We left for Illinois with pitch black darkness to guide the way, caravaning in spacious minivans. The next few hours, a blur of sleeping, truck drivers responding to the “Jesus loves truckers” painted on the van, and bonding games, passed fairly quickly. Upon arrival we were given our assignments, mine to refurbish a women’s domestic violence shelter.
My emotions only intensified as I began working and speaking with the women who owned the shelter, both named Rachel and both filled with unbelievable amounts of compassion. They described their general idea: to use a second hand knickknack store to fund a safe-house for victims of abuse. However, it was when they elaborated on this idea that their kindness became even more apparent. This was not a cold shelter with one level and bleak walls where women could reflect on their awful circumstances. The walls were vibrant and painted with inspirational quotes. The bedrooms were cushy and homey, no harshness to be found. It was a place where some, but not all, of the fear and pain could be alleviated. Most importantly—this was a place where hope could be restored.
The physical labor completed was substantial, creating a garden in the backyard and painting several rooms, but not the most important thing we left behind in Illinois. We all had love working through our calloused hands, and despite the scratches and muddied knees, we didn’t want to go home. When we left, we left with the confidence that we had affected in some way or another, countless women’s lives.
That summer made me realize that my life isn’t just mine. If I didn’t utilize my life as a device to aid others, I would never be satisfied. In the months that followed I did abundant amounts of research on domestic and sexual abuse rates. The statistics showed appalling figures, especially in nations such as South Africa, with more than 65,000 sexual assault cases per year. Even more appalling, the majority of cases dealing with sexual assault remain unreported, and domestic violence cases are rarely ever reported. If given ten thousand dollars, I would kickstart a fund dedicated to building a safe shelter in South Africa for women who have suffered from sexual or domestic violence. Here, the shelter would provide protection, necessities, and funds to aid the women in creating new lives for themselves. I have faith that I was meant to attend that mission trip, which led to my discovery of a philanthropy I am passionate about. Women need support to overcome such unpleasant situations, and I am making it my job to help.
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