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Trent Students Gain Personal Perspective of Poverty during “Slum-ulation”
February 2, 2007

The Trent International Program (TIP) and the Trent International Students Association (TISA) proudly presented a very unique World Affairs Colloquium on January 26 when they offered Trent students the opportunity to participate in “Slum – ulation” – an acute poverty simulation designed to create an understanding of the conditions and challenges of living in a slum.

“It’s good that people come to this type of event,” said second year International Development student Sunneva Bernhardsdottzr, who came to Trent from Iceland. “This way, they can see something of how some people are forced to live”.

During the simulation, participating students were arranged into five-member “families who were forced to make and sell paper bags in exchange for tokens, which represented currency, food, shelter, and sanitation. The overall objective was to save enough tokens to send one family member to school to receive a higher education.

What the families weren’t prepared for, however, was that, as the simulation progressed, the chances of collecting enough tokens to afford even the basic necessities became nearly impossible, due to arbitrary conditions imposed on them by the event organizers, who played the land owner and the vendors the families had to sell their bags to. As a result, by the end of the simulation, the objective had shifted from winning to simply surviving. It is a lesson hard learned by most poverty-stricken families.

“We designed the simulation to give students at Trent the perspective of how life works in some places in the world -- unfair odds and the burden of debt that can never be escaped,” said Bruno Dobrysin, a first year International Development student from Argentina. “I think that we have been very successful in that regard.”