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Alumna Spotlight: Charmika Schuster '94, Founder of Global Mustard Seeds

Charmika Schuster ’94 embodies the spirit of St. Mary’s Academy with her strong sense of determination, dedication to serving her community and belief that women are capable of becoming strong leaders and catalysts for change. Charmika made her mark in the Portland community and beyond as a nurse practitioner, winner of the 2012 Oregon Nurse of the Year Award in Community Health and as the founder of Global Mustard Seeds, a nonprofit organization that empowers communities in developing countries through mobile healthcare.

Charmika developed a passion for helping communities abroad throughout her career. While working on her master of public health degree with a focus on global health disparities, she gained a better understanding of global health needs. Trips to Africa in 2007 and Haiti in 2010 opened her eyes to the lack of access to medical care in developing countries and the value of partnering with local talent who understand the needs within those communities. These experiences compelled her to find a way to bring resources available in the United States to communities abroad through the organization she founded, Global Mustard Seeds. “I developed a deep passion for mobile healthcare and going to people where they are.”

Despite having a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish through Global Mustard Seeds, Charmika faced several setbacks such as struggling to obtain funding and support to establish the organization. Charmika was committed to her goals and continued to make trips abroad to partner with local doctors in developing countries, eventually finding others who wanted to join her invaluable mission. Shortly after the Catholic Sentinel published an article about Charmika’s work, she met a local business leader who helped her establish Global Mustard Seeds as a certified nonprofit organization. Since then, Global Mustard Seeds has organized several mobile clinics in Haiti, with hopes to expand to other parts of the world.

Charmika credits her experience at St. Mary’s for inspiring her career path and cultivating her commitment to serving those in need. Charmika was quick to name Mo Connolly Daschel ’77 and the school’s emphasis in Chemistry and Biology as key factors that led her down the path towards a career as a nurse practitioner. She was also influenced by the focus on Catholic values and the many opportunities to serve in leadership roles. “I love how empowering it is to see women in leadership roles. Seeing that at SMA and having the opportunity to learn about Christ and His teachings was a solid foundation for me. I was inspired to make an impact on a global level.”

Through her career achievements and work with Global Mustard Seeds, Charmika inspires many, especially current and future students of St. Mary’s Academy. She hopes that “many more young girls, regardless of their finances, are able to have access to the all-female Catholic experience” from which she benefited. “I pray that future SMA girls will seek out opportunities to serve their communities and strive to go beyond what is expected of them to be the one that stands out. That’s what I learned at St. Mary’s.”