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In the age of celebrity activism, social justice and a renewed passion by the Church to get involved in practical outreach initiatives, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with where to start. And though it’s important to find long-term ways to get involved and make a difference through social action, it’s sometimes difficult to find groups that can help you make an immediate impact. We’ve spotlighted five organizations that you can check out today and get involved.

Kiva
Kiva.org
Many economists believe that microfinance may be a key solution to helping break the cycle of poverty in poor communities around the world. Kiva hopes to utilize this strategy by equipping lenders to connect with Field Partners, who locate at-need entrepreneurs in developing nations. The lenders establish a small interest rate and determine a timetable for the loan to be paid back. The loans (which are usually in the amount of a few hundred dollars) go to help entrepreneurs purchase items that can provide for their families and communities with sustainable sources of income. Kiva users can look at the profiles of specific entrepreneurs and track the progress of the businesses and loan repayments.

The idea of microfinance has been a popular topic among humanitarian think-tanks because it not only helps provide communities in need with sources of income, it also provides a practical introduction to basic business principles that let people have a key role in helping themselves as well as their families.

World Vision
worldvision.org
World Vision continues to be one of the leading Christian aid organizations in the world. It was founded in 1950 with the vision of helping children orphaned in the Korean War and has since expanded into almost 100 countries around the globe, finding solutions to problems facing communities and individuals living in extreme poverty.

Today they offer a variety of ways for concerned individuals to get involved and make an immediate impact. Here, they have a list of nations where World Vision has on-going projects with links to donate and get involved. During the holidays, World Vision distributes catalogues that feature items that can help families in need. The catalogue contains the prices and order forms for people to buy agricultural equipment, livestock, clean water devices, sporting goods, blankets and other items that can be shipped to specified communities.

World Vision is perhaps best known for their child sponsorship programs, which connect donors with children in need. Donors can commit to pay around $30 a month to help provide their child with education resources and support for their family. Donors receive regular updates from the children and even get personal correspondence with their sponsored kid.

Volunteer Match
Volunteermatch.org
If your passion is to find organizations and causes in your local community, this site can help you connect with people in your neighborhood. Just enter your zip code, and the database at Volunteermatch.org pulls up an in-depth chart of different opportunities to get involved. The site breaks down the location, dates and age groups for different causes and events. You can even filter your results so that you can easily find specific groups that are taking part in issues you are passionate about.

If you are already involved in an organization or know of groups that aren’t included at the site, Volunteermatch.org also provides contact info to help get the word out. Currently, there are more than 55,000 nonprofits listed on the site, and it’s still growing.

The Freecycle Network
Freecycle.org

See Also

Freecycle.org maintains the same random (and lo-fi) classified-ads feel of sites like Craig’s List, expect everything listed is free. The nonprofit organization, officially called The Freecycle Network (TFN) operates under the slogan “Changing the world one gift at a time,” and since it launched it in 2003, millions have taken part in the gift exchange. The idea is pretty simple. People who have extra stuff can post descriptions on the site, and people who are interested in taking it can come and get it.

The goal of the organization is to decrease the amount of goods that end up in landfills and provide a way for members of communities to meet the needs of their neighbors. TFN (which is active in 85 countries) also relies on local community chapters, which help organize and moderate the rapidly expanding site through Yahoo groups that host message boards and listings about the goods. Because of the site’s simple design, you can easily navigate and find out information about Freecycle communities in your area.

24/7 Prayer
www.24-7prayer.com
For almost 10 years, the 24/7-prayer movement has been a growing revolution of non-stop prayer. It started in 1999 when the young adults at a church in the U.K. decided to commit to creating a room where prayer would take place for 24 hours a day for an entire month (with different groups taking shifts to pray). The movement soon caught on at other local churches, and soon, there were prayer rooms established throughout the U.K.

Now, at 24-7prayer.com, the movement has gone global with the website serving as an online hub of virtual prayer rooms, connecting passionate believers around the world. The site has continued to grow, and new users can easily register to join 24/7prayer.com and pray for the needs of others, view interactive maps that track prayer sessions, keep prayer journals and network with others. There’s even a “wailing wall” message board where users can post their own needs, praise reports and requests.

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