty simulation event and reflected on his experience.

“The Bible is filled with challenging passages that call on Christians to identify with the poor and the marginalized and it’s important that we find ways to embody that concern,” said Dr. Kimery. “It was humbling and very gratifying to watch the students in Mr. Humeniuk’s class as they gave up their comforts and privileges to walk in someone else’s shoes for a weekend.”

Junior Jacey Martinez of San Saba attended the event and realized that she takes things for granted.

“My parents have always worked hard to get me what I wanted and I should be more thankful than what I am,” said Martinez.

Another HPU student who attended the poverty simulation weekend, junior Abbey Beardsley from Fort Worth, always wanted to make a difference in the world by helping people. She shared her takeaway from the event.

“This has taught me that it doesn’t take a superhero cape to change the world,” said Beardsley. “To change the world, all you need is a friendly smile, a heart for people and the willingness to go out there and make the change happen.”

In addition to Beardsley, Kelley and Martinez, other HPU students who attended were senior Jaclyn Bonner from Lytle; junior Efrain Garces from Floresville; sophomore Elijah Garces from Floresville; senior Sydney Spencer from Georgetown; junior Sierra Spruill from Ranger; and junior Maggie Van Nes from Keller.

For more information about HPU, visit www.hputx.edu.

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Photo cutline: HPU students and faculty participated in a poverty simulation in Waco earlier this semester. They are pictured on the HPU campus. Left to right: Dan Humeniuk, assistant professor of social work and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, Social Work and Sociology; junior Maggie Van Nes from Keller; senior Sydney Spencer from Georgetown; junior Efrain Garces from Floresville; Dr. Millard Kimery, dean of the School of Humanities, chair and professor of English; senior Jaclyn Bonner from Lytle; junior Abbey Beardsley from Fort Worth; junior Brittiny Kelley from Brownwood; junior Jacey Martinez from San Saba; junior Sierra Spruill from Ranger; and sophomore Elijah Garces from Floresville.

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