Thanks to microlending websites, your students can put lessons into practice by helping people on the other side of the world start businesses, go to college, or buy livestock.

If you wanted to make a difference in the world when you were a kid, how did you do it?

For me, “making a difference” meant setting up a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway to raise money that I would send off to the causes that I cared about. And while I really enjoyed the whole process, I didn’t make significant change in the world. There were only so many neighbors willing to buy Dixie cups full of lemonade!

Even as an adult, “making a difference” usually meant delivering food to homeless shelters or serving meals to the needy on Thanksgiving. While both of those practices made a difference in the local community, they had little impact on life beyond my town’s boundaries.

But things have changed for anyone who wants to make a difference today. With nothing more than commitment to a cause and an Internet connection, you can take action that makes a difference on the other side of the world.

My own efforts to incorporate cause-driven learning into my 6th-grade grade language arts and social studies classroom started with Kiva, a microlending website that pairs interested lenders in the developed world with people in the developing world who are working to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their families by starting small businesses. With the support of Kiva-vetted social service agencies in poor countries across the world, lenders — regular people like you and I — are literally changing lives, one interest-free, $25 loan at a time.

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