A globetrotting friend of mine has developed a wonderful tradition of purchasing small, easy to carry hand crafted items from local artisans during her travels.
Once home, she throws her increasingly popular "Jan's Collection" home parties, where women friends, family members, and friends-of-friends gather to 'purchase' the items for the cash donation of their choice.
Next trip, she funnels the donations back to the next group of artisans through a new cache of purchases and repeats the process. It's her version of microfinancing on a macro scale.
Travelers like Jan are living proof that we don't have to be Bill Gates to make a difference.
For those of you wishing to bankroll a global entrepreneur without ever leaving home..
Kiva.org 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.