Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Stephanie Block

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Jessica Flannery at a recent Spark Speaker Series event. It was mind-blowing. When philanthropy collides with Silicon Valley technology, the results are nothing short of spectacular. This is the new face of nonprofits.

Don’t believe me? Would you believe Jessica’s mega-fans like Oprah and former President Bill Clinton? He makes much mention of Kiva.org in his inspiring new book, “Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.” They appeared on Oprah together. Wow. To find out how YOU can change the world, please keep reading…

About Kiva.org

Kiva.org is like a philanthropic Facebook. Sift through potential grantee profiles online and choose the people whose stories moves you. Loan $25 to a seamstress in Uganda so that she can buy a sewing machine! And another $25 to a butcher in Bulgaria for a new cleaver. All of a sudden, YOU, yes you, are the proud owner of a real, live international investment portfolio. Check yourself out! In their words…

“Kiva.org is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website. By enabling people to connect with and make personal loans to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world, Kiva.org is revolutionizing the fight against global poverty.

You can make a direct loan of as little as $25 to an entrepreneur to purchase business-related items such as sewing machines or livestock. This can dramatically improve the life of an entrepreneur and his/her family, empowering them to earn their way out of poverty.”

Let’s learn about the better half of husband-and-wife team Kiva founders, Jessica and Matt Flannery:

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1. What was the best decision you made in your life?

Everyday I make the decision to be grateful for what’s happened so far in my life and hopeful for the day ahead.

2. What is your most memorable travel moment?

It’s not that exciting, but I recently lost my luggage—everything—for a full week while I was in Mali. I pack light anyway, but not that light!! I had to borrow clothes, money, and much else for the first few days in a country where I’d never been before.

Plus, I was there for work with Kiva.org so I had to meet with execs in various microfinance institutions, just wearing whatever clothing I had borrowed that day—often they were in suits, and I was in something quite unprofessional (i.e., my male friend’s cargo pants and a t-shirt that was way too big)! It was humbling to need so much every single day, and to rely on friends and complete strangers around me so constantly. But it was also quite exhilarating to live full, rich days with so little, and to feel so loved and cared for by those around me.

3. What was the worst travel experience you had?

Hmmm…I’ve had some scary moments. Once, my friend’s camera flash angered a gorilla—not just any gorilla, one of the largest silverbacks in the world—that we were watching in Rwanda, and it charged at us; another time I nearly got arrested camping out on a remote section of the Great Wall.

But the “worst”…? These are probably those moments on the plane or train or whatever transportation I’m on, that moment when I’m leaving a place. Especially places where I’m leaving behind people I love. This is always extremely difficult.

4. What have you learned about yourself through traveling?

I’ve learned never to underestimate people—to expect the very best in them—and never to underestimate myself.

5. If you could choose your ultimate travel companion, living or dead, real or imaginary, who would it be?

Not sure if this counts for an answer but I wish I could go back in time to travel with certain colonialists and explorers (who I will not name here) who, in my opinion, messed a lot of things up in Africa and many other places…. I would talk some sense into them.

6. What moment in your life did you feel the most alive?

Not sure if I can narrow it to one moment, but every moment I’m thinking of is one where I’ve felt a deep connection to another human being.

7. If money and time were no object, where on earth would you go?

Everywhere, starting with the poorest countries on earth. And I’d travel cheaply and take all this money that is apparently “no object” :) and make smart investments to change the economies in each place I’d visit, to give more of the world’s poor access to capital and opportunity.

8. Who is your hero?

My parents are my heroes.

9. Name a place in the world that you know a lot about and would make a great resource for our Divas. Tell us about it.

If I go by time spent living in a place, then those places would be: 1) Pittsburgh, PA (my hometown), 2) San Francisco, CA, 3) Palo Alto, CA, 4) East Africa… and lots of others just enough to be dangerous!

10. And finally a word from our Featured Diva—give us a stirring, Diva-worthy battle cry for women everywhere to hear!

Whatever you’re dreaming about doing someday, START RIGHT NOW!

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