There are nearly half a million children in North Carolina under the age of 18 who live in poverty. NETworX Rutherford believes that through the community's support, those numbers can decrease.
NETworX, a program of Nurture, Education and Transformation within a network that is Christian in origin, will host a Community Action Poverty Simulation Saturday, Feb. 25, from 9 a.m. to noon at First United Methodist Church in Rutherfordton in the fellowship center.
"This program is about giving a hand up, not a had out for those in greatest need, with relationships being the heart of this initiative," said Lucy Robbins, pastor of Caroleen United Methodist Church and a member of the group.
Several informational meetings about the program - which will have several components - have already been held. The simulation will serve as opportunity for advocates for those in poverty to gain a greater understanding of what life in poverty looks like.
"There will be 15 minute segments with assignments as a particular family, and participants will be given a task," Robbins explained. "Through the sessions they are trying to work their way through the various systems in our community that people in poverty have to navigate."
The purpose, she continued, is to put the person into the actual role of a person living in poverty and what they deal with on a daily basis.
"The idea is that a lot of us think we know what that's like ... it's a way to open our eyes to the reality of what people have to struggle with," Robbins said.
NETworX Rutherford's first cohort is set to begin in April or May, and the poverty simulation is a means for recruiting allies - those people who will serve as support and mentors for champions, who are those living in poverty.
"We are working with a professional on grant writing to see where we might seek some funds," Robbins said. "We're also beginning to talk about local fundraising strategies. Those funds will primarily support some positions that are critical for the initiative."
Each cohort will follow a curriculum, and classes will meet for 12 to 15 weeks. But it doesn't stop there, Robbins said.
"The idea is that folks will have built relationships and won't want to quit meeting," she said. "There is a program in Burke County, and something they do we hope to also do is an evening called 'big view.' It is a time for champions to discuss from a higher level perspective the problems they see and how the members of the community can make changes."
NETworX Rutherford is affiliated with NETworX USA; a regional center for the national initiative is located in North Carolina.
More information on the local initiative will be available as the program takes shape.