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Posts Tagged ‘Kiva’

Funding friends across the globe: Friendly Planet Travel supports entrepreneurs through Kiva

I believe that giving back to the places you visit is a significant part of the travel experience. As a life-long traveler and president of Friendly Planet Travel, I have met and talked with people from all over the world who make our tours possible.

This includes tour guides, bus drivers, hotel concierges, and more who serve us and our travelers. Many of them are my friends.

It’s painful to watch how volatile economic and political difficulties have become, not just here at home, but everywhere, and how much of it has negatively impacted my friends around the world. That’s why I’m so happy to be a Kiva partner.

As travelers, we encounter wonderful sights, sounds, culture, beauty, history, and people. We also discover things that are less wonderful, like how difficult it is to make a living and support a family in many countries.

Too many hard-working people simply don’t have the resources or opportunities to prosper. This is especially heart-breaking to me, because in many cases, it takes a very small amount of money to fund a project.

So, motivated by a Friendly Planet team member who had recently joined the micro-lending bandwagon, Friendly Planet Travel started working with Kiva to help make a difference. Since partnering with the organization in April 2009, we have raised $36,975 to help entrepreneurs start their own businesses.

We’ve given out 1,281 loans and have been able to help motivate people including the Sr. De Malta Group of Bolivia, the Cloche Plus Group of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mrs. Cathy Ndiaye of Senegal.

This is quite an accomplishment, since the bulk of the loans have been donated in sums as low as $25 per loan. Considering that Kiva aggregates the small loans into larger amounts that borrowers can use to fund a business, it means that every one of us who can afford to lend $25 is able to help.

The cherry on top is the money is almost always repaid with interest, and the repaid loan can be used to continue lending. That means the $25 investment can reach many more recipients and help many more entrepreneurs. That, to me, is quite incredible.

We are inspired by the ability to help others through micro-lending, and we want others to join us. We plan to give away some $25 Kiva gift cards to get you started with Kiva micro-lending. If you win, you’ll be able to choose among the many worthy entrepreneurs on the Kiva website. Then, when your loan is repaid, you can donate your $25 loan to another entrepreneur.

If you’re like us, you’ll soon find another $25 of your own to add to your loan fund. But even if you can’t, you’ll still enjoy the thrill of helping someone to rise out of poverty to a better place in the world.

Stay tuned for our announcement on how to enter this giveaway. And if you bookmark our Kiva tag, you can follow all of our updates about our involvement with Kiva.

Oh, and if you absolutely can’t wait and feel ready to make your first loan without our gift card, just hop onto our Kiva group and get started right away. Either way, I promise that once you make your first loan, you’ll be hooked on this good deed, just like all of us at Friendly Planet!

Save on Friendly Planet Travel tours and receive a Kiva gift certificate

Kiva recently made headlines when Oprah included a Kiva gift certificate in her 2010 Ultimate Favorite Things show. Today, I’m bringing you more Kiva news by announcing that every traveler who books a Friendly Planet Travel tour by Dec. 23 will get a gift certificate for a $25 micro-loan to distribute through the organization.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. Here’s how it works. Lenders browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need from different countries throughout the world, and choose someone to lend to.

When they lend, using PayPal or credit card, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of their microfinance partners worldwide. Kiva’s micro-finance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur.

Often, partners provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur’s chances of success. Over time, the entrepreneurs repay their loans. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and e-mailed to lenders who wish to receive them. When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

Friendly Planet Travel started a Kiva lending team in August 2009. Since then, we’ve grown to almost 200 members who have loaned over $25,000 combined. This is Friendly Planet Travel’s second year offering Kiva gift certificates for every tour booked.

I love the idea of being able to give a gift that never goes away. You lend a struggling entrepreneur $25, which, combined with other loans of $25, can put a person in business in a developing country, changing their life and the life of their family. If you lend to a group of entrepreneurs who have teamed up in a business, you can change the lives of a whole village. It’s amazing. And the inspiration for the system, Dr. Mohammad Yunus, even won a Nobel Peace Prize for the concept in 2006.

At this time of year, it’s impossible not to want to reach out and do something for others. So if you’re looking to take advantage of our gift certificate offer, here are some hot deals that might pique your interest or make a spectacular holiday gift.

Twelve-day Treasures of Egypt: Be mesmerized by Egypt’s sweeping natural beauty on land, then board the M/S Tulip for a seven-night Nile River Cruise where you’ll dock at Edfu, Aswan, Kom Ombo, and more. Take $70 OFF with coupon code 121410-187 on all departures dates.

Ten-day Italian Treasures: Indulge in la dolce vita on a tour that takes you to the Italian classics. Visit Venice, Florence, and Rome, as well as off the beaten path gems, including Bologna, Siena, San Gimignano, and Assisi. Take $70 off with coupon code 121410-141 on all departure dates.

Nine-day Taste of Vietnam: Fall in love with this country’s extraordinary beauty, charming people, and delicious food when you visit its two most important cities: Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Take $50 off with coupon code 121410-178 on the March 16, April 6, and 20 departure dates.

Thirteen-day Aegean Greek Island Hopper: Jump from Athens to Paros, to Mykonos, and Santorini, all while staying in beautiful four- and five-star hotels that show off the individual character and majesty of each Greek Island. Take $50 off with coupon code 121410-192 for the April 27, May 11, 18, and 25 departure dates.

Thirteen-day Cyclades Greek Island Hopper: Stay in cliff-side hotels with idyllic views as you hop from Athens, to Mykonos, to Santorini, and Crete. Take $50 off with coupon code 121410-193 on April 23 and 30, May 14 and 21 departure dates only.

Fifteen-day Best of China: Experience China’s most dynamic, modern cities to its timeless villages and breathtaking natural wonders when you visit Shanghai, Yichang, Three Gorges, Guilin, Xi’an, and Beijing. Take $70 off with coupon code 121410-112 on the April 12, 19, May 10, 17, and 24 departure dates.

Coupon codes are valid until Dec. 28, 2010, for new reservations. Enter the code when booking online or mention the code to your phone agent. For complete details and itineraries for each tour, visit our website. And remember, you must reserve a tour by Dec. 23 to receive the $25 Kiva gift certificate. Happy holidays!

Thanksgiving wishes and gift ideas for travelers

No matter where you are today, I hope you have the opportunity to gather with family and friends and enjoy the warmth and fellowship of good company, a special meal, and a moment of gratitude for the abundance that fills our lives.

And for those of you who plan to take advantage of the doorbuster deals on Black Friday or shop the Web on Cyber Monday, I’ve rounded up some of our best gifts ideas for travelers to help you with your shopping.

Scroll through the links below to read about our favorite travel accessories and gadgets that I think would make wonderful gifts this holiday.

  • Kiva makes Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010. I love Kiva and just found out that Oprah does too. Oprah included a Kiva gift card on her Ultimate Favorite Things 2010. Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

  • Three new travel gadgets to get you going to your destination. Getting through airport security is still a necessary hassle. That’s not to say it can’t be less of a hassle. I looked at how the the scanner bag, portable scales, and Space Bags TO GO help speed you through airport check-in and security.

  • SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing takes the weight off your shoulders. SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing is stylish clothing that actually saves you from having to carry around purses and bags, since every garment has tons of pockets where you can securely stow gear and gadgets. We talk to Scott Jordan, CEO and founder, about what he thinks will be the hottest selling SCOTTEVEST items this holiday.

I hope you find these links helpful and that they make shopping for your traveler this holiday a little easier. And if you have any great gift suggestions let us know about them in a comment on this post. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Kiva makes Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010

I love Kiva and just found out that Oprah does too. Oprah included a Kiva gift card on her Ultimate Favorite Things show on Friday.

If you’ve never watched one of these episodes, it’s an annual segment where Oprah shares what she thinks are the most noteworthy products that would make great gifts this holiday. I was delighted when I saw Kiva had made this year’s list.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. Friendly Planet Travel started a Kiva lending team in August 2009.

Since then, our 186 members have loaned over $25,000. These loans are helping real people make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

We started our partnership with Kiva because as travelers, we encounter wonderful sights and sounds, culture, beauty, history, and fascinating people. We also discover other things that are less wonderful, like how difficult it is to make a living and support a family in many countries. Too many hard-working people simply don’t have the resources or opportunities to prosper.

But there is a lot that we can do to change that — not by charity, but by lending. Just as businesses here in the U.S. usually need financing to get off the ground, entrepreneurs in developing countries often need loans to build successful businesses.

Sometimes, a “micro-loan” of as little as $25 can help a seamstress in Uganda or a mechanic in Guatemala purchase the equipment or goods they need to expand their business and make it profitable and self-sustaining.

The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding. You pick who you want to loan to and how much, and Kiva sends you updates as the loan is repaid. More than 98 percent of the loans are repaid, and when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

I think one of the best gifts to give this holiday season is a Kiva gift card. And if you join Friendly Planet Travel’s Kiva lending team, your loans will count towards the team’s total amount loaned. Thanks to Oprah for highlighting this wonderful organization.

What’s to come at Friendly Planet in 2010

I always enjoy this time of the year. It’s relaxing to get a few days off from work and spend the holidays with friends and family. As the year comes to a close, you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished, and think about what you want to achieve in the next year. 
 
I know what I’m looking forward to in 2010. We’re going to be introducing several new and exciting tours and community projects at Friendly Planet Travel. I want to share with you all a sneak peek of what’s going to happen.  
 
New Web site. One significant change will be our upgraded Web site. By the end of January, expect to see a faster, more responsive site. It’ll be filled with new tools for individual travelers, as well as a new search engine that will make it even easier to search for deeply discounted air and hotel packages to many foreign destinations including London, Rome, Paris, even the Caribbean. 
 
New booking engine. Along with a new Web site comes a new booking engine. It will let travelers book reservations completely online. It will be even more convenient for travelers to make deposits and final payments online, safely and securely with their own username and password. Travelers can also view their tour information, reservations, documents, invoices, destination guides, and other important details anytime. 
 
New travelers’ community. Another important feature of the new Web site is the new community, where we will host forums for our visitors, have places to post pictures and travel blogs, and provide various ways to interact with us. The forums will be important in getting feedback from our travelers, and allow people who are traveling solo to find roommates easily through our site.
 
New micro-lending project in India. As you’ve heard me talk about before, we’re working on projects with Kiva and the Trailblazer Foundation, and now we’re looking into launching a new micro-lending project in India. It will fund the purchase of rickshaws for drivers who are presently forced to rent them by the day, giving up a good part of their daily earnings, rather than keeping them to support their families.
 
Since these drivers have no access to credit to fund the loans for the rickshaw purchase, they are forced into this rental situation. If we’re able to create a fund that allows the drivers to pay back the loan to us, and end up with the rickshaw in the end, the drivers will soon be able to keep the day’s wages for themselves. 
 
New ways to give back to needy students. We’re also organizing a collection of school supplies for every Friendly Planet travel destination where they are needed, but not available. This is the case in most of Africa, Asia, and certainly in India. Notebooks and pencils that are given to children directly are usually confiscated by needy families who then turn around and sell it for food. 
 
Our project will distribute the supplies to trusted teachers, who will store and distribute them as needed to students. The school supplies project is being organized by local guides in each place where the supplies are needed, and will be implemented early in the new year.
 

Thumbnail image for New Picture (3).jpgNew destinations. Finally, we’ll be adding new destinations to the Friendly Planet globe. Tours are being planned to Madagascar, Burma (Myanmar), Bali, and Indonesia, plus a number of river cruises in Europe and Asia. In addition, several new ocean cruises will be available starting in the spring of 2010, via Louis Cruises and Costa Cruises, two familiar Friendly Planet favorites. 

 
These are just a few of the new things arriving in 2010. There is plenty more in the works for throughout the year, but this gives you a taste of what’s to come!

Friendly Planet Travel in the news

Instead of ringing a bell here every time Friendly Planet Travel makes headlines, I thought it would be easier to provide a wrap up post every week or so that highlights some of the recent press coverage we’ve gotten. Way to go, FPT team!

Thumbnail image for New Picture (1).jpgAugust 20

USAToday.com: Athens & Greek Isles Cruise package

MSNBC.com: Athens & Greek Isles Cruise package

Diva in a Carry On: Friendly Planet Travel and Kiva partnership

August 24

MSNBC.com: Morocco package

Budget Travel Real Deals: Morocco package

August 25

Treehugger.com: Morocco package

August 26

Topix.com: Morocco package

How Kiva works

Since we launched our Friendly Planet Kiva lending team one week ago, we’ve seen a flurry of acvitity on the page, and thousands of dollars worth of micro-loans pouring in from across the country. As of right now, we’ve had over 100 friends of Friendly Planet join and donate at least $25, bringing our grand total of money lent to $5,000! And for that, we are so thankful!

As I’ve said before, we are fortunate to live in places where having the means to travel makes it possible for us to freely explore the world and enjoy its wonders. At Friendly Planet Travel, we try to make sure that our travelers not only see the beautiful scenery, architectural achievements, important relics, and monuments of different countries, but they also have the chance to meet the people and experience their culture. Only then can travelers truly understand that people are people, no matter where they are or what they do. If everyone realized this, we’d have world peace.

Friendly Planet is very actively involved in finding ways to give back to the people and places we visit. We raise funds for new wells to provide clean drinking water to rural communities in Cambodia. We support grassroots efforts to get homeless kids off the streets and into educational and vocational programs in Vietnam. For us, Kiva is one more way of trying to give people the opportunities they need to succeed, and make our world a truly friendly planet.

Today, I wanted to take a step back, and give a little tutorial on how Kiva works, and why this is such an important opportunity that we have the power to give to someone in need.

FP_Kiva2.jpg



Lenders browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need from different countries throughout the world, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or credit card, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of their microfinance partners worldwide.

Kiva’s micro-finance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur’s chances of success.

Over time, the entrepreneurs repay their loans. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and e-mailed to lenders who wish to receive them.

When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

 

 

Customer feedback on Kiva

When our Kiva partnership announcement went out last week, we were met with a ton of excited feedback from our friends, customers, and employees. We were thrilled to see the immediate reaction to our $25 for $25 campaign, and watch the dollars increase on the Friendly Planet lending page.

Some of the positive feedback has truly put a smile on our faces, so I thought I’d include a couple today.

Thank you for sharing the word about KIVA! I have heard about these micro loans for a while now and have been very interested in supporting this process, but have not known how. Today I made my loan of $100 because you provided an easy format to do something good. I love to travel, and I will be going on my second trip with your group next month. I am more likely to travel with your organization seeing that you prioritize making a positive impact on the countries we visit. Thank you for being a good role model for other companies out there. Thank you for providing a travel-lover like me a way to give back!
 – Carolyn, Long Beach, Ca.

Hi, Peggy,

What a terrific idea. My husband and I talked about doing this before the last birthday, but never got around to it. Now we have. Thank you for the push!
 – Robin and Steve Morris

But of course, the danger with partnering with any outside organization is that someone out there isn’t going to like it. I received a rather lengthy, anonymous e-mail on Friday, and I wanted to address the issues raised with everyone here, just in case anyone else had similar worries.

In the e-mail, the writer stated that they were "disappointed with Friendly Planet for aligning with KIVA … Kiva is morally bankrupt and lack transparency. People should know that every time that they make a loan they are being asked to donate to Kiva. In addition, you assume the entire risk of the loan." The e-mail goes on "Without proper notice, Kiva suddenly changed its mission to include US loans that we do not support … Kiva is now simply a very matter-of-fact, pragmatically calculating organization which believes it can rationalize creating a level playing field for poverty in the developed nations and poverty in the Third World; an unconscionable decision. Kiva sold its soul! We are disappointed with Friendly Planet for aligning with such corrupt organization. We will definitely not use Friendly Planet and will be doing all our travelling with other reputable companies …"

I’ve included my response, verbatim. If you have any worries whatsoever about our partnership with Kiva, please read on. Or if you have any other questions about the program, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Dear Sir/Madam;

I’m so sorry that you did not identify yourself so that I could properly address you, but let me try to reply to your very angry message by saying first and formost that you are always free to book your travel however you wish. If you think that you can get the same or better level of service and pricing from other tour operators, by all means, this is your right. This has nothing at all to do with our interest in growing a Friendly Planet micro-lending team through Kiva.

Friendly Planet, unlike the companies you mention who are not involved in any socially responsible activitiy, is actively working toward giving back in the communities we visit. We do this in many ways, not just through micro-lending, which is only our latest effort.

For example, we have worked very hard to generate funds for wells in rural Cambodia, which bring clean drinking water to many people who could not afford the several hundreds of dollars it costs to build a decent well. At present, we’ve dug over 200 such wells, and we are continuing with this effort.

In Hanoi, there is a restaurant called KOTO, which every group we send on our Best of Vietnam program visits for lunch during a day of touring. This restaurant is run by a group of formerly homeless Vietnamese kids who are students in a hospitality and restaurant school that was created just for them. They are housed at this school, given a decent general education that they could not have gotten before KOTO, and then they are taught a profession that is in demand internationally. Once graduated from the program, they are assisted in getting good employment in the hospitality industry.

I could go on and on, but since you evidently are upset about KIVA’s work in the US, I don’t think there is really a point. But let me mention one small detail that perhaps you don’t know. The man who brough micro-lending to the attention of the world, Muhammud Yunus, through his Grameen Bank, from which Kiva has taken its template for its efforts, won a Nobel Prize for Peace for lifting up lives through micro-lending. And he has brough his Grameen Bank to the USA, where we,just as in the developing world, also have needy people who need micro-lending in order to create better lives for themselves.

I’m very sorry that you feel the way you do, but to put your comments in perspective, we have many people who, in the last 24 hours, have decided that we are doing something right. I am certain that if you think about it, you might decide that throwing yourself into the arms of our competition to punish us is not a very valuable way to make a contribution to the world. In fact, the mere fact that there are so many people, including Friendly Planet Travel, who WANT to make a difference in the world, should make you appreciate us even more.

If you would like to continue this conversation, I would love to hear from you, this time with your identity so I can properly address you.

Sincerely,

Peggy M. Goldman
President
pmgoldman@friendlyplanet.com

Fight world poverty with Friendly Planet Travel and Kiva

As travelers, we encounter wonderful sights and sounds, culture, beauty, history, and fascinating people. We also discover other things that are less wonderful, like how difficult it is to make a living and support a family in many countries. Too many hard-working people simply don’t have the resources or opportunities to prosper.

But there is something that we can do to change that—not by charity, but by lending. Just as businesses here in the U.S. usually need financing to get off the ground, entrepreneurs in developing countries often need loans to build successful businesses. Sometimes, a “micro-loan” of as little as $25 can help a seamstress in Uganda or a mechanic in Guatemala purchase the equipment or goods they need to expand their business and make it profitable and self-sustaining.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending Web site, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding. You pick who you want to loan to and how much, and Kiva sends you updates as the loan is repaid. More than 98% of the loans are repaid, and when you get your loan money back, you can re-lend to someone else in need.

Zach Grossman from our reservations department has created our own Friendly Planet Travel Kiva micro-lending team. We’re asking all of our friends and travelers to join us in giving back to those amazing destinations we visit by joining us in lending through the Kiva program. You’ll be helping real people make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Late last week, we sent out all of our Kiva lending information in a newsletter to our members, and were met with resounding success. We offered to add $25 to the accounts of the first 40 members to join the Friendly Planet Kiva lending team, and lend $25 or more of their own. And in only a few days, more than 90 people have already joined and donated to their group or individual entrepreneur of choice, boosting our team’s total loans by $1,000. As I’m writing this post, all of the loans contributed to the Friendly Planet Travel Kiva total $3,325, and you can watch the numbers increase on our lending page.

But don’t let it stop there! Get involved and enjoy the tremendous satisfaction of being a part of a wide network of like-minded travelers who are working together to make this a truly friendly planet! And, of course, thank you for all you do.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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