The concept of microloans has intrigued me for a while. Loaning $500 might be all it takes for someone in the third world — or any non-superpower nation, really — to start a successful small business, or to get a college degree.

The latter is the concept behind Vittana, which aims to allow microfinanciers — you and me — to invest in the college educations of people in impoverished nations. “Student 1” (based on IDs in the URL) is MarĂ­a, who was given a $291 loan. She’s already repaid $146 of it. That money enabled her to move out of $63/month job into a $208/month career, a 333% jump. And she hopes to go back for accounting at a later date.

Granted, it’s somewhat voyeuristic. But that directness makes it harder to resist — how can you not help Octavio go to school to major in computers, or help Tirza achieve her dream of becoming a pharmacist?

Best of all? It’s a loan, and they have a 97% repayment rate. You’re not donating $100, you’re loaning $100. That makes it easier to give (more), but it also means that, when you’re repaid, you could invest it right back in another student.

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