Senior Ashley Elliott spends her vacations traveling around the world and helping those in need

By Tommy Sneider
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How did you first get interested in mission trips?
I have gone to church forever so that, along with my family, got me interested. I started going to fundraisers such as walkathons, and I just decided that I wanted to get involved. They asked me to be a youth advisor, and so I went and have been involved ever since.

Where have you gone?
So far three times to Belize, but this summer I have other opportunities to go to some other places like Haiti. In the future I want to go to Africa and basically everywhere, so we’ll see.

What kinds of things have you gotten to do to help others?
When I went to Belize, we went to five different schools. I’ve gotten to teach English classes to the people there and also helped paint and restore houses and other construction. One year, we also helped with flood damage since there were really bad floods, and I got to help lead a church service, so that was cool.

What kinds of feelings do you get after seeing what impact you have had on them?
Well, when you first see them and see that things aren’t good, it just tugs at your heart, and when you give a toy or something to the kids it just makes their days. It kind of makes you look at your world in a completely different way.

Tell me about your favorite experience on one of the trips.
We were doing flood relief, and we went to a family that was way out in the middle of the jungle. When we passed by their house, we couldn’t really tell it was a house, but we got to give them shoes and other things to help them, and they were always smiling. When we asked them why they were so happy even after what they had gone through, they said they were happy because other families had lost sons or other family members, but they all still had each other.

What is your least favorite part?
Coming home. It’s like a reverse culture shock. You have to realize you’ve changed as a person because of the experience, but others haven’t so that’s probably the hardest part.

What are you going to do now that you are a senior? Do you still plan to continue?
I’m still going to go to college at IU. I’m going to major in management while focusing on non-profit. This summer I might have an internship for an organization in Florida, and so I’d spend a month there and some time in Haiti to get a feel of both sides of the organization.

What other places do you think about going to in the future and why?
I have a heart for Central America because I’ve seen lots of things there, but I don’t want to limit myself because I’ll go wherever I get called to go.

How do you think you are making a difference in people’s lives?
I hope I’ve shown that there is compassion in all of us and that not everyone is stuck up and that there are people in the world that care.

What do you see as the most fulfilling part of going on these trips?
Probably that I have learned more about who I am and who I want to be.

If you could tell the world one thing what would it be?
The world’s a lot bigger than we think it is. We need to open our eyes to the needs of others and to not live in such a selfish lifestyle.