For many of us, poverty is an abstract concept; something we know exists, yet remains a foreign and intangible idea that is difficult to comprehend. Most Americans will never experience abject poverty in there lifetime, so our exposure to the conditions that surround being extremely poor is narrowed down to images we soak in on TV, or through our travel experiences abroad.
Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple wanted to experience firsthand how the extreme poor lived. In 2010, the two were studying economic development at Claremont McKenna College when they decided to pack their bags and head south to Guatemala where they spent two months living in a rural village on one dollar a day. They wanted to document the social and economic hardships the poor face by immersing themselves in an impoverished community and enduring the same tolling lifestyle that many of the poor in Guatemala deal with every day.
Ingrasci and Temple traveled with two other friends, Sean Leonard and Ryan Christoffersen — both creatives that dabbled in filmmaking — so that they could document the experience by creating weekly videos, which they posted to their website and on YouTube. During their two months in Guatemala, the four students had their fair share of illness; lost weight from long days of manual labor and little food to sustain such a lifestyle; picked up basic farming techniques; and most importantly, learned how to budget their money similarly to the way many of the people living in the community did.
The experience taught Ingrasci and Temple about the complicated system the extreme poor use to budget their sporadic meager incomes that often must support a family of four or more. They wanted to take what they had learned in Guatemala and share their findings with the world. Together, with the help of Sean, the three students created Into Poverty: Living On One Dollar, a film documenting their experiences in Guatemala.
“Our documentary brings you on an intense journey as we battle E.Coli, financial stress, and the realization that there are no easy answers,” says Chris Temple, a founder of Living on One. “This life is incredibly hard, but we found a resilient hope in the inspiring lives of our neighbors and friends and in the power of microfinance as a partial solution.”
The film quickly gained national attention, which provided Ingrasci, Temple and Leonard the opportunity to partner with the Whole Planet Foundation. Living on One is currently on a national tour with the film and 100 percent of the money raised for microfinance will go directly towards empowering women borrowers around the world.
“More than 1 billion people worldwide live on one dollar a day. To fully understand this level of poverty, one must experience it,” said Philip Sansone, executive director of Whole Planet Foundation. “This film will inspire young people to join the fight against poverty and is a clear reminder that the fight begins not with charity or government welfare, but by empowering people with the tools and resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty.”
For more on the film check out the trailer on YouTube: