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United Way’s Walk a Mile Experience

What would you do if you didn’t have enough money to feed your children? Sell your household goods? Not pay rent and face eviction? Go for a predatory loan? These are hard questions, but ones that thousands of central Maryland families face every day.

United Way of Central Maryland’s Walk a Mile Experience, originally developed by United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, is a hands-on activity that illustrates these struggles in a personal and unforgettable way. Participants assume the role of a family member living at or near the poverty line and are challenged to make life decisions while overcoming a lack of resources and confusing support system.

Who should participate?
Corporations, nonprofit partners, university students and members of our community. Walk a Mile is a great educational tool and builds awareness and understanding of poverty-related issues.

Why participate?
Walk a Mile provides a symbolic experience of what it means to experience crisis and the challenges families face to make ends meet and achieve success.

What is the goal of Walk a Mile?
To foster self-awareness, empathy, and caring and concern for our community.

How does Walk a Mile work?
Participants are assigned to “families.” Families engage in the center of the room and are surrounded by tables representing community services (i.e., bank, grocery store, school, nonprofit organizations) and are challenged to navigate the services provided in order to care for their families, ultimately getting out of crisis and achieving self-sufficiency. Throughout the activity, participants can take advantage of United Way services, from calling the 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline to receiving services provided by our community partners.

What might my role be during the Walk a Mile Experience?
The activity includes roles for a minimum of 30 people. Each participant receives a role in one of several families—including child, parent or other adult family member. Each family is experiencing a different situation and families are from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

How can I get involved as a volunteer or arrange to have a Walk a Mile Experience for my group or company?
Please contact Lizzie Devereux at elizabeth.devereux@uwcm.org to learn more and schedule a Walk a Mile Experience. Please note the activity is two hours long.