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Volunteer!

Your Own Personal Foreign Policy

I think most of us feel helpless in the face of the world's suffering, and ask, "How could I, one person, help in any meaningful way?"

Well, I learned in Kosovo that each of us can do something. Each of us can make a difference.

I encourage you to pay attention to events in the rest of the world, to learn about other societies and cultures. Learn about the impact of America's actions on people in other countries.

And then decide what impact you want to have. Develop your own Personal Foreign Policy based upon your own personal ideals and values.

As the writer James Hillman tells us, "Pick one place where your heart can connect to the world's problems."

And then volunteer your help in that place.

You have access to hundreds - thousands! - of volunteer opportunities throughout the world. Whether it's short-term volunteering in crisis situations or helping with long term projects like the rebuilding of villages in war-torn countries. Whether you are a college student or a senior citizen. Whether your skills lie in teaching or carpentry or art or farming.

You can make a difference.

See for yourself what I mean. Go to the website created by the United Nations Volunteer Program in partnership with several international aid organizations. The link to the website is to your left on this page. The site lists many international aid organizations that need volunteers, and offers valuable insights into the international volunteer experience.

But please, before you volunteer to go abroad to help, examine your motives. Be sure that you are not trying to "Americanize" anyone, or change their religion or basic way of life. Be sure that you simply want to provide the help they need.

Choose a reputable organization engaged in projects that will have a positive, long-term impact on the area where you work. If you don't have the skills to be useful, make sure the organization will train you in those skills.

And then - Volunteer! Demonstrate your own compassion, and the compassionate face of America. Connect with people in other parts of our planet. It will be the most meaningful, rewarding experience of your life.