Like me, I suspect many in the blogosphere are deeply cynical about governments both domestic and foreign. We tend, for example, to despair of governments' capacity to bring about meaningful change when it receives or gives foreign aid. The recent imbroglio over the termination of CIDA support for KAIROS is but one example of many that come to mind. The slow nature of the reconstruction efforts in Haiti is another.
In this season of giving, many turn their thoughts to philanthropy that benefits people in other parts of the world. For those seeking such an opportunity, I would like to suggest an entity that has a tremendous track record and one which I volunteer with. That entity is Kiva.
A fine example of an NGO doing tremendous work in the developing world, Kiva uses a particular model of microfinance that will appeal to many. For as little as $25, a person can lend to an entrepreneur from an extensive list of people seeking to better their lives and the lives of their families through a slow and gradual development and expansion of their businesses.
One of the exciting aspects of Kiva is that all of the money lent goes to the recipient through a finance organization in the target country. Each financial entity, before becoming a partner with Kiva, is carefully vetted, with Kiva performing all of the due diligence to determine its viability and adherence to philanthropic lending policy. Once the loan is repaid, the lender has the option of either receiving back the money or re-lending. (I should warn you that the lending can become addictive!)
Kiva receives nothing from the loan, depending extensively on both donations and a large network of volunteers to do most its work, including the translation and editing of loan descriptions.
So if you a seeking a worthy cause that requires only a small commitment of funds, I heartily recommend and endorse Kiva.