Avni and Her Gold Award

“I wish I had 10 of her I could hire right now!” said Ed Bjurstrom, co-founder of CompassioNow and Compassion Tea Company. He was speaking of a remarkable partner in providing life-saving medical care for people in rural Africa – Avni Patel.


Avni is an exceptional teenager in her sixth year of Girl Scouting. After completing her Bronze and Silver Awards in Scouting, she decided to attempt her Gold Award. The award process is complicated and requires commitment and perseverance as well as creativity and a passion for helping others. So, when Avni, whose mother drinks Compassion Tea, approached us and asked if we could help her earn her Gold Award, we were thrilled!


Avni raised money to purchase surgical instruments to send to Mambalima Hospital in Zambia. Mambalima is both a small hospital and a school for children with disabilities in the rural town of Manba, Zambia. In significant portions of Africa, having a child with a disability is considered a curse on the family. Because subsistence is so difficult in the rural parts of the country, those who can’t add to the farming or other procurement of food are a burden to a family. They are often sent off to school or abandoned. Mambilima strives to provide schooling, love, and medical care for these “cast aways.” During a recent trip to the school through Mission Medic Air for an orthopedic clinic, Dr. Shadrick Lungu and Dr. Martha Lungu treated 31 patients. Drs. Lungu shared that 9 children from the school will need “various forms of surgery” and 4 children will need artificial limbs to be replaced as they have outgrown theirs. The orthopedic instruments Avni acquired will allow the doctors to carry out more of the necessary surgeries there at Mambalima, rather than send the children to a government hospital.


Initially, Avni anticipated being able to find local hospitals that would write-off or donate surgical instruments. “Since a lot of my relatives are doctors that have ties to Zambia, I figured getting donations would be the easiest part of this project, but it actually proved to be the hardest…,” explained Avni in a recent interview. “[Getting] used instruments donated… was my focus for at least a couple of months. With no success, I had to shift to fundraising money to buy the instruments.” Avni learned to negotiate and to be persistent as she sought to find a supplier for the instruments. “I received quotes from companies for as much as $8,000, but luckily TJ Surgical Instruments was able to give me a large discount for the same instruments,” said Avni.


Using her own earnings from a paid summer internship and from her work with Youth Commission and with matching funds from CompassioNow, Avni was able to purchase the required instruments and will be sending them to Zambia soon.


Helping others, especially in Zambia, has been a lifelong pursuit for Avni. “My grandfather grew up in Zambia, and many of my other family members also lived and have ties there. When I was little, I used to do chores around the house to help fund kids in Africa so they could attend school with my grandfather, so this was always a place I had a passion to help…. Wendy [Bjurstrom] had sent me pictures of the kids with handicaps in Zambia. It’s heartbreaking to look at those pictures and think there is no way for them to be helped. I didn’t really realize how fortunate I am to have access to great health care, and hospitals and doctors that are educated and able to perform just about any surgery.”


Said Wendy Bjurstrom, “Avni’s compassion for the handicapped children of Zambia is very tangible. She has been an absolute pleasure to work with on this project!”


“My hope is that at least a handful of these kids are able to get the surgeries they desperately need so they can live their lives as normally and healthily as possible,” concluded Avni.


Avni, our hope is that you continue to find ways to positively impact those around you and we hope to partner with you again soon! May God watch over and bless you!