The United Way of Central Maryland, in collaboration with San Francisco based custom simulation company Forio, created an online empathy-building experience to show people what it’s like to live in poverty for a month.
The 30|30 Experience takes participants on a journey of difficult decisions, providing a simulation of what it’s like to live below the poverty line and trying to make ends meet as a low-wage earner. In Baltimore, the poverty rate is 21.2% according to the 2019 American Community Survey. That means one in five Baltimore residents live through the experiences depicted in the 90-minute interactive experience designed by the United Way.
On Giving Tuesday, November 30, 100 people will be able to experience the workshop. Signups are open until noon on Nov. 29.
“We want to take folks on a journey from empathy to compassion,” said Jarnell Swecker, chief marketing and innovation officer with the United Way of Central Maryland. “So I know how it feels to walk in your shoes and now I want to do something about it. Compassion to real action.”
If you’ve experienced a Tunnel of Oppression at a university — which is a multisensory guided exhibition through a series of scenes that aim to educate and challenge people to think more deeply about issues of oppression like police brutality, forced sterilization of women or food insecurity created in 1993 at Western Illinois University —then you have an idea of what the United Way is going for.
Typically, the United Way hosts workshops with the 30|30 Experience for individual businesses like BGE and CareFirst for donations ranging up to $3000. But for the global day of radical generosity that is Giving Tuesday, the United Way is offering this experience to the general public in an effort to inspire more people to give and donate.
“Every day, more than one of every four Marylanders fight to make ends meet,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland. “The 30|30 Experience reveals to participants exactly why so many hardworking people can’t make ends meet. Our goal is to build awareness of the hardships in our communities to engage volunteers, community leaders and supporters of our critical work.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.