In these slum dwellings the living conditions are shocking, with the lack of clean water and no electricity resulting in a breeding ground for diseases. High levels of malnutrition and illiteracy are also common in these areas.
Many of them live on less than $1 a day, but even worse than this is the prospect of having nowhere to go if the government decides to clear out the slums and have their homes destroyed in the swipe of an iron claw.
The Slum Survivor experience brings that reality closer to home for the participants, as they overcome challenges to build their overnight dwellings from scrap materials, only to have them demolished at the end of the camp.
Students from Underdale High School recently participated in the camp. Teacher Marina Profiris said the experience allowed the students to experience something they may not be not familiar with here in Australia.
“It brings the experience of living in slums to the students, without having them going overseas to see it for themselves,” she said.
To enhance the experience, the students had to hand over any type of telecommunications, have one meal a day, and work in sweatshop-like conditions in exchange for food.
In an effort to emulate real-life slum conditions, participants were given the opportunity to work in teams to earn money, such as making paper bags and building roads.
In one scenario, six students were told to carry heavy bricks to eight different locations within a time limit, and to receive payment for their work.
But when they were underpaid, they faced a serious dilemma - they had worked hard to earn the money to feed their family, but since the work was illegal they had no job rights and had to accept the underpayment, a reality many workers face every day.
“It was bad. When I got the one (baht instead of ten), I thought, did I just get scammed?” said student Sam Deed.
Ms Shiphard said every year they did the camp, there would be one breaking point and this year the demolishment hit the students the hardest.
Emotions were running high and tension grew as they watched their hard work torn down by the demolishers.
“I was very, very annoyed,” said student Amanda Kennison.
“I guess it was pretty selfish of us to compare to them (living in slums) because they have it their whole lives, it’s their home, and ours is just for the day,” said participant Isabella Inglis.
When their dwellings were demolished, the participants were able to put themselves in the shoes of those living in slums throughout the world, a reality far separated from the security many of us live in here in Australia.
As part of the camp, participants were given the chance to “lament” and reveal their hopes for those living in poverty.
“I lament for those who have nothing to eat, and I hope they would not go hungry again,” student Kerri-Ann Vardas said.
“I lament that the reasons behind poverty are so difficult to solve and I hope that our generation has the perseverance to solve the problem behind poverty,” participant Nicholas Carubia said.
For more information visit http://www.tear.org.au/education/slum-survivor/