Student to travel 11 countries

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Many students plan to face the real world upon graduation with business suits and briefcases, but this is not the case for junior environmental science and sustainability double major Gwen Debaun.  Instead of stocking up on professional attire, Debaun bought a sleeping bag, packed a backpack, and signed up for a great adventure: The World Race.

The World Race is a ministry that sends missionaries to 11 countries over the span of 11 months. The small teams are made up of six to 10 people, ranging in age from 21 to 40, and there are routes all over the world. Although each team sets out with a specific route assignment, that is subject to change for various reasons. Debaun will spend one month each in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Haiti, Swaziland, Botswana and South Africa.

For Debaun, everything started last fall when she went to Washington, D.C. with the Lugar Academy, where she was associated with a church dedicated to helping others. After hearing what members said about mission trips, nationally and internationally, and having been on a few mission trips in high school, she began to want to go on a trip of her own. She wanted to use her degree to help others through environmental mission work.

“I am definitely excited to help people, but I am more excited to create relationships while doing it,” Debaun said. “It’s not just me going and serving people. It’s me changing as a person while I am doing it, too. I don’t have a checklist that I want to fulfill and all of these sorts of things. I felt called to do that.”

The World Race relies on relationships with host partners in each country. These host partners may be churches, nonprofit organizations, schools, orphanages or other ministries. Debaun gained experience in this type of relationship throughout high school and college, and she feels prepared to represent organizations that are on the ground year round.

As a college student, Debaun made the decision to drop out of college for two semesters.

“My parents don’t really agree with my decision. They think I should finish college before I ever do something like this. But the good thing is that they are coming around,” Debaun said. “My friends, though, are being very supportive with my idea, and that really helps me continue.”

When the mission is completed in 11 months, Debaun said that she is not sure whether she will come back to finish her bachelor’s degree. She said that depends on whether she enjoys the experience to which she currently looks forward.

The trip is costly. Debaun said she was tasked with raising almost $17,000 and still has about $12,000 to go. This cost covers food, lodging, travel, training, debriefing and more.

Raising the funds is a crucial part of the journey. Because of this, monetary donations play a large part in her goal to achieve her dream.

Debaun has a fundraising site and blog, which allows people to donate money to help her financially, and in meeting the December and June deadlines that were given. She does not have to have all the money before she leaves for the trip Debaun said she can continue to raise funds while abroad.

People can follow Debaun’s adventure, see what country she is in and help her cause by going to her blog site at: The World Race launches three times a year, and Debaun’s trip is scheduled to begin in January.

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