Abused and at-risk women in Africa get help from local teen

Rachel Schuster took a mission trip in June to help women in Africa

A recent La Crescent High School graduate is back in the United States after traveling to Africa to help provide abused and at-risk women a refuge at the nonprofit “Hope for life” home.

It’s been a dream of Rachel Schuster’s to visit the women in Swaziland ever since she started hearing about them four years ago.

She even started a fundraiser to help raise money for them. Now she got the chance to finally meet them in person, and she said it was an incredible experience.

A little more than a month ago, 18-year-old Schuster was getting ready for a trip of a lifetime

“I was so nervous and excited,” said Schuster.

Now, she’s reminiscing about it by going through about 350 pictures.

“I really connected with Lawanda and Cindy, who I tutored,” said Schuster.

In June, Schuster packed her bags and headed over to Swaziland, Africa, on a mission trip through Hosea’s Heart, which is a nonprofit organization started by a former teacher of Schuster’s.

“It was really cool to see her as a motherly figure and not a teacher,” said Schuster.

The goal is to give women a safe haven and a home to call their own.

“They are at risk for abuse or they have been abused, or they were in prostitution or their family life isn’t safe,” said Schuster.

After hearing stories about the women in school, Schuster finally got the chance to meet them.

“We pulled up to the girls homes and they were outside, there was a fire and like we pulled into the driveway and they all ran out, to the car and started banging on the windows,” said Schuster.

Schuster said she immediately felt a connection and within minutes, she felt like she had known them forever.

“The girls gave me a tour around the house,” said Schuster. “We made name tags for all the girls rooms with the paper and markers we brought.”

Looking back, Schuster can’t believe the trip is over, but the lessons she learned and the relationships she created will last a lifetime.

“It has definitely made me focus on the good things in life and not be so upset about little things that happen, because in reality those things probably don’t matter. And trying not to be so judgmental and just accepting of others because you never know what their story is,” said Schuster.        

Hosea’s Heart is in the process of raising enough funds to open a second “Hope for Life” home in Swaziland for more women in need.