A dollar a day keeps ignorance away.
Last night, Penn Microfinance, America’s first and largest undergraduate microfinance organization, brought this philosophy to campus as they hosted a screening of the film, “Into Poverty: Living on One Dollar a Day.”
The 50-minute documentary was the first feature film for Living on One, an organization that aims to bridge the gap between acknowledgement and a true knowledge of poverty.
Living on One’s two co-founders and two cameramen lived for 56 days in a rural Guatemalan village on just one dollar a day. Battling E. coli and giardia, an intestinal disease, they documented their challenges, successes and overall experience for the rest of the world to see.
“Living on One is an example of people who aren’t merely throwing around the ideas of what to do with poverty — they are engaging with the problem, living with the problem, wrestling with the problem,” said Wharton freshman Lauren McCann, who attended the film screening.
Engineering and Wharton junior Charu Jangid, Penn Microfinance’s vice president of events, said the Living on One founders reached out to the club over the summer. They wanted to use their film to raise awareness for microfinance and other tools to alleviate poverty.
“[Penn Microfinance] is a … shining example of what students can accomplish if they are dedicated to microfinance,” Ingrasci said. Penn is the most active microfinance club in a nationwide network of student microfinance groups co-founders Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple created. Ingrasci added, “We’ve been watching for a while.”
Ingrasci and Temple both studied economics as undergraduates at Claremont-McKenna College. Ingrasci said they were “continually confronted by the statistic that 1.1 billion people live under one dollar a day.”
The pair wanted to find a more intimate way to understand this statistic, and this project was born.
“In a lot of ways, we have these misconceptions that the poor are just living hand to mouth, but in reality, they have to budget their unpredictable income and irregular highs,” Ingrasci said.
The film itself presents several issues that can be understood and solved from the perspective of microfinance, from complications in budgeting to the long-term benefit of smaller loans. “For students at Penn who are already really engaged in microfinance and development work, I think the film gets across a couple of principles that are really important,” Temple said.
For example, Jangid hoped the film would challenge Penn students to consider how or if concepts they learn in class can relate to the real world.
The film screening is only the first step in Living on One’s plan to recreate how people view poverty and their own ability to help.
Speaking in agreement, Jangid said, “This movie screening is a great way for us to connect with students interested in social impact, and we look forward to hosting similar events in the future.”
However, even with this and many other partnerships, Living on One is still fighting an uphill battle. “If you have the choice to watch a really good HBO show or a documentary on poverty, how do you get someone to click play that first time?” Temple asked. “It’s not ‘news’ to people right now that there’s a billion people living in poverty … We really wanted to turn that portrayal on its head and show it in a more inspiring and empowering way.”
This article has been updated to reflect Wharton and Engineering junior Charu Jangid’s position in Penn Microfinance. She is the Vice President of Events, not the President of the club.