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