makes micro-loans to very poor people to whose businesses a few hundred bucks can make the difference between climbing out of the hole and not. It's sort of like sponsoring a child, but it's sponsoring a business.
Right now (thanks to BoingBoing) they're overwhelmed, but check back in a bit.
Micro-loans are the very cool idea that rather than funding a $500 million dam to provide hydropower to a whole region, often what a village really needs is a $250 hand-cranked pump for the well. Or, for example, big $5 plastic rolling drums for water so that the women don't have to carry the water on their heads. Micro-loans are also too small to be worth stealing, so the President-for-Life's brother doesn't get to dip his hand in.
If they don't pay the loan back, you're out the money -- consider it a donation. But so far that hasn't happened.