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5 Ways to Help People Through the Web

December 08, 2008
by Erin Harris
December is a month for giving; not only to your nearest and dearest, but to everyone who could use some help. These five Web sites show you how to lend a hand to people in need all year without ever leaving your chair. Go online to help launch a business overseas, fight worldwide hunger or donate used goods. You might even get something in return, such as knowledge of a new language or the perfect gift.

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My Language Exchange allows you to teach someone your language, while you learn hers. Partners learn how to read, write and (thanks to audio apps like Skype) speak one another’s language. The site provides users with lesson plans, so you won’t have to come up with all the material yourself. It also hosts text chat rooms and offers tools like machine translators and word games. Take this opportunity to share your knowledge and free time with someone else, while learning something valuable and making a friend in the process. Fit in lessons when it’s convenient for you, whether that means sending your partner an e-mail before lunch or talking for hours with him on the weekend. 

Help families in need and save the environment by donating gently used books, clothing and other goods via Zwaggle. Earn points for donating used merchandise and use these points to get items that your own family needs. By recycling everything from DVDs and musical instruments to strollers and sporting gear, this system really cuts down on environmental waste. By allowing members to search for exactly the items that they need, Zwaggle ensures that your donations are going to good use.

Provide a microloan to an entrepreneur in a developing country through Kiva. You can make a loan as small as $25; every little bit helps these ambitious business owners. Search through profiles of entrepreneurs to learn about their business aspirations and the amount of funding they need. Kiva works closely with more than 100 microfinance institutions in various countries to ensure that loans are repaid on time, usually within 6–12 months. Since the site’s launch, Kiva lenders have raised enough money to help more than 40,000 borrowers in 40 different countries start their own businesses and raise themselves out of poverty.
Shop eco-friendly at ClickGreener. Simply select your favorite store from the drop-down box, such as Barnes & Noble or the Apple Store, make your purchase, and ClickGreener will donate 51 percent of the referral fee it receives from the story to an environmental nonprofit organization. The Canadian site partners with organizations focused on climate change initiatives, renewable energy, wildlife conservation and tree planting.

Visit The Hunger Site to alleviate starvation around the world. Select the yellow “Click Here to Give” button on the home page and site sponsors pay for a cup of food to aid the hungry. The Hunger Site works in collaboration with Mercy Corps and Feeding America, two organizations that distribute the food to hungry people in more than 74 countries. If you have time and want to contribute more, browse the site’s store, where you can purchase fair trade jewelry, crafts, clothing and more to benefit the cause. To date, visitors have funded more than 500 million cups of staple food through The Hunger Site.
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