07 October 2015

Poverty Trap Day

Share article:

Last week Year 9 students experienced a Poverty Trap Day led by the charity Empathy Action and the Geography department, experiencing a slum simulation, hearing lectures and watching a film exploring the lives of child refugees. We were also privileged to welcome Harry and Judith Wooldridge, parents of the late Frederick Wooldridge (OS 1985), a UN worker who died in the Haiti earthquake in 2010. They spoke about their work supporting Haitian Paralympians and encouraging people with disabilities in Haiti.


Year 9 students write about the day:

On 30 September the entire Year 9 were immersed in a poverty experience and education day. The first segment of the day was the slum simulation. We had three sessions of 15 minutes where we would be making bags out of newspapers and a glue like solution made of a flour and water mix to seal them. With these bags we were told to try and sell them to the shopkeepers who were in various locations and all offered different prices. The shopkeepers would reject the bags and tear them if they were not up to scratch, there were secret mafia walking around stealing possessions and money, trying to hurt us and overall make our lives more stressful and difficult. We had to work in our ‘Huts’, small mats which were just large enough to fit the family. The hardship didn’t stop there, after one hour it got exhausting, it was incredibly hot, we were aching, and if you could not afford to pay you were sent ‘Under the bridge’ a pitch black tent where you felt worthless and it was simply unbearable. By the end I could definitely say that this was overall a very well done and eye-opening simulation.

Following this experience, we had a short break then returned to the simulation zone to discuss our experience/thoughts. Afterwards we had a talk in the Pamoja Hall by the charity director at Sevenoaks School, Dr Edwards. He explained how as a collective we supported many causes locally and on an international scale. Just before heading off to lunch, upon exiting the Space I heard lots of people saying how proud they were that Sevenoaks contributed to so many incredible causes.

We were then greeted with a ‘slum lunch’ which was a small bowl of rice with options of vegetarian or chicken curry and naan bread. It wasn’t called a slum lunch for nothing, we were provided with no cutlery, which meant a variety of techniques were used to eat lunch. We were told that pinching with our right hand would be easiest but I found personally that using the naan bread was a perfect alternate. Following our lunch we had some incredibly motivational and inspiring speakers talk to us about various related topics such as, the family history of one of the organisers of the event from Empathy Action. They came to Sevenoaks town thanks to the local church across the street from school, which was a remarkable story to hear. The final activity of the day was watching the film The Good Lie, it was a story about the Sudan War and how four children crossed the war-torn country, in the process losing the eldest who saved their lives by joining the militia. The day brought up new factors and points which I had never considered before about poverty and its influences.

In conclusion, the day was fascinating and I would recommend it to anybody who has a chance to experience it. The simulation and events preceding it were thought provoking. The Empathy Action staff did a phenomenal job of structuring the simulation and making it as interesting as possible for us. I would like to express my great thanks to Empathy Action for proving us with such an amazing experience and Sevenoaks School for organising the experience. I would highly recommend it for those interested!

Benjamin Pinchuk


Poverty Trap Day was an eye-opening, staggering experience that took our whole year aback. The simulation made us realise just how privileged we were to not live a lifestyle that was portrayed as labour intensive with no asylum to go back to later. Our day started off with work in the ‘slums’ where we had to make lots of paper bags in order to be granted permission to stay by the Landlord due to right amount of rent being paid, a process that some groups failed. If this in fact did happen and your group couldn’t gather enough money (you could do this by selling belongings or making the bags) you would all be sent ‘Under the Bridge’ which was an area with even worse conditions and less possibilities to get out. The entire first half of the day was to show us the everyday life of a refugee, followed by speeches from the parents of a Sevenoaks School alumnus. We then had a slum lunch (curry that we ate with our hands). The day was finished off with a film about ‘The Lost Boys of Sudan’, based on real stories of refugees from Sudan from the times of the war.

The whole activity was a real insight into what poverty feels, smells and looks like. Poverty Trap Day made us all think about the people in these slums and made us ask: What can I do? We were told what our school was already doing, as well as what we can do as individuals. The whole process was very successful and truly showed the devastation going on around the world.

Sofia Balk

Share article:

Back to all news