Ashley Cook poses with her World Race t-shirts she is selling as a fundraiser. She must save $16,000 total for her 11-month trip. Photo credit: Amy Wetzel

With graduation on the horizon, panic is slowly settling in for most of the seniors who don’t know their plans after May 10. For one senior, Ashley Cook, graduation brings about an exciting opportunity.

After graduation, Cook will be participating in the World Race. She will journey with a small group of 7-8 people throughout Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. That’s 11 countries – all in 11 months.

Cook will go to training camp for this massive trip from July 6-16. There, she will prepare for her trip, and she will find out her actual departure date. Right now, she knows she will depart somewhere between Sept. 1 and Sept. 7.

The World Race is a journey where participants trek to eleven different countries for eleven months to minister and provide aid around the world. The World Race was first founded in 2006, when the first group went to Mexico and found themselves sleeping on streets and knocking on doors. Their goal was to “serve the least of these” in each country they visited.

This pioneering group believed there should be a better way to organize this kind of trip, so they roused up interest and created a program. They aid groups of roughly fifty people, which are then broken down into smaller groups of seven to eight people, to travel around the world together

When traveling around the world with fifty strangers, it’s best to contact them beforehand, and that is exactly what happens on Friday nights. Cook chats to her teammates and established connections. Everyone expresses excitement in these conversations, which mirrors the excitement that Cook feels in wanting to do the world race.

Leaving home for almost a year without family and friends is difficult, but Cook only sees excitement.

“Since I was a kid I always wanted to travel the world and [I[ have a strange fascination with going places,” Cook said.

This is not Cook’s first trip out of the country, nor her first time helping the less fortunate. She went on a mission trip to Honduras with a team from ENC last year, and has since been praying for something long term.

Preparing for this mission trip has been a bg leap of faith for Cook, but she believes God will provide for her. For one thing, this trip doesn’t come cheap. Before she leaves in mid-September, Cook aims to raise ten thousand dollars, just partially covering the sixteen thousand dollar adventure.

This sort of intense fundraising requires a lot of creativity. If you need a hand decorated cup or a mason jar, Cook has you covered. As part of her fundraising, Cook is decorating mugs with oil-based Sharpies for people. Cook is also selling shirts and setting up donation jars around the ENC campus.

If that wasn’t enough, Cook founded the donation idea called “Kisses Goodbye.” This is a gift system where people can write an encouraging note to friends or teachers and attach a Hershey’s chocolate kiss.Being a full time student limits Cook’s amount of fundraising time, but she’s putting in copious amounts of effort in order to fund her trip, and the community has been there to support her.

“I would just like to thank everyone that has given me the encouragement and has helped out as much as they could. We are all college students and money might be tough for some us right now,” Cook said.

This tough journey has forced her out of her comfort zone, but with the amount of passion she has for this trip, she said that she welcomes the change.

“It has been a truly and humbling experience being on this adventure. The adventure has already started and I’m not even on the race yet. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me,” Cook said.

If you want to follow Ashley’s journey, follow her on her blog to read her daily posts, meet her squad, or donate money to her 11-month, life changing journey.