These Guys Found Out The Hard Way What It's Like To Live On $1 A Day

Photo: Living on One Dollar

About 1.1 billion people in the world survive on just $1 a day.It’s a fact that economics students Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci couldn’t get out of their heads. 

“What can I do? That’s the hardest part about it … there is no one answer,” says Temple. “[The U.S.] has poured $2.5 trillion dollars into international development trying to end poverty and a lot of times it just made things worse.”

Together, the pair decided to take their studies outside the classroom, to someplace more practical –– the edge of poverty itself. Living on $1 a day for two months, they moved to a remote Guatemalan town to study the people’s relationship with money and see how access to credit could impact their survival. 

They documented their journey in a new film called “Living On One.”

Two Claremont McKenna College students moved to a remote village in Guatemala, where they would try to survive on an income of $1 per day for a total of 56 days.

They chose the town of Pena Blanca, which is majority Mayan.

Half the town's 300-some residents live below the poverty line.

They weren't interested in hotels. Here's where they (along with two videographers) lived for six weeks.

That meant sleeping on a bed of dirt with a few sheets of cardboard and blankets.

Fleas feasted on them during the night.

Here's their budget: $1 per day, per person for a total of $224.

Their logic was simple: Most people in the town were day laborers and never knew how much they'd earn on a typical day.

Like a lot of people in the town, they decided to start their own small business with a micro-finance loan from a small nonprofit called Grameen.

With their loan, they invested in a small radish farm.

Some locals showed them to the town's only water source.

It was also loaded with sediment and (as they'd find out later) some nasty parasites.

Survival kit: With $15, they bought some black beans, rice, bananas, toilet paper, firewood, and matches.

Hitching a bumpy ride home on the back of a pick-up truck set them back another $2.

In total, they lived off 800 to 900 calories per day –– about half the recommended value.

Within days, one of them collapsed from lack of food and working outside.

Here's Zach at the beginning of the trip.

And on Day 10.

And Chris on Day One.

At Day 10.

A friendly neighbour asked the pair to visit his school.

The tiny school was home to more than 300 students, about 40 per cent of whom would drop out.

They'd help their families more by finding work than spending money on schooling.

Here's Chino, age 12 (left). He quit school when his family could no longer afford his tuition. He collects wood during the day.

Around day 30, things started to take a turn for the worse. Chris came down with a nasty parasite and E. Coli.

Thanks to their random drawing system, they spent four days living on just $2. No cash for food.

The medicine cost $25 –– a relatively huge expense for people with no savings. That got them thinking ... how did people pay for unexpected emergencies?

Bank loans aren't an option. They require a ton of information no day laborer would have: an electricity bill, pay stubs, three months worth of bills, and two co-signers.

For people like Rosa, who dropped out of school because her family couldn't afford it, micro-finance loans were the answer.

With $200, Rosa started her own weaving business. She went back to school, too.

By day 56, they were physically in shambles, but they had managed to stick to their budget.

They haven't. Chris and Zach are touring the country with their documentary, and have launched a non-profit micro-lending business called Living On One.

Find out more about the documentary here:

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