Dear Kiva Community, 

If you’re a part of Kiva’s lending team community, chances are you’ve either seen or taken part in a conversation about the loans that Strathmore University recently posted to the Kiva website. We're listening. In this blog post, we hope to address a lot of the issues that have been raised and provide answers to many of the questions we've been seeing.

If this is new to you, here’s a brief recap: A couple months ago, one of our Field Partners, Strathmore University, posted a number of loans to cover full tuitions for students from low-income regions in Kenya who could not otherwise afford higher education. Soon thereafter, many lenders raised concerns because Strathmore University was founded -- as the school describes it -- with “inspiration and encouragement from Saint Josemaria Escriva” (founder of Opus Dei--an institution of the Catholic Church) and, as noted on its website, the school is a "Corporate Undertaking of Opus Dei.”

Lenders have been worried specifically because Opus Dei has a reputation for being very conservative, and a staunch opponent of LGBT rights. As evidence of this, several community members shared an editorial and guest lecture by Strathmore’s chaplain, Father Joe Babendreier, in which he states that homosexual acts are a sin. The biggest concern is that these views are being actively promoted in the curriculum and/or student life at Strathmore.

I speak on behalf of the entire Kiva team when I say that we’re very thankful to our lending community for sharing their views, along with this editorial and video. We also appreciate the work our lenders have put into learning more about Strathmore and helping us better understand these issues. Lender feedback is an incredibly important part of our work, and your voiced concerns are ultimately helping us improve Kiva as an organization. Thank you for that.

I do also want to take a moment to address the tone of the dialogue around this partnership. It’s worth reiterating that one of our core organizational values is transparency, so we have a deep appreciation for any lenders that voice concerns. But we also feel it’s imperative to keep this conversation healthy and constructive. Some posts have made assumptions and inaccurate comments about Kiva employees and their ability to effectively do their jobs. This is not constructive or conducive to working together to make the world a better place. As with all of our basic or full due-diligence Field Partners, the decision to work with Strathmore University involved our entire regional team and was approved by our Investment Committee--not just one person. We stand by our employees and the work they do to maximize the impact of your capital.

That said, on a personal level, I share a lot of the same concerns aired by our lenders. The type of anti-gay rhetoric expressed by Strathmore’s chaplain is very disheartening. We understand the damage and pain that it can cause, and I assure you, with no reservations, that the views expressed do not reflect any of our beliefs or Kiva’s organizational values.

This is what we do believe: That providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families. At the core, Kiva is trying to do good in different regions and cultural contexts -- even when some of the values of a culture run counter to our own.

The unfortunate reality is that LGBT rights have a very long way to go in Africa. In seeking out a top-tier higher education partner in Kenya, we didn’t find one that was pro-LGBT. That’s unfortunately not surprising since homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya. Even as recently as 2007, 96% of Kenyans polled said "Homosexuality is a way of life that should not be accepted by society."

Obviously, we don’t support or encourage these views or policies. But, when we evaluate countries to work in and organizations to partner with, it’s natural that not all of our values and beliefs will align perfectly. We have to look at the full package to determine the difference Kiva can make. Ultimately, our Partnerships team and Investment Committee must make decisions by looking at the core purpose of an organization’s programs and how Kiva lenders’ funding can benefit people who are financially or socially excluded. Strathmore students are an ideal example. They’re bright kids with limitless potential, but would never have the chance to realize it without Kiva lenders who choose to support them.

Tuition loans outside the U.S. are rare. There are precious few partners willing to fund tuition loans because of the long repayment terms and grace periods while the student is in school. For too many young people, no matter how gifted they are or how hard they work, access to a college education isn’t an option because they don’t have the resources. At Kiva, we believe that access to education is where economic advancement begins. There’s no better weapon against poverty. That's why we’re also working to get loans to students in Colombia, Indonesia, and South Africa in addition to Kenya.

Why Strathmore? It’s one of the leading private chartered universities in Kenya, and is a privately-owned, not-for-profit institution. In addition to offering top-notch classes, curricula and programming, Strathmore was also that rare school that wanted to reach out to low-income students -- that wanted to expand opportunity. That’s why Kiva chose to work with them. In a country where demand for education far outweighs supply, it’s unusual to find a university interested in getting creative to help poorer students -- especially when their wealthy peers are willing and eager to pay. Kiva funding reserves these spots so lower-income students have a chance at them. And once they’re there, they have an even bigger chance to break the cycle of poverty for their families and communities.

While these are the reasons we were so excited to partner with Strathmore University, I also want to make sure to address the two big questions we continue to hear from lenders: “What is Opus Dei’s involvement with Strathmore?” and “Are they indoctrinating the future leaders of Kenya with hate speech?”

Following recent lender comments, Kiva’s Partnerships team thoroughly investigated Strathmore’s practices, student life, and more. We found no evidence of indoctrination practices. The core of Strathmore’s educational program is not religious. Its goal is to provide students with a strong, broad-base education to help them find good jobs and achieve their dreams. In fact, the school’s mission statement is “to provide all round quality education in an atmosphere of freedom and responsibility; excellence in teaching, research and scholarship; ethical and social development; and service to society.”

With respect to student life, Strathmore University does not consider religion in its admissions process. There is also no mandatory religious requirement and there are no religion classes even offered at the school. (See documents linked below)

The closest thing the school has is a business ethics class, so we sat in and listened. One of the chief concerns about Opus Dei is that it doesn’t allow freedom of conscience, so we wondered whether that would come up. Not only did we not see the propagation of any hateful ideology, but the professor also encouraged everyone to make up their own minds, and similarly promoted divergent opinions with the aim to create students who are independent, logical, critical thinkers. Of course we can’t sit in on all of their classes, and we also understand that there may be things said in some classes that we don’t agree with, but the overall takeaway is that everything we’ve observed does not point to systematic indoctrination of students.

During our visit we also found that there were many different religions represented in the student body. They have a chapel on campus, as well as a Muslim prayer room. There’s no requirement to attend religious services, and if all students actually wanted to attend mass, they wouldn’t be able to, as the chapel seats about 100 people (with a student body of 5,000).  

Having said that, we don’t intend to portray Strathmore University as a place that’s free from all forms of hate speech. The fact that the school is located in Kenya means that given the cultural context we described earlier, it’s likely that some individuals on campus, including Strathmore staff, might hold anti-LGBT viewpoints or beliefs (as we saw in the guest lecture video). Keep in mind that similar hate speech could be heard on campuses anywhere in the U.S. No institution that invites a diverse community to live and work together can be completely free of unfortunate comments and clashes in culture.

But what we have confirmed is that Opus Dei is distinct from Strathmore’s daily operations. It isn’t involved in curriculum development, and anti-LGBT views don’t have any place in the core mission of the university or the classes it offers. Considering all of these facts, along with the great social impact we believe these loans are having in the lives of Kenyan students, we will continue this partnership and give lenders the choice to support future students.

That said, we have learned a lot and plan to manage things differently next time around. To start, we know that we should have been much more mindful of Strathmore’s affiliation with Opus Dei and made that more clear on the school’s partner page. We’ve since added this information to the first paragraph. Please note, we’ve also decided to add text to all future Strathmore University loans highlighting the school’s affiliation with Opus Dei.

Another area of great learning for us was surrounding our marketing strategy for these loans. While we plan to continue to highlight different partners and loans that we feel are doing great things, it's clear from all the negative comments we've received that our efforts were too forceful. This is a huge opportunity for us to learn and work to improve future emails.

On the operational side of things, we’ve also asked Strathmore to spread out their loan postings for these tuition loans next year. We originally hoped that these loans would fundraise over the span of 2-3 months, but with delays in the process of gathering loan information and developing a robust loan program with a semester start date of July 1, their posting was unfortunately compressed to a single month this year.

In addition, we know that we should have done a better job at being prompt in our responses and formal communication about areas of deep lender concern. If you've been a part of the conversations happening on team message boards and feel as though your voices were being ignored, I speak on behalf of the entire team in saying that we're truly sorry. It was important for us to conduct a thorough investigation with a visit to this partner, and ultimately present a thoughtful and educated response -- and that process simply took some time. That said, we will absolutely try to be more timely with any future responses.

I also want to recognize a perceived conflict of interest since we have an office in Strathmore's business school. To clarify, Kiva's funding relationship with Strathmore is completely separate from our office space contract. We signed a lease with a separate department at Strathmore, paying market rates for rent after a thorough review of various options in Nairobi. And if this partnership were to end tomorrow or if none of their loans were funded, our office lease wouldn't be affected. We do, however, understand how having the office space could be perceived as a conflict of interest in this type of situation, and we should have been more forthcoming about this in our marketing emails.

Having acknowledged that, Kiva is fundamentally interested in doing good where and how we can. In this case, it’s about supporting students in Kenya and other countries who, without loans from lenders like you could not attend university.

Students like Lilian, a brilliant, budding computer scientist who grew up in the Masai territory near Narok, Kenya. Like so many bright students, she comes from a family that cannot afford to pay tuition. Her story, like so many millions of others around the globe, typically ends with dreams dashed. But many of you in the Kiva community came to the rescue, offering an 11-year student loan, which was funded in less than 24 hours. You can imagine the suspense Lilian felt as she watched her future change so suddenly, playing out on a computer screen. And the hope she feels now, knowing that a community of people from around the world believe in her potential. If you have a few minutes, you can see Lillian tell her story here

A few members of the Kiva team recently had the chance to have lunch with Lilian and are happy to report that she is taking full advantage of the opportunity provided by those Kiva lenders who chose to support her.

It's hard to deny the opportunity that Kiva loans provide to students like Lilian. It’s also difficult to deny that the opportunity provided to these students pains and angers some Kiva lenders because of Strathmore's connection to Opus Dei. There is no easy decision here. What we decided was to continue this partnership to do good where and how we can and to provide lenders with all the information they need to make informed decisions. We understand that some of you may disagree and we completely respect that. At the core, I believe we’re all in this together, and we hope you’ll come on this journey with us as we learn from you, learn from experience, and learn how to help even more people around the world with life-changing loans.

Thank you for your consideration,

Matt Flannery
CEO, Kiva


If you're interested in reading more about Kiva's partnership with Strathmore University, or if you have any additional questions, please check out our extensive Q&A.

Additional Sources:

Strathmore Bachelor of Hospitality and Tourism Curriculum
Strathmore Bachelor of Commerce Curriculum
Strathmore Bachelor of Business Information Technology Curriculum
Strathmore Bachelor of Science in Tourism and Hospitality Management Curriculum



I don't quite understand the anger expressed in the comments here. The thing I'm upset about is the social situation in Kenya for LGBT* folks, which has nothing to do with KIVA unless the commenters here want KIVA to not help people in Kenya at all...? I did fund a couple of these loans and wasn't aware of this issue until now. Still, I'm impressed by this response. Thank you for addressing it, for apologizing, and for explaining your reasoning. It sounds like you looked into the matter in detail, and I appreciate that. For all we know, some of these kids we're funding could be LGBT* themselves (they're probably not out in Kenya though, if it's illegal there), and giving them a brighter future can only help.

Clearly this is alarming to most, not so by our Christian Group friends here on Kiva. I ask those to look at it this way if the religious part moves your more. Jimmy Swaggart was one of those standard evangelists that proved bad. But the stadiums of people he brought to Their God were pure people. Heck, as a US Citizen, we have not even fully settled the LGBT issues, how can we expect all 3rd world countries to be better? We are a deversified group of people from all walks of life. The heart and kindness of wanting to help my fellow man was not because I saw a Big Atheist Group, or which I am a member, never have even chatted with one member. My heart of the Wife and I was to give back where we could. Kiva, thankfully is not the only place we try and help, certainly more donation and charity in our own US communities. If there were not these scholarships, taking this Strathmore out of our minds, there would be nothing for these young people to learn and educate themselves. Educated people, not sheltered people learn much more to view the world as they see it. If I have too and I do not look at it in this way, put up with a Faith based, simple minded that Homoesexuality is a choice and therefore can be prayed away, then I have to accept it for the end goal. I do not like it, but I want these young people that would not get university schooling can because of whatever reason this place has in bringing this in so the option is available from those that do not give a darn of our feelings, our righthous indignation, they want an education and I personally cannot stand in the way of that. That is the way my wife and I feel towards this. Young People getting the gift of education, even is they tell them it is a God that does it or while you know inside you like the same sex, it is wrong. Educated People make their own choices and many stay and help future generations of their citizens. I cannot find overall harm in this. Just our Opinion, we respect them all.

I thought Matt made some very good arguments for Kiva continuing to support loans for tuitions to Strathmore - namely that Strathmore is a high-calibre university that is willing to teach lower-income students and that this WILL help the lives of these students. I also hear the concerned voices of people who are still concerned about LGBT and Opus Dei indoctrination issues and I therefore suggest a possible solution: I don't think it is unheard of for students receiving scholarships from certain scholarship funds to be required to take certain classes. I propose that Kiva and its members (obviously not everyone will agree on one thing, so choose a select few to represent the whole) work together to come up with a class they would be happy for the scholarship receivers to attend, and run it past Strathmore. It doesn't have to take place on campus, but if Strathmore and Opus Dei really are separate they shouldn't have an issue with it anyway, if the classes contain content such as 'how to recognise indoctrination and to think for yourself', just learning about the other main religions (I had to do this at school), and the LGBT rights movement in the US. I'm not saying force their beliefs, but teach them to think and open up their minds to issues and points of view they might not have been able to access without the classes. These classes could again be funded by the Kiva community as part of the scholarship funds.

How many of us in this group have refused a higher education because our student loan would have been backed by the federal government. Our own government doesn't have the best record of supporting equal rights for all of its citizens. A lack of education is one of the best ways a government has to keep it's people repressed. We have our own responsibility to perform our own due diligence before we give our money. We all have the choice as to who we are going to support with our money. We all need to look at our own reasons for being a part of Kiva. I think most of us would agree we are here to help individuals afford the opportunity to a better life for them and their families. I look at the loans I make to be ones between me and the individual receiving the money. Kiva is a way to multiply my money by others joining me in the belief that the individual receiving the funds is deserving of the same opportunities we have been lucky enough to take advantage of. Instead of directing all of this anger toward Kiva, why not write a letter to Strathmore letting them know who the people are who are funding the loans. It shouldn't be taken out on the individual who would benefit from the opportunity of a better education. When they see that the funding is coming from individuals who don't support their views they may choose to sever the relationship. I don't see that as likely to happen. If the sole purpose of their doing this was to indoctrinate people in a belief that homosexuality is wrong, it would be a waste of their time and money in a country where over 90% of the people share the same belief. Education is the best chance for this to change.

Agreed, first comes education, then comes enlightenment. Maybe being lent to by so many GLBT and atheist people might make some people rethink their lack of tolerance. If we can be really 100% sure that ideology is not on the agenda of the school I think we have to keep an open mind about this.

I think we can all take a moment to remember that we may claim we speak for all LGBT's, or women, or Catholics, or whomever, but we don't. We speak only for ourselves. I am gay and am not insulted by this response. Nor am I going to stop lending to Kiva over one issue with one field partner. I actually applaud any university that is making it's services available to student who cannot afford it, but are willing to work hard and make the most of the opportunity. That is more important to me than exercising my own moral superiority. Education is priceless and I would be saddened to see students miss out on a great opportunity. Now, in fairness, I would also be very saddened to see Kiva lose members over this issue, but I think the response adequately outlines how the relationship with Strathmore is in line with Kiva's vision and goals. Again, I speak only for myself, but I wanted to put my opinion out there.

I understand the culture arguments, and I agree that education is the way to reduce bigotry against all minorities. But I still can't get my head around lending thousands of dollars to an organisation that has millions, if not billions, in the bank. Why has opus dei (no capitalisation, deliberate) not set up it's own internal loans system for these students? Why are we lending money that goes straight to one of the richest and most secretive organisations in the world?

I agree Fiona! The roman catholic business and their opus dei department have billions, why would anyone choose to subsidize their business??

Kiva is NOT sponsoring Opus Dei, nor Strathmore university. Kiva is sponsoring individual students.

I too am very concerned about furthering LGBTQ-discrimination; chances are that with hateful and demeaning messages put out from an education of higher learning that students who know or discover that they are queer receiving a very negative message as well as society in general. I applaud Kiva for their openness and suggest to explore ways to make ALL students and the institution regularly aware (e.g. by newsletters directly to students) that loans of Kiva are funded by LGBTQ-persons too and that Kiva supports full human rights for the community. In such a way awareness could be raised of young and bright students. On another note I suggest matching loans, i.e. for every male student a female student must be in the program because discrimination against females is another virulent streak in many Third World Countries and in religiously founded schooling systems.

As a teacher and a donor towards several of the loans for students at Strathmore, I wish to emphasize my support for its partnership with Strathmore and hope for similar partnerships with other educational institutions, Catholic or not, throughout the developing world. Loans for short-term projects are worthwhile, and I contribute to those too, but the "investment" in a person's education, so as to promote his or her long-term well being and contribution to family and society is crucial, and I do not mind the risks and long payback periods involved. I understand that, when needs are great, priorities may be required to be set in favour of immediate needs, but this ought not exclude entirely other loans. As far as Strathmore itself is concerned, I am encouraged by its outreach to low-income students. I too agree that we cannot select only those charities that help those in need but do not share one's own beliefs. I don't think Strathmore is promoting "hatred" against the LGBT community because its sponsor supports (but according to Kiva does not insist on teaching) Catholic teaching. Although I understand why some might be offended or hurt by this teaching, and individual members of Opus Dei and Catholics in general could be more open to theological developments that offer a different perspective, this teaching, I think, is not meant as a personal attack or an incitement to bullying or violence. I likewise also think that the insinuation of a hidden agenda on the part of Opus Dei in sponsoring its own university (rather than other Catholic or non-Catholic institutions in Kenya) could turn out to be true, but there is no evidence for this that seems compelling to me. In countries where there are not so many institutions of higher learning relative to the need for them, we ought to welcome and support more rather than fewer such institutions. My only concern regarding Strathmore has not yet been voiced. The loans that they have sought, and which I have supported, tend generally to be for men. The education of young women in developing countries seems to me to be an especially pressing need, and it would be good if Kiva members like me could have an opportunity to contribute it too.

I support most of the above comments which explain why I am opposed to Kiva being liked with Opus Dei. Despite their recognized quality of general education this is an outfit which has been unremittingly suppressive of women rights, including in their own Catholic clergy. The last thing poor women in any country need is to be deprived of the right and access to every aspect of birth control. A conservative, religious, male dominated partner should not be a choice for KIva, regardless of the wealth it is willing to share. Their intentions are not to be trusted. I have been a proud member of KIva and hope to remain so. Surely there can be more honorable avenues to follow to educate young men and women.

Dear Matt Flannery, I strongly urge you to read the recent comments on the message boards of both the GLBT Team and the A+ Team. I strongly urge you to read the RAW survey results rather than get a summary from whoever assembled that shoddy and slanted survey. If Kiva thought it could deflect criticism over the Strathmore/Opus Dei mistake by blaming individuals in the two teams, the comments and RAW feedback will show you otherwise. Also, I hope you will agree to my offer of an interview about this issue which is being exacerbated by your refusal to address the questions raised about why KIva is so bent on remaining in bed with anti-gay and anti-women Opus Dei. If even a small percentage of those who have said they will leave Kiva, not make loans until the Opus Dei partnership is severed and will withhold your admin fees, do so, Kiva suffers because you refuse to be forthcoming about this issue.

Religion, like Liberalism carries the seeds of its own destruction. To be tolerant of the intolerant is very difficult, and waiting them out is not a proven strategy. The current generation of "proxies of their GOD", may die without an awaited and much-hoped-for "Epiphany" or trans-FORMATION, and we may have to wait for the next generation to see some some real change in some parts of the world where the population has been shattered and divided by disease, poverty, famines, wars, etc.... For some, religion, along with flawed logic, contradictions, and questionable morality and ethics, sometimes also gives faith, and hope in a better tomorrow. Religion even makes some more "charitable". Even if by osmosis (or "GRACE"). Having attended a Catholic University (Jean Eudes teaching brothers), I do not feel I was indoctrinated but educated or more accurately, IN-FORMED. I was given information as if some of it was "fact", but I could question the validity of that in-formation. I was not made a slave to "data". They educated me, and I was taught to "THINK" independently, thanks to the writings of the classic European (some gay??) "philosophers", and when I used my education to question the "Church's" moral and ethical stands and practices, and I did not find a "holiness" but a "corruption, I felt free to leave "Holy Mother the Church"( Vatican), not without a few moral salvos and I am now on KIVA as a "Free Thinker" ... I will continue to lend through KIVA with HOPE in a better future for all, but, I have sympathy for the more activist commentators. I hear you and I agree with much of what you present... I even speak your message and carry your torch (cause)... And I don't feel that the "CREATIVE" (a process and what some call "CREATOR" or G-O-D (a Germanic version of GOTH), will punish you or I for what we espouse, accept, or practice ... Let us not only look and discuss the "cover of the book", but let us discuss the content (REALITY) which is still hidden inside!! ... P.S. Although some "brothers" at our University and "boarding school" were homosexuals and some even pedophiles, they still preached the anti-gay/lesbian message of the Bible ... That University and their schools are now "GONE" ...The structures have become "rental suites".

Matt -- Keep up the excellent work. My condolences for having to deal with the intense emotional reactions from those who view the world in such black-and-white terms. Don't be discouraged by an unattainable attempt to satisfy everyone. I am reminded of Voltaire's proverb "The perfect is the enemy of the good". The fact that many field partners have different moral and cultural values that differ from us lenders should not preclude us from working toward a common goal.


I don't accept the Kiva position on this issue. Kiva should be not be supporting sectarian groups, especially those that are virulently anti-gay. I'll end my own participation -- of many years standing -- if Kiva continues its relationship with Strathmore. Bob Mack

Opus dei has probably more money than all Kiva lenders put together. How much is it giving / lending at zero interest to poor African students? Do the students pay any interest on their loans? if so, where are these profits going? Happy to help out bright youngsters but not so keen on funding exploitative, hate-filled organisations in the background.

No doubt it is necessary for Kiva to partner with organizations whose beliefs lenders don't agree with 100% and I have funded many loans granted by such field partners. However, it is also necessary to draw the line somewhere, and that should be well away from partnering with a "corporate undertaking of Opus Dei." Kiva has made a terrible mistake. It is unfortunate that some of the circumstances surrounding the employees involved, the field office, the number of large loans, and unprecedented communications with lenders about them make it appear to be an evil conspiracy rather than simply a series of errors in research and decision-making and project implementation by a well-intended but fallible organization. It is important to give the benefit of the doubt to Kiva and assume good faith. It is equally important not to give the same courtesy to Opus Dei. Kiva needs to do more research into the origins of Opus Dei, its involvement with the Franco regime, its aims, and how it works today to achieve them. More importantly, Kiva either has not really researched or else is denying how deeply Opus Dei is involved in the daily workings of Strathmore. It is clearly not just an occasional on-campus debate by an ultra-conservative priest. That research is not at all hard to do, just go to YouTube: Kiva should also stop trying to marginalize this as just a LGBT issue. It is also offensive to try to shift criticism from Kiva onto the lenders with statements such as "the opportunity provided to these students pains and angers some Kiva lenders." Kiva cannot partner with an organization like Opus Dei and expect to maintain trust with the average Kiva lender.

Thomas, thank you for your clear and articulate comments. Your cogent statement has captured exactly the thoughts swirling in my mind since this debacle began. I made my first Kiva loan on July 4, 2007, grateful to have found an organization that could let me do so much good with the little I had available to share, and I've made 61 more loans since then. Sadly, I now doubt that I will be able to continue working with Kiva without compromising my own principles and values.

'...since homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya. Even as recently as 2007, 96% of Kenyans polled said "Homosexuality is a way of life that should not be accepted by society." ' Based on this statement, the logical extension of the comments of many of my fellow Kiva's above can only be that Kiva should refrain from funding any loans in Kenya at all, given that the legal and 'moral' code of the country is different to their own! That's clearly a ludicrous suggestion and not at all in the spirit of Kiva. I'm here to help others help themselves in the environment in which they find themselves. Who am I to judge their country's legal or moral code? Why should the legal and moral code of the country in which they find themselves (simply through the 'birth lottery', as Bob Harris so aptly describes it) have any bearing on whether or not I choose to help them build a better life? If we only helped people/countries who agreed with our own views, our options to help people would be severely limited. Furthermore, as with any loan, no-one forces you to lend to it. There are plenty of other loans to choose from - lend to one of those instead. Help the people YOU want to help - but don't get in the way of others helping the people you choose not to.

Dear Matt Flannery, please read Bill's published summary of the Kiva-Opus Dei-Strathmore partnership. In one article he manages to highlight and document most of the reasons for concern among so many Kiva teammates. Your response to that summary would be appreciated.

Putting this very briefly: (1) Kiva is (was?) about Microfinance. The Strathmore loans are not Microfinance. Money tied up in one Strathmore loan could be recycled round several hundred 'normal' Kiva loans. (2) There is a worrying conflict of interest with the Strathmore loans because Strathmore acts both as the 'microfinance' provider and provides the service paid for. (3) Kiva is about individuals making loan choices themselves. However choices should be informed choices and nothing in the information provided on Strathmore tells lenders that Strathmore an anti-LBGT organisation which many lenders would not loan to if they knew (despite Matt's soothing words, a little research shows Strathmore blacklists LBGT friendly organsiations for internships like the Kenya Human Rights Commission). (4) The 'different countries have different values' argument only holds if you would be happy to see a Kiva loan to "Ivan in Russia wants to purchase anti-Gay posters to sell to his friends". (5) The recent survey sent to members of the A+ and LBGT communities raises serious questions about Kiva's management of this issue and the extent to which they value and listen to their lenders.

A number of concerns have been raised by members of the Atheist lending team and others about funding students attending Strathmore. I just want to add a consideration that has been missing, as far as I have read, from the discussion. It is more than obvious that a modern religious war is going on right now in north and central Africa, parts of Asia and virtually all of the Mideast. Islamic fundamentalists are slaughtering those who oppose their version of sharia. LGBT's, Atheists and Catholics are targeted by these murderous groups. Although the freedom to express personal beliefs and orientations typically impress one with particular keenness, the right to life is more fundamental and important. In the struggle against the growing tide of terrorism, Catholicism stands against those that would kill all LGBT's and Atheists. It is a powerful ally in a struggle that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives in the past two decades. Is now the time to take steps to weaken an ally in such an overarching struggle?

Matt, Thank you so much for the detailed explanation and thorough due diligence you have done on this lending partner. In a world that is less than perfect, we often times must choose the lesser of the evils -- supporting access to education with a less than ideal lending partner, or leaving the poor of Kenya to remain uneducated. If we want to change opinions and values, we must support education. I am encouraged that your staff actually sat in on classes to investigate the type of education and environment being offered, which appears to be completely in line with Kiva's vision and goals. Who knows -- maybe one of these recipients of a Kiva loan will lead the movement toward more equality for LGBT individuals in Kenya. Well done.

Matt, I am sure you mean well. I suspect this business regarding Opus Dei side-swiped you. You appear engaged in serious corporate damage control right now but focusing solely on the superficial Opus Dei angle. Unfortunately the web of interest surrounding Strathmore appears to be more complicated as are all things related to Opus Dei and you have only scratched the surface in your response. Your posting above has been made redundant by a new analysis of the information available related to this story that has surfaced at the Bilgrimage Blog of William Lindsay. You will not put this to bed until the issues raised here are addressed.

Dear Matt Flannery, Are you reading these comments? Are you going to let this one (from an Opus Dei graduate) stand without response: "We don't want funding from homosexuals or homosexual sympathisers. Permalink Submitted by Benson Njonjo Ndehi on Wed, 09/04/2013 - 11:42"

Well stated, almost everyone, for my part Matt, I have decided to continue loaning as I have been but will not make any contribution to Kiva's operations until your suspect association with the Opus Dei cult is terminated. I would hope that others who are unconvinced that there is total transparence regarding this controversial subject or are otherwise upset by it will do likewise. Let us not stop lending to deserving folks because some leader choses to entangle Kiva in religious controversy.

Look, this is very simple Matt. Hate is Hate and if you allow it into your organization then you are condoning it. It's like going to war instead of working for peace. Yes, it can be faster but look at the devastation along the way. It comes down to what you really want to stand for and who you want to have at your side.

I have some really mixed feelings about this. Ignorance is the best tool to keep people from critical thinking, questioning and progress. So, education is the best tool to move the world forward. That being said, as much as I would love to support the potential of promising kids, I simply could never support any religious-owned school. Even when making regular loans on Kiva, I always check the funder. If there is any mention of any promotion of religious values, I do NOT lend there. Even though I am also part of the GBLT community, I know this is an issue that will only change with time. In my lifetime, there have been huge progress on this issue in the USA, but in developing countries, it will take time to move this forward. However, I also see religion as the basis of this problem in holding the issue back, by calling it sin and using shame and guilt as tools to prevent people from being who they really are. So, speaking only for myself, I will continue to make loans on Kiva, mindful of withholding funds from any religiously-based group. Sadly, I will not make any of these student loans. Seriously, Kiva, you couldn't find a single non-religious school anywhere on the whole planet??

Kiva's position is very clear; now it is up to lenders to decide whether to continue with loans, restrict loans through organisations they approve of or withdraw. I don't think this ongoing debate will further change anything. I will continue to loan through Kiva and pick those who will benefit to suit my own criteria. There is plenty of choice!

Strathmore University should charge students based on their family income. This is what Starehe Boys Centre successfully does. This will rescue the university from homo shylocks.

I recently read a comment by some Catholic guy about helping those affected by the war in Syria. '' We don’t help people because they are Catholic—many that we help aren’t,” he said. “We help people because we are Catholic......No matter what services we’re providing—whether medical, or counseling, or opportunities to debrief—our goal is to give people a sense of well-being. A notion that other people care for them. That they’re not forgotten. As best we can, we want to give them some normalcy.'' As Kiva lenders, why do we lend? Do we lend because we are LGBT or because we are human? Kiva's envision a world where all people - even in the most remote areas of the globe - hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others. They believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families. I think instead of fighting, as private lenders we should do what we want with our money and as much as possible try not dictate where others should invest their money.

When I read the Open letter from Kiva's CEO I asked myself the following question...... Is Matt Flannery a member of Opus Dei? .... If not, then do Kiva's CEO and management (Corporate and regional) lack the rigor to analyse, evaluate and partner with organisations that share similar values (especially transparency)? Are start-ups in the valley blinded by good intentions or simply naïve? Don't you see that Opus Dei through it's different corporate undertakings (fully owned - as distinct from a personal undertaking which may be owned by others i.e. members or co-operators) is looking to build visibility in and presence in the emerging digital space, using it's far flung assets to rally cash, support and goodwill? I recommend that each one stops and asks why... what is the real underlying motivation behind this? Helping out poor kids in rural Kenya or capitalizing on goodwill for themselves and their coercive apostolic endeavours?

Kiva's alliance with Strathmore and Opus Dei seriously jeopardizes my own continued support of the Kiva program. I'm exceedingly disappointed in management decisions that have generated this association.

Just today I signed up for a recurring monthly loan contribution, and now, reading about this controversy saddens me. Instead of hiding behind minced words and parsed explanations, I expected Kiva, as a progressive solution for solving some of the world's problems, to lead the world on treating all humans with equality, dignity and respect. Feel free to reenlist me when you sort out your priorities and identity and align them with my expectations. Sadly, I'm taking my philanthropy elsewhere until then.

"Opus Dei is no different than the Taliban in the desire to impose what they see as God's laws on everyone on the planet." As an impartial observer, it sure seems to me like Kiva's pro-LGBT donor community are trying to force what they have called "morality" on Kenya. The fanatics in this conversation are clearly the LGBT shills who cannot tolerate any other opinion to exist anywhere. So who is forcing their "god's laws" on everyone on the planet, eh? Look in the mirror, intoleristas.

Baseless accusations that the pro-LGBT donor so-called "community" is trying to force some form of "morality" on Kenya simply point to a lack of objectivity and an anti-LGBT bias, as well as your insulting labelling -fanatics, shills, intoleristas. Your remark is off-topic, too. Kiva's involvement with Strathmore/Opus Dei has been called into question, as well as $10,000 loans for elite education, rather than many shorter term micro-loans.

I just discovered your non-profit organization and I think you have made an honest mistake, but a mistake nonetheless partnering with an Opus Dei organization. As a former member I can testify about a couple of things that confirm that hostility towards OD is not unjustified. First, it is true that OD is one of the most fundamentalists organizations inside the Catholic Church. Not only anti LGBT in Kenia but worldwide. Besides that they are notorious for their duplicity that you can discover just by seeing how it is really difficult to discover the amount of their tuition in Strathmore's website. Also I know from direct experience that OD controls every detail of their Universities student life: they just not provide chaplaincy, but they appoint every authority starting from the University's president (with whatever name the leader has in every country). The tuition costs are above average and corresponding to an elite school, so in essence you will be subsidizing OD's activities including those who are against human rights. For example, the center for tourism and hospitality is also a recruitment center for the so called Auxiliary Numeraries, who are basically free maids for OD's houses. The people who do housekeeping in OD's are in many cases members who receive a nominal salary. But they have to give it back 100% to the organization. They also hire some external service, but only when they fail to recruit enough "free slaves". Don't be surprised if part of your help ends up subsidizing a fancy chalice or any other religious ornament as Escriva was a collector of expensive religious objects and OD in every country follows the same pattern. Also their residences are located in the more posh neighbourhoods. So be careful with them. They also offer other scholarships and loans, but these come always from donors that OD finds in abundance among good Catholics. OD then creates a trust fund to manage them, but the money then ends up paying for a costly tuition that then they can redistribute as they see fit for their interests (including transferring money to Rome). As their members who work at the college have good salaries that is another way to finance their activities. So you will be contributing to the diffusion of anti-LGBT propaganda, anti-contraception, and judgment of people who are divorced or not married by the Church. Good luck with Opus Dei. By the way their headquarters in NY costed $69Million Dollars and they didn't pay a dime of them (all donations from innocent folks like you) Good luck. Peter

Honestly I think most people commenting here have no clue what is happening on the ground. I am a former student of Strathmore University and I have seen first-hand what KIVA loans are doing to support needy students in Kenya. To say that the students who receive the loans are not deserving is some kind of conspiracy theory...the application process is competitive and the students who get the loans are quite deserving...and no, you need not hold the views of Opus Dei leave alone those of the Catholic Church to get the loans. I would simply ask all of you, if all you want is to help a needy student then just do this part of the world people are just wishing to get a decent education since it is the only sure way to get out of poverty.

interesting what I found on the youtube website of Strathmore University (you can find the link also on their facebook page). The dean of Strathmore Business School saying that he is a member of the Opus Dei since the 1980s....

Mukami: nobody is saying that the students who appy/got loans are not worthy/deserving. Me and many fellow members however do not want Kiva to support an organization involved with the Opus Dei - an organization that is quite active & vocal against the rights of other people!

I happened on this discussion when searching info to support expansion of Kiva lending within my own small Australian company... it was very disappointing to find it & I can't help advising everyone obsessed with this issue to 'get a life' and look at the wider picture. I am heartily against extremist religious organisations (from Opus Dei to the Taliban to ISIL/ISIS, or whatever they happen to call themselves today). Especially because they dictate to/oppress the rights of women, who are the foundation of community life, especially in developing countries. However, so very much of what Kiva does is to raise women out of poverty inflicted by religious & cultural oppression - such as lack of education, access to contraception & all the other bars to participating in their local & national economies. Women who are generally tolerant of sexual preferences & racial differences - who just want to do the best for their own families & communities, while their menfolk often squander money on drink, drugs & gambling, or sit aroundwith other blokes inciting violence/go off to war against others, then come home & lay down the law with their fists. I don't understand this obsession with one particular type of loan in one particular country. Calculate the time you spend on writing these comments & seething over this 'issue' - then translate that into $$$s you could have earned and make a Kiva loan somewhere else!

LGBT people are trying "to get a life"! In many places around the world, they are trying not to be killed! Although you seem sensitized to women's issues and their role in their communities, you have displayed no understanding of the LGBT situation internationally. The thinking in sending an African student from an almost totally anti-gay society for an elite education at a university involved with the anti-gay religious organization, Opus Dei, is flawed from start to finish. Supporting human rights, popular education, literacy education, and micro-loans in Africa on the ground in Africa does make sense. Given your final comment, dismissive of a LGBT 'issue', it is ironic that you took the time to write your comment at all, given the $$$ you could have earned and Kiva loans you could have made elsewhere...

$10,000 is not a micro-loan in Africa. Supporting the upper mobility of a few students does not alleviate poverty for the many. One only has to look at those with elite educations in the US and similar countries. Matt Flannery's letter is that of an apologist for Opus Dei and Strathmore. How many universities are there in the USA and other prime loaning countries and yet Strathmore was selected? My concerns about KIVA first arose regarding loans that were being labelled "Green." The responses I received from Kiva staff revealed the lack of understanding of what Green is. The letter by Matt Flannery reveals that similar lack of systemic awareness starts at the top when it comes to human rights and social intervention. Certainly, Kiva as a model and tool for the alleviation of poverty and for fostering social progress has significant limitations, which the current controversy has highlighted.

Absolutely disgusted by this whole debacle, and will be withdrawing my financial support of Kiva until an ethical resolution is achieved. That's not to say I'm leaving the community, and I will continue to loan money to the many groups and individuals who need it. However, Kiva will not be seeing a cent from me until further notice. (So much for all the items on Kiva's Amazon wishlist that my partner and I have donated. I hope Kiva realises their actions have insulted and alienated many of their most avid supporters.) This comment bears repeating, although it's really only the tip of the iceberg: "I find it remarkable that Matt's letter completely ignores the issue of just how big and numerous these Strathmore loans were, and how absolutely devastating they were to the ecology of the Kiva loan landscape. All of the money that went to fund those loans is now in a black hole and tied up for the next DECADE. How many times could those dollars have been turned over, reloaned again and again and helped countless entrepreneurs, small farmers, etc. etc. etc.?" On a separate note, can somebody please justify the recent inundation (60?) of $10,000 Kiva Zip loans, which seem to gain first preference from the Kiva U.S. community regardless. All I've seen lately are 'red' Zip loans, and the percentage of Zip loans that default is ridiculous. (My personal favourite example? The decision by Kiva users to fund a $10,000 snowball stand in the U.S. instead of, you know, entrepreneurs, women and youth in third world countries. The 'Snowball' loan defaulted after two repayments, of course.)

I joined Kiva 4 hours ago with a hopeful heart and some substantial cash - 4 hours later, early in the morning, after having trawled through what seems like an eternity of viewpoints, doing my Due Diligence, I have drawn my conclusions. Kiva clearly has to be a neutral platform to some extent, leaving the Lenders to make the decisions. But... 1) Large loan sizes locking up money for 10 years, affecting the core principle of Kiva. 2) Kiva lenders providing money to support students at an educational establishment with strong links to a hugely rich (possibly extreme, certainly controversial) religious movement. 3) Dubious management of the entire Strathmore scheme from Kiva. I'll be going elsewhere to practice philanthropy.

Did anyone notice that the already misleading Kiva disclosure of the Opus dei connection ("with inspiration and encouragement" instead of corporate undertaking) is well hidden from the loan pages? And also the warning that these loans with already a relavively long learn term have a grace period of five (5) years? Another improvement of the new web-design, I guess...

Did anyone notice that the misleading Kiva disclosure of the Opus dei connection ("with inspiration and encouragement" instead of corporate undertaking) is well hidden from the loan pages? And also the warning that these loans with already a relavively long learn term have a grace period of five (5) years? Another improvement of the new web-design, I guess...

I'm just truing to figure out if KIVA is essentially crowdfunding based on reputation why can't i a muslim woman who doesn't take photos of her face can't even apply? If the objective of the photo is to showcase my business why doors it have to be a picture of my face especially when my initial investors are friends and family? I posed this question to and I guess it wasn't even worthy of a reply...


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