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How many of you are Netflix buffs?!

I know I am! I’m not an avid binge watcher (as society has coined the person who watches multiple seasons of a show in a row). However, I am a documentary addict, which from what I heard is a new hobby now-a-days. Who knew!

During one of my searches for a new fresh social-cultural documentary, I found Living on One Dollar.

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Living on One Dollar was started, because two college roommates Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci were learning about how so many families still live in poverty around the world. Not just one individual, but a family of typically four or more people living on just a single dollar or less each day. The workers in the family do not always see a consistent paycheck, which means that they may not always have even that dollar to count on. Both Chris and Zach, much like most of the United States, just couldn’t imagine how living on such minimal funds could be possible. So what did they do? They decided that to really understand it, they must live it! They were brilliant in their planning and recruited two more students, Sean Leonard and Ryan Christoffersen, who documented the film while living in the same conditions with them in Guatemala.

This documentary is very raw to where you see the malnutrition and sickness the students go through during their journey. They don’t try to hide that living like the majority of people in developing countries isn’t easy. The guys draw numbers from a hat to determine how much money they have each day. This practice represents the inconsistencies of a regular paycheck. At one point, Chris went through extreme sickness due to the parasites that are in the drinking water, which essentially washed away their ability to earn a living until they were healthy. The experience the students go through is understandable in the sense that their backgrounds of coming from a culture and society that is not used to living on such small funds is one that most of us can relate to. The adjustments and sacrifices made daily are ones we are privileged enough not to have to make without choice.

Another honest topic the film covered was translation problems and how it applies to the “out of site, out of mind” concept. Chris and Zach were often times frustrated with the statements of Ryan and Sean. Ryan and Sean, like I, do not know how to speak Spanish. Therefore, during much of their trip, they had to have Chris and Zach translate. If Chris & Zach didn’t translate it to them with every detail of the story and emotion the locals felt, Ryan and Sean didn’t know about it. If one does not hear or understand the people, it’s very easy to not be connected or have attachment. Without language, without voice, there is no understanding or connection to what is happening around one.

After watching this movie the question had changed. It was not ‘Can you survive on a dollar?’, but ‘Can you live on one dollar?’ The locals’ stories were inspiring and heartbreaking. You can see that with money comes privilege not just to survive, but to live in a way that is healthier and more fulfilling on a personal level. I believe this is the difficulty in understanding the difference between American society and other cultures around the world.

Not Just Surviving, but Living Reflections - link to a clip of Chris, Zach, Sean, and Ryan explaining how they adapted to survive, but it’s the true meaning behind living in those conditions.


I believe in the United States culture we have a hard time with connecting to those who are less fortunate than us, especially if they are from another country. This may be due to our language and cultural boundaries. However, we are improving! Documentaries like this show a glimpse into the life of those whom fair trade companies and their practices help. In the documentary you can see that there isn’t just one answer or one way to help those in poverty.


Fair trade practices are set up to help the “little guys”. Within the principles of fair trade, companies make sure suppliers are paid a fair price for their products and that they work in good conditions. Assistance is given to the would be “entrepreneurs” in the form of advance payments, loans, education, technical assistance, etc. Without these principal in place workers are often not paid livable wages. They have to choose between feeding their families (in short, surviving) and investing in the business that may or may not bring in any more money than a break-even point.

Answering some questions:

Isn’t this a value system that we want all retailers to accept too?

Yes, we do hope that people, with their purchasing power, will influence a movement to push large manufactures to adhere to the fair trade principles. It is not only small rural towns where people have a hard time finding living salaries. All countries have big cities, but not all organizations in the cities pay their labor workers enough for them to eat daily or provide for their families. Large retail companies may not need to or be able to fill their requirements by purchasing products from small suppliers. But, they should be requiring their suppliers to pay fair wages to their workers and be willing to pay the higher prices that will translate to.

Why is fair trade focusing on rural workers?

There are fewer connections in rural towns compared to the larger spectrum of opportunities in cities. These differences make their situations different. It is difficult for a few medium sized organizations that believe in fair business principles to change a country. Yet, by banding together to create awareness and a movement where a whole society can be changed, by encouraging fair business practices of even the large companies (whom many times are tied into government law making) could definitely make an impact on the world’s poverty. An example of this philosophy can be seen in the film. By looking at the multiple generations you can see improvements in the locals lives. Micro financing is another way to jump-start those “entrepreneurs” who are not part of an already established supplying company (whom still may not be paid fairly) into creating their own business. You could see people in the film and how they made huge improvements in their lives, with just a couple hundred-dollar loan.


So why don’t you join the movement?

What are you going to do to help those living on one dollar?


Below are links that relate directly to this article:

Living on One Dollar Documentary – This is the direct link to the film on Netflix. *Disclaimer you do need to have a Netflix account to watch it.*

Living on One Dollar – This is the main site for the film and the co-founders of Living on One. You can find different ways to support those in poverty within their site. Whether it be through purchasing the documentary, teaching about poverty in schools, set up a hosting of the documentary, etc.

Principles of Fair Trade by the Fair Trade Federation - This is a direct link to the principles I was referring to above. Another source is Principles of Fair Trade by World Fair Trade Organization

Written by Arielle Besyk

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