Volunteers needed to help spread poverty awareness.

United Way Winnipeg needs volunteers for the Living on the Edge: Taking a Look at Poverty simulation.

Are you looking for a unique experience that allows you to learn more about important issues in Winnipeg?

Volunteers at a poverty simulation.Simulation volunteers act as agency, business and servicerepresentatives throughout the duration of a Living on the Edge poverty simulation.

Volunteer requirements:

    • No preparation, previous knowledge or other experience needed.
    • Each simulation requires approximately 3.5 hours, most often during the day

This is a great opportunity to help educate others on the realities of poverty while you develop and enhance your own interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills.

To learn more, please contact United Way
at 204-477-5360 or lote@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca

What is Living on the Edge?

Living on the Edge is a unique experience designed to provide a glimpse into what it might be like to live on a low income trying to survive from month to month. Participants are placed in different households, each with a story that describes their financial situation. The simulation is divided into four simulated weeks. Following the simulation, participants and volunteers debrief the experience and learn more about the role United Way Winnipeg plays in addressing poverty.

Volunteers are integral to the poverty simulation experience. As participants go through the month they visit and utilize a number of community services and resources such as the bank, grocery store, social service office, and family resource centre. Volunteers serve as the staffers of these different community service and resource offices, helping guide participants throughout the experience of the poverty simulation.

Volunteer helps shed light on poverty

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week and we are sharing stories from just a few of the thousands of volunteers who work with United Way and our agency partners. Thank you to all volunteers, you grow love!

Ann Reichert retired last June after a 44-year nursing career, and just two weeks later she was on the hunt for things to fill her time when a friend invited her to volunteer at a United Way Living on the Edge (LOTE) poverty simulation.

“I really had fun that day. I ran the pawn shop, and had loads of fun with the participants.”

The participants were from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba – and that day Ann helped give them a glimpse into the challenges of living in poverty.

Ann Reichert has volunteered at more than a dozen United Way Living on the Edge poverty simulations.

Ann Reichert has volunteered at more than a dozen United Way Living on the Edge poverty simulations.

A LOTE poverty simulation gives participants a better understanding of what life is like for someone living in poverty as they assume simulated roles within households and navigate the challenges of daily life for four 15-minute weeks.

“I think everyone should do it,” says Ann.

“Seeing how hard it can be to survive. When you don’t have money for the bus to go cash a cheque or pay a bill it really becomes clear – it’s a new perspective.”

Ann has seen a lot of poverty through her healthcare career and in her world travels. She says a poverty simulation provides “a new dimension” to understanding poverty that she has not experienced in any other way.

About 20 people like Ann volunteer at each poverty simulation bringing to life the utilities, social services, schools, police, medical centre and other agencies that a person on a low-income may have to deal with.

After the simulation a debriefing session lets people reflect on the experience they just shared. Ann has volunteered at more than a dozen simulations and says every group has had at least one participant who talked about their own experience of poverty and hardship.

“Some mentioned how they got help from a United Way agency.”

Ann grew up on a farm where her parents taught her that her “role includes helping others.”

Besides volunteering with LOTE she helps at an elementary school breakfast program. A few years ago she was involved in medical missions to the Philippines and Nicaragua.

She sees volunteer work as an extension of her career in healthcare and her desire to reach out and connect with people.

“Nursing always gave me an opportunity to give.”

If you would like to volunteer for or participate in a United Way LOTE poverty simulation contact Mariah Baldwin at 204-924-4264 or email mbaldwin@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca

Learn more and see a video about LOTE poverty simulations online.

Experience Living on the Edge poverty simulation

Through a poverty simulation you can walk a metaphorical mile in the lives of Winnipeggers experiencing poverty.

United Way Winnipeg regularly works with experts, leading organizations and community members to gather and share information that can build knowledge and influence real and lasting change in our city. One of our newest tools in this pursuit is the Living on the Edge poverty simulation.

Living on the Edge: Taking a Look at Poverty is a unique group experience designed to provide a glimpse into what life might be like for families living in low-income situations. Participants are placed in family units and provided with a summary of their financial situation. The two to three-hour simulation is divided into four short “weeks” during which families perform day-to-day tasks like sending children to school or childcare, getting to or finding work, paying bills, visiting social services, buying groceries, cashing cheques and more. Following the simulation, participants have an opportunity to share and discuss what they learned and felt during a facilitated debrief.

Participate in a poverty simulation

Join groups from business, government and education who’ve already experienced the powerful impact of a Living on the Edge poverty simulation. It’s an ideal team-building exercise for groups of 40 to 80 who are seeking unique opportunities to enhance tolerance, compassion and empathy among their members or workforce.
For more information or to arrange a poverty simulation for your group or organization, contact United Way of Winnipeg by calling 204-477-5360, or email lote@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca.


Looking for ways to make a difference but don’t have a lot of time? You can play an important role in bringing Living on the Edge poverty simulations to life by playing a role as one of our simulated community service representatives. Requiring approximately four hours for each simulation, it’s the perfect opportunity to enhance your interpersonal, leadership and communication skills while helping people in our community understand the realities of poverty.

No experience, previous knowledge or preparation required.

For more information, contact United Way of Winnipeg by calling 204-477-5360, or email lote@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca.

Can you ‘Make The Month’?

One in 10 Winnipeggers live in poverty. For children, the number rises to a shocking one in 4.

Life in poverty is a daily battle with hunger, stress, isolation and constant worry. The choices in front of people with a tight budget are hard.

We’re offering Make The Month—Canada’s first online poverty simulation—as a glimpse into the struggle 10% of Winnipeggers face trying to make ends meet. It challenges you to see if you can stay financially afloat for one month on a poverty-level income.

It will give you a new perspective on poverty. And what you learn might affect you forever.


The Winnipeg-based simulation offers a choice of trying to navigate the challenges and frustrations of living in poverty as a single person, single parent or two-parent family.


Participants are presented with a series of life choices each day that can affect their finances and well-being as they try to make it through two paydays to the end of the month.

With 5 days until payday and only $20 in the bank the outlook for this simulation participant is bleak.

With 5 days until payday and only $20 in the bank the outlook for this simulation participant is bleak.

Register your child for hockey or not? Pay the utility bill? Get dental work done, or live with the consequences. Your child is sick—do you miss work, send your child to school, or leave your child alone?


Mary van Eerd-Cook, a single mother of six, faced financial and emotional hardship with the end of a 25-year marriage and onset of a severe tooth infection that proved to be life-threatening.

Mary van Eerd-Cook lifted her family out of poverty with United Way-supported programming.

Mary van Eerd-Cook lifted her family out of poverty with United Way-supported programming.

She describes how United Way-supported money management training and an asset-building program allowed her to get the infection treated and complete her education.

“I’m here because of it. I’m actually here because of it. That’s how far gone the infection was,” Mary says.

Heather Block, United Way’s director of strategic initiatives and lead facilitator for United Way Winnipeg’s real-life poverty simulation Living on the Edge, says an online simulation obviously cannot capture the full reality of a life in poverty, “but through Make The Month, people can get a better understanding of this complex issue.”

Almost 62,000 people across Manitoba received emergency food assistance from Winnipeg Harvest in 2014 – up 53% from six years earlier. Additionally, Manitoba has the second highest percentage of children using the food bank of all provinces – 44% in 2014

Can you Make The Month? Give it a try at www.makethemonth.ca/winnipeg.

GenNext Poverty Simulation

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 9.53.39 AM
What is it like to live in poverty?

Living on the Edge is a United Way program that offers a unique glimpse into what life might be like for Winnipeg families in low income situations. In the past two years, over 40 groups have participated in Living on the Edge poverty simulations. Now we’d like to offer GenNexters a chance to take part in this engaging and thought-provoking experience.

During this interactive learning process, participants are assigned roles within family units and perform daily tasks, like sending kids to school, going to or finding work, paying bills, accessing community resources, buying groceries, interacting with financial institutions, and much more. A debriefing session following the simulation gives participants a chance to link their own experiences to the realities for Winnipeggers living in poverty.

There is no cost to participate and space is limited. To register, email jplater@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca with subject line – GenNext Poverty Simulation.

Poverty is not a game.

If you don’t understand a problem, how can you be part of the solution?

We host a poverty simulation called Living on the Edge, where people are given roles—single parent, senior with dementia, person experiencing homelessness, teen mother—and they try to make life work without very much money.

LoTE Volunteer Briefing

Volunteers learning about their upcoming roles as service providers, landlords, and other figures in the lives of those experiencing poverty in Winnipeg.

They try to pay their bills, fix their cars, and put enough food on the table for their families. It quickly becomes clear that the choices open to a person in poverty are very limited.

It’s eye-opening. It’s empathy-building. It makes Winnipeggers look around them and really see each other.

“When I headed back to my school, it was like a flood gate opened. I cried all the way.”
—Lorelei Bunkowsky, School Principal, after experiencing Living On The Edge.

Yesterday we shared Living on the Edge with Winnipeg Free Press participants.

We don’t call this experience a “game,” as poverty is certainly not a game. We do receive questions about the sensitivity of “pretending” to be poor.

Questions About Poverty

It’s hard to start addressing poverty if you can’t relate to it. That’s why we offer the simulation, as an entry point for people who haven’t lived it.

We’re not the only United Way to offer these experiences—United Way of Alberta Capital Region facilitates one, as does United Way of Calgary. Calgary has also created an online version called “Make the Month,” challenging people to try to make it through a month of limited resources. Others have created similar online poverty experiences.

Out Of Money

We want a Winnipeg where poverty is a thing of the past. As the country notes with dismay that the goal to end child poverty by the turn of the last century wasn’t accomplished—and 22.4% of children in Manitoba live in poverty—we think increasing understanding of the daily experience of poverty is critical.

“So what?”

The question of “now what?” is also important. Once you’ve experienced the frustration, worry and limitations imposed by poverty, what can you do with this information?

At the end of Living on the Edge, we ask people how this will impact their own lives. Will it change their actions, how they deal with people?

“If you take one thing away from the experience, we hope that when you see somebody who’s obviously living in poverty, and struggling, that you start to see them as individuals and not as a demographic. That you see them through the eyes of compassion.”
—Heather Block, Director, Strategic Initiatives, United Way of Winnipeg

We work with 100+ agency partners who are all responding to poverty in ways that make sense in their own neighbourhoods. Addressing the root causes of poverty in our city makes it stronger for us all.

We invite you to contribute and be part of that strength.