I just went to a party, and on the invitation I was confronted with the "your presence is present enough" line, meaning no gifts. However, in situations like this, I always bring a gift, because God-forbid I'm the only one who actually listens. But on this invitation, it said if you still want to buy something for the host, you could buy a gift certificate to Kiva. org, which I knew nothing about. So I did some investigating.
It turns out Kiva is a micro-lending site, that lets you "lend money to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world -- empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty." Already interesting, I thought.
So, you lend someone as little as $25 and over 6 months to a year, you get updates on how your entrepreneur is doing and his/her repayment schedule. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend it to someone else.
This speaks to me on a variety of levels. First, it helps people help themselves, which I'm a big believer in. Second, there's tremendous transparency about how your money is being used so you never feel like you're paying for some non-profit's expensive logo redesign. And third, many of the entrepreneurs are woman, and as a female entrepreneur myself, I can't help but feel a special kinship.
So if you have an extra $25, and want help someone make a better life, like Mrs. Zainabu Mariam of Uganda, who is still trying to raise $625 to to buy charcoal to sell, check it out.