The Poverty Trap is an immersive activity, or ‘empathy experience’, based around life in a slum. It is built on real people’s lives and testimonies and allows participants to experience, albeit symbolically, something of what it feels like to live in extreme poverty. The aim of the experience is to enhance empathy for the billions trapped in the cycle of poverty, motivate thinking about solutions and spark a heartfelt desire to take action.
A number of families live in a slum in a large city. Life is extremely hard and the inhabitants live in poor, cramped conditions in desperate poverty. There is no social security in the slum and families have to fend for themselves against the perils of hunger, homelessness, corruption, sickness and educational need, doing their best to survive from one day to the next.
Families earn a meagre and unpredictable income from making paper bags, made from scrap newspaper and flour & water paste, and selling them to unscrupulous local shopkeepers. Each week they must pay the oppresive Slumlord for their food, water and rent, or else they will be evicted from the slum and handed over to scheming loansharks who will press them into bonded labour.
There is one small development charity (NGO) working to try and improve conditions and people’s livelihoods in the slum, however, their resources are extremely limited and they struggle to make a difference.
The family has a dream that one day they may save enough money to send one of their family members to school. Their hope is that this may provide them with an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.
With competition fierce amongst the families, they are confronted with, and increasingly forced to make, desperate choices to survive.
The Poverty Trap is ideally suited to many different types of groups including; schools, chu
Some of the groups we’ve run The Poverty Trap for
- Abingdon School, Oxford
- Blundell’s School, Devon
- Bristol Grammar School
- Canford School, Dorset
- Clifton High School, Bristol
- Dean Close, Cheltenham
- Farnborough Hill, Hampshire
- Gildredge House, Eastbourne
- Hampton School, London
- Headington School, Oxford
- Institut Florimont, Geneva
- Kimbolton School, Cambridgeshire
- Kingham Hill School, Oxfordshire
- King’s College School, London
- Oxford High School, Oxford
- Sevenoaks School, Kent
- St Helen & St Katherine School, Oxford
- Trinity School, London
- Walthamstow Hall, Sevenoaks
- St Nicholas, Sevenoaks
- Orpington Baptist Church
- Tunbridge Wells Churches Together
- Emmanuel Wimbledon
- St John’s, Tunbridge Wells
- IB World Student Conference, Bath University
- Oasis Global, London
- Pickwell Foundation, N.Devon
- Rochester Diocesan Board of Education, Kent
- Said Business School, Oxford
- International Health Partners, Kent
- Giving What We Can, London
- 80,000 Hours, Oxford
What people have said
“It really was one of, if not THE most worthwhile and rewarding day/s of my career! I feel confident that it will also be one of the memorable days of our pupils’ whole school experience”
(Cindy von Kaufmann, Geography, Walthamstow Hall)
“We are conscious that there is a danger of teaching facts about the world’s poorest in the same way as we teach plate tectonics or coastal erosion – hopefully in a lively and engaging way but lacking empathy… experiences such as The Poverty Trap simulation have a huge impact on students which will remain with them long after they’ve forgotten detailed statistics and other exam revision… This simulation has had a powerful and sustained impact on our students.”
(Sue MacLeay, Geography, Sevenoaks School)
“Just had an amazing day with @Empathy_Action, it was truly amazing. Honestly one of the best days of school I have ever experienced.”
(Y9 Student from Sevenoaks School)
“I am going out into the world with new eyes”. I would recommend it to anybody who has a chance to experience it!”
“Poverty Day was the most amazing and informative, yet emotionally touching experience of my life. Before Poverty Day, I had no idea of the true conditions that 1 billion people in the world live in. The whole day was flipped upside down”
“Empathy Action has made a massive impact on the school and on me personally.”
“…an eye opener, and a brand new experience for most of us. Not many of us knew the immense struggles that people went through to earn a tiny amount of money, and getting the bare essentials to survive another day of hard work…This day has truly changed the way I think about poverty, and the way I will deal about it in the future.”
We would love to hear from you. If you would like to find out about costs*, or to discuss next steps with us, please get in touch with:
Ben Solanky, Director & Co-founder
Mob: +44(0)7792 419903
*Empathy Action is staffed entirely by volunteers, so every penny we receive goes directly towards furthering the charity’s objectives.