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Sorry, I don't have enough to break a $5

coffee poverty uganda

The hotel that I stayed at in Jinja, Uganda, had a business center. The business center consisted of 5 or so PC’s with internet access. For a small fee per minute, you could get online. A few of us would head down there each morning to check our email and send our families a quick note.

The first day I was there, I headed down to use the computer. When I was done, I went to pay my fee. The woman running the business center told me my fee was 50 shillings.  That’s about two cents. Since it was our first day there and we had just exchanged our money, I had nothing smaller than a 10,000 shilling note. That’s about $5. I handed this to the lady. She asked me if I had any coins. I said no. At this point she informed me that she didn’t have change for anything this large. She would have to go to the lobby to see if they had change.

A few minutes later she returned. She explained to me that the hotel lobby didn’t have change either. She asked if I would be back tomorrow. I told her yes and she said I could just pay them tomorrow.

That moment has stuck with me. It really hit me about how these people live. It’s not like the hotel didn’t have $5. They certainly did. But it was so uncommon for someone to tried to hand them that much money that they didn’t keep enough money on hand to make change for it. What a completely different world they live in. Every time I take money out of my wallet, I am reminded of this story, and why I do what I do.

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