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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 2, 2010

Duffy enters the World Race for humanitarianism

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — When college freshman Theresa Duffy first saw the Adventures in Missions website four years ago, her jaw hit the ground. Reading blogs about the teams of Christian missionaries working in 11 countries in 11 months fascinated her, and kept her coming back to the website throughout college.

“I was all set to go to grad school,” said Duffy, 22, an Elmira College 2010 graduate. She told her professors about her interest in the World Race, the year-long ministry run by Adventures in Missions, and they encouraged her to apply and defer graduate school for a year.

“So, that’s what I did,” she said. “We start in the Philippines, then we go to Malaysia, India, Thailand, Cambodia…” The itinerary, Duffy said, is listed on her own World Race blog.

Duffy graduated from Guilderland High School in 2006, and, while in high school, attended St. Madeleine Sophie Church. Asked if she had ever imagined going to Cambodia, Duffy said, “Oh, no way! I would have thought, ‘What would I ever want to go there, for?’ ”

During her freshman year, Duffy, a psychology major with a minor in marketing, wrote a paper on sex trafficking in Asia, and on children forced to be soldiers in Uganda. Self Help and Empowerment, or SHE, works with women in Cambodia and Thailand to provide them with clothing, training, and jobs that keep them out of bars and prostitution, Duffy said. Invisible Children works to rehabilitate former child soldiers who have been kidnapped and forced to kill for warring militias.

“Now, through the World Race, I get to work with these organizations,” Duffy said.

Duffy is packing her backpack, but bringing her laptop, as daily blog-keeping is part of the agreement for joining the mission. Once her team of six volunteers arrives in a country, it stays with a host family for the entire month of service, and then flies to a different country.

In addition to helping Invisible Children and SHE, the team will volunteer at sports camps and vacation Bible schools. “It’s all sorts of ministry all year long,” Duffy said.

Duffy has experience with camps. She has worked as a YMCA sleep-away camp counselor in Colorado, gone ocean kayaking in California, and backpacked among sequoias. She even took a fun backpacking trip to India as a freshman.

“I really love the outdoors,” she said.

Her team consists of four women and two men between the ages of 21 and 25. World Race applicants must be between 21 and 35, according to the Adventures in Missions website. The age limitation, Duffy said, is because of the physical toll of backpacking for a year. Duffy’s team met last month at a Georgia training camp for all 36 members of the “squad” that will begin its race Sept. 13. Each team in the squad has a different itinerary.

Part of the training helped volunteers learn about different cultures and customs, she said, and part focused on safety. Team-building was a major component of the training, too, she said.

“They put a lot of effort into making sure we mesh with our team members, and that they strengthen our character,” Duffy said.

Her biggest projects now are packing — “getting everything packed for a year into a backpack” — and fund-raising for her trip. Volunteers are expected to raise almost $15,000 for their year’s work.

“I have $5,000 now. My goal is $8,000 by the end of summer,” Duffy said. According to the Adventures in Missions website, no volunteers have ever had to leave the race midway, and many racers begin without having the complete amount at the start. The $15,000 includes 11 international flights and room and board for the year, Duffy said.

She has some monthly sponsors, a few corporate sponsors, and many one-time donors who have helped with her fund-raising. Her blog at www.theresaduffy.theworldrace.org has a “donate here” tab. Keeping her daily blog helps donors see “how their money is affecting the world,” Duffy said.

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