What’s your plan when you absolutely have no money left to buy food? What do you do when your kid gets sick? How do you ever save the money to repair your house? How do you survive?
In Guatemala, 7 out of 10 people live under the poverty line of $1,25 a day. 7 out of 10! One of the things that surprised me when I prepared myself for my stay in Guatemala was that people actually asked me: “Is Guatemala a poor country? I didn’t know that.” One of the problems that Guatemala has is that people think that poverty is only in Africa. When you ask a random person what the first thing is that comes to mind when you say ‘development aid’ or ‘poverty’, I think 9 out of 10 people will associate that with Africa. That’s one of the reasons I love this documentary. It shows the real situation here in Guatemala and it shows that the poverty here is just as bad as the poverty in Africa. But it is also a story of hope and happiness. Poverty doesn’t mean sadness, poverty means you have to fight hard for things other people don’t have to fight for.
“It’s not due to laziness, that someone is poor. It’s not due to a lack of ambition or a lack of intelligence. It’s because they lack things that we take advantage of every day.” – Zach Ingrasci, filmmaker
This award winning documentary follows the journey of the two American Economy students Zach and Chris and two filmmakers, Ryan and Sean, who move to Guatemala for two months to actually experience what it’s like to live on a dollar a day. To find the answers they could never find in their books. They move to a little village called Peña Blanca, on a six hour drive from the big city. To make it even more realistic, the boys decide to write their total income on little pieces of paper. Every day they take one of the pieces out of a hat to see how much money they make that day. When it is a 0, they don’t get any money that day. When they pull a 9 out of the hat, they can finally eat more than a couple of beans. They rent a small house in a rural village at the beginning of the documentary, but without any furniture. During their two month stay in Peña Blanca, they have to battle hunger, parasites and extreme financial stress, like everyone else in the village and like 1.1 billion people around the world. They have to find their own ways to survive with the little amount of money they have. The only thing that keeps them going is the generousity and help from fellow villagers like Rosa, who wants to become a nurse but can barely keep herself alive. Or Chino, a 12-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a football player, but can only hope that he will survive as a farmer. Or Anthony, who is only 24 years old but already has to manage a household of eight people with his wife Rosa. He and his family have to survive on only $1,25 a day, although Anthony is the only one in the village with a formal job as a housekeeper in a hotel.
Living on One Dollar is absolutely a must-see, because it not only shows that we have nothing to complain about, but also that just a small amount of money can make a huge difference in a village. Luckily for the people in Peña Blanca there was something called Grameen, a bank that supports the poorest of the poor with small loans and trainings on how to save money. With a loan of only 200 dollars, Rosa could start her weaving business and earn enough money to pay for her own study. Other people could grow onions, open up a store, fix a roof or sell firewood with only a little loan. The documentary shows the incredible strength and perseverance of the Guatemalan people and it really makes you think about what it’s really like to live in poverty.
“Please don’t forget about the people here of Peña Blanca, because we are not only fighting to better our lives, we are also fighting just to survive.” – Anthony
You can see the entire documentary on YouTube or on Netflix. Even the trailer below is incredible!