It is admirable that you want to have a positive impact on people’s lives abroad. After all, that should be why you signed up to volunteer, and that is one of the main reasons why Cosmic exists.
But please understand that you will not “save the world” during your volunteering trip abroad.
In fact if you even have the phrase “save the world” in your vocabulary, you are in for a rude awakening abroad and your stay will be filled with major disappointment and disillusionment.
A typical pattern of some foreign volunteers is to show up in the local community, see an endless number of problems to be solved, start to make elaborate plans to solve those problems, work feverishly on executing those plans – then, ultimately experience a great deal of frustration when they realize that they have taken on too much, too quickly, without sufficient direction and knowledge of local people. New travelers seem to experience this dynamic even more acutely.
Our advice for your is to “work small.” As Chinese Buddhism says, “The sage does not attempt anything big.” Focus your efforts in the host country on one person, one project at a time, because small successes lead to big accomplishments over time.
For example, if you are at an orphanage, simply focus on giving the children your time, your caring, and love. Yes the orphanage might need a new roof, or more books, or even medicines for the children – and you can help out with those projects if you wish; but focus first on the kids and making them feel loved.