I was starting a new painting (a house -- haven't done one of those in ages) and half listening to CBC Radio One when the organization/social venture Kiva was profiled:
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.
I'm a fan of those who create economic initiatives in the developing world. I first became aware of these programs many years ago when I visited a Ten Thousand Villages store. But let's face it, it's easy to feel like you're being altruistic when you go home with fantastically beautiful handmade products that cost so little. What a hero I am. Not. Kiva does the same kind of thing, but in some ways it's even better because of the human connection: you can help someone start or maintain a small business by simply lending them money that is over 99% guaranteed to be paid back.
I just visited Kiva.org and decided to find an entrepreneur who is somehow connected to art-making. Makes sense, right? There were a number of Cambodian silk weavers profiled, and after looking through them I decided to lend $25 to Chantha Thou. It couldn't have been easier, especially as I have a Paypal account.
Can I interest anyone in joining me to help Chantha raise the $425 she still needs? Her story is here. I love the idea of a community of bloggers choosing an individual entrepreneur-in-need and then banding together to lend them the needed funds.
If not, check out the website anyway, read up about Kiva, and maybe you'll see someone else you'd like to partner with.