One dollar a day

Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci. - Living On One photo
Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci.
— image credit: Living On One photo

One dollar can get you a lot in America.

It's the basis for "value menus" at many fast-food restaurants. It can buy a cup of coffee or a pack of gum.

In fact, entire retail chains are based off selling items for only one dollar.

But while a meager sum might be taken for granted in this country, for more than a billion people worldwide, living on one dollar a day, or less, is all they have to survive.

The documentary film "Into Poverty: Living on One Dollar" tells the story of Ryan Christoffersen, Sean Leonard, Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple as they live on only $1 each day in rural Guatemala.

Christoffersen graduated from Bainbridge High School in 2007. Leonard and Ingrasci graduated from BHS in 2008.

Ingrasci met the group's fourth member, Temple, while attending Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.

The two were studying economic development, and the students found themselves discussing how there was little media that related the issues of world poverty to a younger generation.

"The only exposure I felt I was getting to extreme poverty was a two-minute commercial that was all guilt-based and would show a child with a distended belly in a village in Africa," Temple said.

"But how am I, on Bainbridge Island, supposed to be able to connect to that on a human level?" Temple asked.

Temple felt people should know more about the people who actually live in poverty and the reality of their world.

The discussion evolved into a plan. Along with two other friends, the four young and relatively well-to-do Americans would place themselves in a situation that approximately 1.1 billion people experience worldwide — living on one dollar a day. By documenting their trip through the lens of a video camera, they could hopefully communicate issues of poverty to their peers.

"We felt this concept of living on one dollar a day in rural Guatemala would engage our peers and bring them along on this journey," Ingrasci said. "We were attempting to understand what this statistic — that 1.1 billion people live on under a dollar a day — really means."

"How does someone budget a dollar a day to survive and what financial instruments do they use or need to better their lives?"

While they had enthusiasm for the project, they had one problem: None of them were film makers.

Luckily Leonard had experience in film and could handle himself not only around a camera but with a video editing program. This would be Leonard's first large-scale project, though.

During their summer vacation from college, from June through August in 2010, they spent 56 days in Peña Blanca, Guatemala.

Getting water from a pipe in the wall, and living as their neighbors do, the four did their best to manage.

They were relatively successful in their difficult venture, and only once broke their own rule to live like their neighbors.

Both Ingrasci and Temple got sick with e. coli and Giardia. They attempted to fight off the sicknesses for 10 days, but eventually opted to take medication they had for just an emergency.

After the 56 days, they returned with footage that they pieced together over the next couple years. They hope that the effort will draw in their peers.

"When given the choice to watch a depressing documentary about poverty or the new 'Newsroom' episode on HBO, it's a harder decision to get young people to engage into a global issue like extreme poverty," Temple said. "By putting ourselves in there it helps make it a more entertaining and exciting journey for young people to follow along with and learn something along the way."

The documentary has since taken on a life of its own. The group started a nonprofit, Living on One, to help bring the project to fruition and expand upon the issue for those interested in solutions.

The film will debut at the Lynwood Theater at 4:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26. Following the screening will be a meet-and-greet with the four filmmakers at the Treehouse Cafe.

Presale tickets are available at the theater. Space is limited.

The Aug. 26 event will serve as a fundraiser for the film's tour across colleges throughout the United States. The group will take a large red 1978 school bus to travel from screening to screening.

The tour will culminate in a screening of the documentary in Guatemala City, and finally in Peña Blanca with the very people they featured in the film.

Ingrasci said that with the film he hopes to express solutions and talk about what people can do to combat world poverty.

After all, the film was only a summer trip for the four Americans. For nearly 1.1 billion people in the world, it's life.

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