New 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.
Posts Tagged ‘Micro-loans’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Peggy M. Goldman
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.