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Erin Graves and a Swazi woman at a wedding in Eswatini. Graves did not share the names of Swazi women and girls Hosea’s Heart worked with for their safety. (Contributed)

Erin Graves considers herself blessed to have been able to travel the world. From Puerto Rico to Europe to Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, which is located in the southern part of Africa, she has ministered and worked with women who have been victims of abuse all around the globe.

Graves lives in El Dorado now, working for Murphy USA, but she is continuing the work she started in Sept. 2018 in Eswatini by fundraising for Hosea’s Heart, a nonprofit centered on Christian faith, social justice and empowerment, which works to assist victims of sexual abuse and trafficking in Eswatini with education, safe housing and emotional restoration.

“Due to its gruesome nature, it is difficult for some to fathom that sex trafficking is a reality. … Thousands of adults and children are sold to the sex/pornography industry every day,” Graves said. “No one can imagine the pain that reveals itself during recovery.”

According to a 2016 report from the United Nations International Labor Organization, 4.8 million people, 9.67% of the estimated 24.9 million people in forced labor globally, are victims of sex trafficking; the report says women and girls are the primary victims of sex trafficking and forced labor more generally, making up 99% of sex trafficking victims and 58% of all forced labor victims.

Residents at an orphanage in Eswatini dance during an outreach event Erin Graves participated in as a volunteer for Hosea’s Heart. (Contributed)

Hosea’s Heart builds from the foundation of the Christian faith to help sex abuse victims in Eswatini “renew, rebuild and restore,” Graves said. In addition to the organization’s ministry, girls from eight to 18 are given physical security in safe housing, education based on curriculum used in the United States and the option of making goods that are sold through the organization to raise money to increase its scope.

“They make purses, paper beads and other items that can be found on the website for purchase,” Graves said. “My main objective is to raise funds for their school building.”

Hosea’s Heart is currently working to raise about $89,000 to fund the construction of a school building that Graves said will include six classrooms, two bathrooms, a library, three staff offices and a storage room; it will also accommodate four girls in need of a safe haven, she said.

“About $10,000 has already been donated to cover one of the staff offices and the storage room, as well as waterproofing and glazing for the building,” Graves said. “As a former teacher, I understand that this building is essential to not only their education but their livelihood. We teach U.S. curriculum which will allow them to complete state testing in the event that they have the funds to attend school in the U.S. Their education builds the foundation for them to be successful.”

Graves said she is happy to give presentations on the subject of sex abuse and ways Hosea’s Heart helps girls and young women to churches, businesses or other organizations interested in raising awareness on the issue and/or helping to fundraise. She can be reached at 870-315-1311 or [email protected]

“Once you experience life with these young women, you can never release them from your heart,” Graves said. “I am just trying to do my part stateside to help them get the resources they need to succeed.”

Erin Graves does a Swazi’s girl’s hair at her home in Manzini, Eswatini. Graves did not share the names of Swazi women and girls Hosea’s Heart worked with for their safety. (Contributed)

To learn more about Hosea’s Heart and its mission, visit hoseasheart.org. Graves said the organization raises funds through its website for projects and sponsorships for Swazi women.

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