Logos Hope‘s crewmembers have taken part in a true-to-life poverty simulation. They were divided into 'families' where members chose a mother and a father to lead them. Their ‘landlords’ taught them to make paper bags out of newspaper and glue which they would have to sell in order to get money for rent and food. Their goal was to earn enough to send one of the children in the family to school.

The room was filled with street, vehicle and crowd noises to make the experience more realistic. Most of Maddy Widrick’s (USA) family members produced paper bags throughout the simulation, despite everything that was happening around them. “Prostitutes and workers from the bar would come over to try and convince my kids to go and work for them,” explains Maddy, whose role was being the family mother. “I refused to let my ‘kids’ talk to them.”

As they were unable to pay rent, the simulation continued with the landlord forcing them to leave and the family ending up in a slum. “It was utter chaos,” Maddy recalls. “Other families were getting kicked out; some were running, trying to steal things. I spent half an hour trying to hide from the police. I was exhausted.”

She decided to take the option of selling one of her kidneys, as other families had felt forced to do. Maddy realised that she’d gone from trying to follow the rules to “complete depravity.” She ended up stealing money to send one of her children to school.

Mariette Nel (South Africa) was acting as one of the prostitutes in the simulation. “I had to make a dozen girls clean the floor. Once they cleaned it, I just threw newspapers all over the place and made them tidy it again. Even though it was a simulation, there was genuine disappointment in these girls’ eyes.”

The experience led her to a realisation: “The people enforcing this are also victims. They are products of a system. We should reach out to them; that’s where chains need to be broken. No child grows up wanting to traffic people!”

Maddy reflects: “I’d never realised how hard it is to break out of the system. Sending a kid to school cost four times as much as the rent… How are you supposed to achieve that? It seems to be set up to keep people in poverty.”

The volunteers concluded that education should be made accessible to give children a chance to escape poverty. The crew come from various different areas of the world and different standards of living, yet in the same way, the simulation reinforced their common compassion for those who suffer.