By: Brigitte Berry

From left, Daniel Lapointe, Lisa Shaw-Verhoek, Cheryl Snelleman and Kelly Ross are part of a team that contributed to the poverty maze by creating several real life scenarios of those who struggle to attain basic necessities of living.

Up to 100 individuals will navigate their way through the poverty maze in Lanark County on April 24 to experience the challenges that less fortunate individuals endure daily.

The social service worker program at the Perth campus is hosting a free event called Take a Walk in My Shoes at the Perth Legion, which is an interactive workshop designed to raise awareness and understanding for those who live in poverty.

“This workshop will provide a unique experiential opportunity for anyone with an interest to explore this multi-faceted problem and to brainstorm solutions” said Lisa Shaw-Verhoek, a professor in the social service worker program at the Perth campus.

Students in the program partnered with the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit to create an interactive experience, which plans to take participants through the thoughts, feelings and emotions of people who struggle to attain the most basic necessities of life.

“It is a very important way to try and increase communication, increase awareness and try to get everybody on the same page when it comes to what’s going on about homelessness,” said Susan Healey, communications coordinator at the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. “And different types of homelessness, it’s not just people living on streets.”

The social service worker students contributed by creating 10 different scenarios for participants to encounter and will be there to supervise and run the event.

The scenarios range from a 15-year-old pregnant girl to a drug addicted man recently released from jail. Participants will be given a random scenario and must attempt to exit the maze successfully with very few resources provided.

First-year social service worker student Daniel Lapointe will also be speaking at the event about his past experiences with poverty.

“I’m going to be talking about how I was affected, and how tricky it is to be in the system. Being a young guy who never graduated high school or anything, it’s really hard to get services and get on your feet,” said Lapointe.

The students observed that the struggles can be more prominent in small towns, like Lanark County, where there are no buses or public transportation.

Even finding transit to food banks can be difficult, and someone who cannot afford food can most likely not afford the expenses of a car, reflected Kelly Ross, also a student in the social service worker program.

“I think it’ll help create awareness for how rampant it is in a rural community. Especially for young people, couch surfing or living on camp grounds all summer,” said Lapointe.

With this maze participants can experience just how hard it is to escape poverty.