Farewell, Captain Tony

The Kiva community lost a beloved and influential leader last month. Nicknamed Captain Tony, he was a Review and Translation volunteer, The Mindful Bunch lending team co-captain and lender since 2009. Even with the sadness of his passing in New York in January, his friends and teammates at Kiva are hopeful and confident that his spirit and impact will live on for many years to come. 

Although many of us never got the chance to meet Tony in person, his thoughtfulness and passion for helping others shined through our every experience of him on Kiva. Tony grew up in Brazil, Tennessee and Texas, and also lived in Belgium, France and Brazil as an adult, where he learned to speak a number of languages. This led him not only to lending on Kiva, but also to volunteering as a translator.

Patricia Wada, Sr. Manager of the Review and Translation Program, remembers his enthusiasm:

“We're really going to miss Tony. In addition to editing 2,500+ loans and even taking on Portuguese, he was one of the strongest voices advocating for our volunteers to get involved with lending, and he even offered ways to make it happen (funding bonuses and enticing volunteers to join the The Mindful Bunch to make a free loan). He spurred conversations about loans we love in our volunteer community and was a big fan of the 'volunteer favorites' list. He spread the word about Kiva volunteering, bringing us new volunteers. And he stayed positive and constructive as a voice of reason in our volunteer community through some times of controversy.”

It’s with great sadness and fond memories that we attempt to sum up the impact of such a valued Kiva community leader. “A light has gone out of the world, but not before he brightened the lives of many other people”, his teammate Amy recalls. 

In conjunction with his co-captain Elias, Tony created one of his greatest Kiva legacies, The Mindful Bunch (TMB) lending team, founded on the principles of mindfulness. Together they helped it grow to 1,892 members and over $11 million in loans just 2 years. Tony was passionate about helping ensure that borrowers reached their fundraising goals and bringing on as many new lenders to the platform as possible to help those in need, and he did so with impressive dedication and warmth. His teammates flooded TMB’s message board with words of love and gratitude after hearing the news:

“He was the first one to welcome and encourage me. He took time to nurture my hopes and dreams for my small but earnest participation in Kiva. To Tony--a finer human being I have never known.”
- Marjorie

“I was so saddened by the news of Tony's passing. He was such a constant on so many of the teams I supported, always jumping in and saving loans last minute or giving an underdog loan a chance.”
- Nora

“I join you in sorrow as we say goodbye to Tony.  He was a positive, intelligent, humble presence in Kivaland. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on in all of the many people he helped.”

“Very saddened to hear about his passing, but I'm also feeling deeply appreciative for all the good he brought to Kiva and the world. He was an incredibly kind soul, and the essence of what makes this community so great. We'll miss you, Tony!”
- Brandon

“I came to Kiva this morning very heartsick. Then learned of Tony's passing. I am so sad. I want to share this loan to Tahira, whom I credited to the Quebec team. I will now go and make a first-time donation to the ACLU in Tony's name.”
- Diane (& Bill)

“I add my sadness at the loss of Tony... He was one of the first people to respond to my questions when I first got active on Kiva teams; he answered a good many of them, and never once lost patience with me, no matter how much I pestered him! I was so appreciative of his encouragement and [his] contagious enthusiasm played a big part in the development of my Kiva addiction. He will be missed…”
- Margaret

Friend and fellow Kiva lender Amy shared that Tony was also a co-captain of the Late Loaning Lenders (LLL) team for several years. She mentioned his great passion for preventing loans from expiring unfunded on Kiva. (Loans are given 30 days to fundraise on Kiva – if a loan is not fully funded within 30 days, the loan automatically expires.) Tony became a member of a small group of LLL team members who each take a day of the week and post a "Starfish list" of loans set to expire that day, to help the team focus their lending and save at least a dozen overlooked loans each day from expiring.

He also started two lender funds – one in the Late Loaning Lenders team, and one in the Poverty2Prosperity team – with the goal of funding loans before they expired. Amy shared that in short, Tony was always thinking of new ways to engage with Kiva and with other lenders, with the goal of funding more borrowers.

Beyond his impact on Kiva, Tony was also a retired lawyer with an inspiring personal commitment to volunteering with organizations in the fields of education, community development and disease prevention. His life is truly a testament to the good we are all capable of and the joy with which it can be done.

 Sonali, Chief Operating Officer, expressed the sentiment at Kiva well, saying:

“All of us at Kiva are remembering the positive impact Tony made on the world, his friends and all of us. We will continue to be inspired by him and the legacy he leaves.”

As his friend and teammate Amy said in closing:

“Despite his many accomplishments, Tony was a humble person and an excellent friend. Even though I knew him only through Kiva and email correspondence, I miss him greatly. As Tony would say, "Happy lending!"

(This blog was authored in collaboration with Tiana Nguy, Laura Piper, Brandon Smith and Jessica Hansen.)

About the author

Taylor Whitfield

After a service trip to Ethiopia at the age of 17, Taylor has had a heart for creating international community and finding solutions to poverty. A Bay Area native and graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Taylor spent three years in public health, promoting vaccine usage in Accra, Ghana, as well as at home with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. She found that many problems with inadequate access to healthcare could be solved through economic empowerment, and jumped at the chance to serve as a Kiva Fellow, first in Washington, D.C. and then in Nairobi, Kenya. After connecting with Kiva’s tremendous impact in the field, Taylor is thrilled to be able to support the community that makes it all possible: Kiva lenders. In her spare time, Taylor teaches swim lessons to kids and tries to be near a body of water as much as possible.