I've just become entranced by yet another website. However, this one is mightily impressive.
Microfinance is the process whereby an individual or group receive a small loan in order to start a business. In many countries, only a few dollars can buy a sewing machine, a breeding pair of pigs or seeds for the farm. This process has been shown to assist in lifting people out of poverty and is much more effective than handouts. In particular, women tend to run businesses in local communities and put the profits back into education, nutrition and health care for themselves and their children.
I have seen this in action. In the Philippines, I stayed with a family who sold fish at the market and used microcredit to purchase stock. In India, we had chai with a woman whose loan had bought a pair of goats, and the kids were running around beneath our feet. In Zambia, I bought sarongs from a woman whose market stall was set up with a micro-loan.
And now I have just found a site that lets those of us in positions of affluence lend to those who are not. It's a loan - so the money will be repaid (and is, in 98.5% 0f cases). And in the meantime, it'll be put to work well.
You can choose to whom you lend. You can search by region or type of project. And you will be making a big difference.