microcredit "loans that change lives"

From Worldchanging.com, via NextBillion.net, is the story of Kiva, a charitable organization that lets individuals make small loans (starting at $25) to other individuals in rural areas of the developing world (currently, they are all in Uganda) who have, or are starting, their own businesses. Since it's a loan, the lender receives the money back (without interest) 6-12 months later, as well as receiving e-mail updates on the businesses you choose to sponsor. Kiva was founded by Jessica and Matthew Flannery, who have experience in microcredit development in Africa, and in software engineering.

From their About page:
Kiva is the first and only existing option for you to make a loan to a unique microenterprise. No other organization offers the opportunity to loan - instead of, or in addition to, making a donation - to a real person and then get your money back. Furthermore, when you loan to a Kiva business, every dollar you loan goes to that business. Kiva is a very low-overhead organization that raises money offline to support its small budget. None of the money you loan goes to fund administrative costs.

Direct, real-time, one-to-one connection. The individuals featured on our website are real people who need a microloan. They are waiting for socially-minded individuals like you to lend them money. They will not receive a loan until a Kiva lender provides it. Our data is real, not representative. Once funded, sponsored entrepreneurs are diligently tracked and the real results of their efforts are propagated through email updates and on our website.

I love that you can read about the people whose businesses are being supported, and follow along with how they're doing.