Learning new perspectives on poverty

Alison Dennis presented her Culture of Poverty workshop hosted at Okanagan College, Oct. 4

Counselor/teacher Alison Dennis presented during her Culture of Poverty workshop at Okanagan College

Counselor/teacher Alison Dennis presented during her Culture of Poverty workshop at Okanagan College

Our conception of poverty is flawed.

At least, that’s one of the themes teacher/counsellor Alison Dennis presented during her Culture of Poverty Workshop hosted by Okanagan College, Oct. 4.

The workshop aimed to look at poverty from a different perspective, and understand how it limits success in school, work, health and relationships.

She explained to a nearly-full classroom that poverty has its own culture, and that asking for a person to leave that culture, where they’ve grown up with friends and family, is a difficult position.

“I thought poverty was breakfast programs. It’s not about the money,” she said.

“I was frustrated that people didn’t go get jobs.”

Dennis used the example of what if she were to win the lottery, she would be a multimillionaire, but if she attended an upper-class social gathering, she wouldn’t fit in out because her way of dress, her mannerisms, her speech and language would be different than those of the elites.

It’s more about people being able to leave the culture they’re surrounded with, she said.

The poverty culture focuses on relationships, entertainment and survival while the middle class focuses on work achievement, and material security, said Dennis.

When we are asked people to be professional, we assume they know what that means, which isn’t the case, she said.

Mentorship is one of the effective ways to teach language and offer a way out of the poverty culture, as well as giving them the ability and knowledge to access resources.

For more information on workshops Okanagan College offers, visit Okanagan College’s website.

Dennis presented her workshop for the Ministry of Children and Family Development Vernon, Salmon Arm, Kelowna and Pentiction, for the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University along with school staffs, foster parents, and internationally.