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.