A two-day workshop with simulation exercise gave 26 Grade 9 to 12 students a better understanding of the Southeast Helping Hands food bank and a taste of what it feels like to utilize the services the food bank provides for local families.
Hank Klassen from Southeast Helping Hands says their goal was to increase awareness about the need for a food bank to the younger generation. Klassen notes it was interesting to see the students get into the simulation exercise and come to the realization of what 300 families in the community go through every two weeks to help provide for themselves.
Students came from Steinbach Regional Secondary School, Niverville Collegiate Institute, and Green Valley Collegiate.
SRSS Grade 9 student Abigail Reimer says putting herself in someone else's shoes during the simulation exercise was an eye opening experience. Each student was given a card with a description of who they were supposed to be and what their life situation was. Reimer says she was a 27-year old mom with two special needs kids. She notes she was handed another card indicating her oldest daughter was hurt in gym class, she had to drop her bags in the food bank and walk to Elmdale. She says the card indicated when she arrived at the school she found out her daughter had been taken to the hospital and had to then walk to the hospital.
"First of all, having to put yourself in that mom perspective, if it was your kid you would just be so anxious and always worrying about them. I was just like, I'm literally going to start crying for this person, like this actually happened, that's horrible."
Reimer says after walking to the hospital she had to return to the food bank to get her groceries only to find out they were out of milk and had to settle for evaporated milk instead.
She notes, going forward, she wants to be more outgoing and inclusive of people, be more intentional about donating and giving of her resources to help others, as well as encouraging others to do the same.
SRSS Grade 10 student Sophia Stang says a comment that will stick with her is: "if it's not us helping them, then who will."
"We often forget, or we just let other people do it. We say, somebody else is going to take care of it, but then we don't realize that other people might be thinking the same thing, and then nobody is helping. So, it's really important to do our part in the community and I think that stuck out to me the most because it was definitely an eye opener."
During the simulation exercise, Stang says she was told to be a 53-year old woman who had a stroke and was now paralyzed on her right side. She notes she is right-handed and it was difficult to have her right arm wrapped to herself and then carry heavy bags in her left arm. Stang adds she was handed a card indicating she had forgotten to bring money, so she had to walk to the SCU and then back to the food bank, and for the purposes of the exercise, she had to walk that distance carrying the heavy grocery bags.
Stang says she thinks the SRSS is not doing a good job when it comes to donating food to the food bank and wants to organize a food drive before the end of the school year adding her and a friend have also decided to volunteer each Wednesday at Southeast Helping Hands.
SRSS Grade 11 student Daniel Funk says a comment which struck him was that most people go homeless before they go houseless.
"So, they lose everything in their house, they come home to no food, or the future is all gone long before they lose their house. So, most of the poor people in Steinbach, you wouldn't even know because they still have a house, they just don't have any belongings."
Funk notes he was asked to portray a 57-year old man with Schizophrenia. He says the card indicated he had to act very anxious and nervous around large groups of people, which was the entire time he was at the food bank because of the long line-ups for the service.
Funk says, going forward, he can see he lives a comfortable life and can give of his resources and privileges to help others. He adds this experience has also taught him to not judge people based on their current life situation because you don't know their story and how they got to be where they are.
As for the health of the food bank in Steinbach, Klassen says they are currently going alright financially and with their stock but knows the planned drive is during the Pioneer Days Parade in August and that has him a little worried.