Singapore Island Country Club to hold 'poverty simulation' workshop for members

SINGAPORE - One of Singapore's most prestigious country clubs, the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), will be conducting a "poverty simulation exercise" that will allow members to see life from the perspective of the poor.

According to Today newspaper, the workshop is set to be held next month, and will be conducted by voluntary welfare organisation Methodist Welfare Services (MWS).

It is the first time that such a workshop is being held at a country club.

Most of the exercises in the workshop will involve some form of role-playing, Channel NewsAsia reported. Participants will role-play and manage challenging scenarios, such as supporting a family and making ends meet on a meagre income while juggling health issues.

Reaction to the news of the exercise has been mixed. Club members called it a good effort by the country club, but added that the club could also organise more community service activities, Today reported.

On Twitter, one user, Bernard Chen, criticised the idea, asking: "Does money come with being pretentious?"

Another netizen, Maurice Simon, wrote on Facebook: "To think that you can engineer human emotions like empathy and compassion through a simulation exercise is just downright ludicrous."

However, another user, Daryl Sng, felt that the criticism has been misguided. "Poverty simulation, structured correctly, isn't a 'slumming it' exercise: the experience engenders empathy in a deep, different way," he tweeted.

Blogger Andrew Loh also defended the activity, pointing out that Singapore is not the first or only country to hold such a programme.

"Contrary to what some may think, the programme is not to humiliate the poor or ingratiate the rich with some superficial knowledge of poverty. The programme is in fact a good way to get the better-off to form an emotional connection with the situations faced daily by the poor in feeding their children, being able to afford school fees, transport fares, food, childcare and so on," he wrote on his blog.

When contacted, the SICC told AsiaOne that the poverty simulation exercise is one of its corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The club stressed that it was a firm believer in giving back to the community, highlighting its annual May Day charity event which has raised over $19 million for more than 100 beneficiaries since 1972. Club members also organised a Christmas party for residents of an elderly home last year.

"The club will organise more of these engagement activities with our beneficiaries and inspire others to step up and give," SICC added.

seanyap@sph.com.sg