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Day 275: Living on One Dollar : It surely is worth more!

Image Courtesy: Google Images
When was the last time you felt that you can never see yourself below your lifestyle ladder? When was the last time you frowned because someone didn't take you to that fancy place for dinner as promised? When was the last time you felt that you didn't have enough to travel around the world? Well, the list could go on, but I think you get the drift.

I am sure all of us would have had at least one of these thoughts or maybe all of it. I am not being preachy here by telling you that there is only one right way to feel something, but what I would recommend you to do is watch this documentary- Living on One Dollar. It will remind you that you should never take life for granted (people too).

This documentary is a popular one and has been around for a couple of years, but I had never watched it until today when a friend messaged me asking me to watch it. I must thank him for his wonderful recommendation as this is one of the best documentaries I have watched in recent times. This documentary chronicles a 8-week stay of four friends in a village in rural Guatemala. The friends Chris, Sean, Zach, and Ryan stayed and shot the documentary at Guatemala's village, Pena Blanca. The film is very well made and it captures our attention from the very beginning with the narration of Chris and Zach. The film is also visually appealing and keeps you focused for those 52 minutes of its narration.

Chris and Zach as young college sophomores decided to give their economics major a great twist by doing a research in this village and study poverty. Even though we read about the huge number of people living in poverty, I am sure watching them and being with them can change our perspectives about life. These boys did that very same thing. They decided to stimulate the living conditions of people in this little village. They found that it was hard to live with $1 a day as even the battle of survival becomes hard with the unpredictable life ahead. They stimulated the unpredictable daily wage by drawing a chit from the box with a number that indicated their income for that day(max of $9/day). They survived on minimum nutrition and kept a journal log of everyday events. They savored the rice and beans, the yellow banana, and even the unclean water from a roadside pipe. They took the truck to go out to the market and even took a loan from the 'Grameen' bank, which they had to repay every week ($6.25). They decided to invest the $125 loan in a small radish farm near their 'hut'. Even as they struggled to live there between the fleas and parasites, they found the resilience and cheerfulness of the community infectious enough to help them survive the 56 days of stay. The camera tells us the story as it follows them around and I think I cried every time I saw their friends and families.

One little boy called, Chino, a 12 year old followed them around happily. He has been curious just like every other little boy and was ready to learn English from them. Chino took them to the local school where the researchers volunteered and taught a few classes. It was sad to see how a lot of them dropped out of their school (including, Chino) in between as their family could not afford that much. The film takes us through their interactions with their neighbors and friends. The friends (like Antony) helped them learn the little tricks of lighting the wood, cooking beans, etc, so as to help them with their budget. They were warm people that they were ready to serve and entertain the guests with their special dish (pulika) even as they struggled to make their ends meet. Antony and his wife's genuine smile and warm welcome was so clear in that documentary that I choked a little as I watched them serve food with so much love and affection. Sometimes, the poor are the rich just because of their character and kindness.

Similarly, other people were also inspiring. For instance, Rosa was a young girl who had to drop out because of poverty. She was determined to be a nurse and hence, to help pay her education, she decided to get a loan from the Grameen bank and invest it in a weaving machine. She weaved and sold the product to help meet her educational expenses. (I saw that Rosa has now completed her nursing degree because of the funding she received).

The documentary also reflects the innate sense of community building by showing how Antony and his friends helped each other even as they struggled to earn and manage their own families. They did this by a clever technique of savings group. Each member of the group had to save $12 every month. Then they collected that money and passed it to one member of the club for their use. This continued until each member received a bulk amount to complete their big ticket purchase or need. How brilliant and simple ! This sharing disposition has helped them all survive even during hard times like when Chino's mother was sick and Antony helped them take her to a hospital. The biggest help of this film was that the reach of this documentary has helped find funding from viewers and donors for these people and their families.

As for the two boys and their camera loving friends who braved the odds and survived the 56 day period of a dollar a day, the film teaches us more than just the survival. It tells us the grit and the connections that the local folks show to live their life. The film highlights the importance of taking small steps. Every single step and achievement in such instances can offer a huge impact. Every individual contribution can and will help in building the community. Micro financing techniques shows how every bit counts. It also showcases the important point, empowerment of women. Women play a huge role in society and educating and empowering them will surely create huge changes.

Even as I watched this documentary teary eyed, I found a lot to reflect. As I go and sleep now, I am sure I can thank the goodness universe has showered on me. I will also think about the many blessings I enjoy. That hardworking farmer whose sweat and blood helps me have a happy meal, the border security forces who brave the cold and heat to help me stay at home in peace, the women who weave clothes, even as they struggle to buy some so that I can be warm and comfy, well the list goes on. It will also help me think and reflect my role in society and what I can do to give my share back to these people. As the film pointed out, there are no right or wrong ways to help this change. Every small bit counts and every thought matters. But always remember, never ever take anything or anyone for granted.

Note:  From a film's stand point: Probably a little bit more narration could have helped show more depth. But since, this is a first time young sophomore attempt (as a part of their research project), this surely is a good deal. 
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