In their shoes
Health care workers take part in annual poverty challenge
A number of people who work in health care will experience first-hand how living on just $11 a day can impact a person’s well-being.
The eighth annual poverty challenge, which is organized by Making Kenora Home for the Week of Poverty Against Action, officially kicked off on Thursday, Feb. 8. Eight participants, all in the health care profession, will have to live off of $55 – the same amount a single person would receive on the Ontario Works Basic Needs benefit – for five days. Each participant will also blog about their experiences and daily challenges like a broken washing machine or a dental emergency.
Stephanie Charles, who works at the Northwestern Health Unit, said she wanted to take part in the challenge in order to bring awareness to not only the struggles people living in poverty face, but also “how systems don’t really complement each other and make problems even [worse] for people, especially vulnerable people who need every chance they can have.”
Anita Cameron, another participant who is also the executive director of Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig Health Access Centre (WNHAC) said she thinks her motivation to join the challenge is very similar. “One of the more unique thoughts I had was that I was poor at one point, and now I’m not,” she said. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how challenging life can be when you don’t have the same resources that I have access to now.”
Cameron added that WNHAC was created in part to help people in poverty to access health care services, but “sometimes I think there’s a disconnect between what we try to do as service providers and the people for whom we’re actually trying to provide that service to.
Nan Normand, an executive committee member with Making Kenora Home, said the challenge has a different focus every year. Last year the impact of poverty and homelessness on youth was the main theme, and this year it’s how poverty impacts a person’s overall health.
“We all know that homelessness is one of the major causes of bad health. We’ve known that for decades, so we decided that’s where we’ll focus,” Normand said.
She added that more than 50 people have participated in the poverty challenge since Fay Moore started it eight years ago. The daily blog posts from the participants average 5,000 hits a year.
“We hope to continue it because as long as there’s one person who doesn’t really understand [poverty] who might be in a policy-making position... they’ve got to know. They’ve got to learn about it,” Normand said.
Six of the eight poverty challenge participants were at the official launch at Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe'iyewigamig Health Access Centre on Thursday, Feb. 8. All of the participants are employed in the health care professions.