African Blog

30 Apr

I-See in Uganda

When Wendy Bjurstrom visited Village of Hope Uganda back in August, Dr. Mac and Nurse Susan commented on the number of children at the orphanage who were having trouble seeing. Through donations, CompassioNow was able to purchase one I-See kit for Village of Hope founder Cindy Cunningham to take with her when she went to visit the villages in April of 2014.

The kit includes 2 lens ladders for determining lens power, 2 eye charts, a repair kit, all the necessary tools for conducting a full eye exam, a training DVD, and 200 pairs of glasses.

Steve Saint is the founder of I-Tec, the company that makes the eyeglass kits, as well as the portable dental chair that we sent to Mission Medic Air Zambia last Fall. The primary goal of I-Tec is to determine feasible ways to carry common medical procedures into parts of the world where electricity, clean water, and regular sanitation are considered luxuries. Says Saint, “The organization I started over a decade ago, I-Tec, is in the business of reinventing how things like fixing people’s teeth, curing malaria… are done so that people ‘at the end of the road and beyond’ can have a chance to feel good and see well. And, so they will be favorably disposed to hearing that the Creator of the universe cares about them and has plans for their lives. For years I have wanted to add a vision component to the unorthodox, but extremely practical, healthcare systems we have been reinventing so that those people referred to as ‘the least of these’ in Matthew 25 can find the physical and spiritual comfort they need, but seldom get.”

            Saint adds, “Here is what makes the I-See program so visionary. You dont just go to some far off land and fit a bunch of glasses and leave. No, the idea is that we will not only teach you how to determine who needs glasses… but we will also teach you to teach a local God Follower who lives where you are going, to continue doing what you started – after you leave. Sustainability is the key here.” It is Saint’s goal for those who receive his I-SEE kits to faithfully carry on the work of short-term missionaries long after they have returned. In an ideal case, the missionary will choose and train a successor who will eventually support themselves by offering the “Sight-Enhancement” services that they have learned. It is Saint’s great hope that this individual will ultimately “form a sustaining salary that allows him to spend full time distributing glasses and the Gospel Good News.”

Children at Village of Hope Children living at the Village of Hope Uganda

According to Saint, “In as little as one week and for as little as one to two thousand dollars we can make it possible for Indigenous God Followers to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of people who canʼt meet this need for themselves.”

We at CompassioNow are so excited to provide this service to the orphans at Village of Hope Uganda and see them flourish under the community’s care!

Children We are so excited to be able to see the photos of the kids with their new glasses and their new eyesight!

29 Apr

Visit to Bobi Village

Bobi VillageBobi Village will provide food, shelter, and education for orphans displaced by war in Northern Uganda

This past February, we celebrated with the Village of Hope Uganda as they opened a second village in order to provide a home for more of Uganda’s many orphans and widows displaced by war. Hundreds of children live in IDP camps around the city of Gulu. Each night, these orphans sleep in a mud hut with no mattress, no blankets, and no safety. They become victims of abuse, rape, slave labor, and starvation. The new community, called Bobi Village, houses another 96 children, mostly 6th and 7th Grade students from nearby Gulu.

Orphans at Bobi VillageUgandan war orphans receiving care and shelter at Bobi Village

            The new village is about 90 minutes from the Bweyale Village, where 200 children currently live and attend school. Like the Bweyale Village, the Bobi Village will include homes for the children where they will live together with house moms, as well as a school and a medical clinic. One room in the school will serve as a Sunday morning church for the children, staff, and community. The village will also include farmland, which the children will cultivate to produce their own food. Approximately 40 additional children from the surrounding community will begin their schooling at Bobi Village as well.

Smiley face

            Cindy Cunningham, founder of Village of Hope Uganda, recently explained that $365,000 was needed to build the 4 houses, 1 staff building, 1 school block with 4 classrooms, and the medical clinic, as well as provide for the care of 96 children and compensate all of the staff caring for them. The village currently employs 35 staff members, including, 4 house moms, 8 assistant house moms, 4 teachers, 1 headmaster, 1 nurse, 1 counselor, and 3 security guards. This funding also goes toward furnishings, supplies, and clothing needed for the year. “God has been pretty busy providing! We are so excited!” said Cunningham, regarding the support raised to fund this massive project.

            Through generous gifts from sponsors, CompassioNow was recently able to fund a new nurse for Bobi Village. Her name is Kevin; she is exceptionally experienced, compassionate, and on-call 24/7 – and her salary is just $212 a month. That’s less than many American nurses make in one shift!

Nurse KevinNurse Kevin treats a patient at Bobi Village in Uganda

            Eventually, Cunningham’s vision is for Village of Hope Uganda to house all of the elementary aged children at the new Bobi Village, while older students attending high school and skill training programs will be housed at the larger Bweyale Village.

            We at CompassioNow are thrilled to be partnering with this amazing group that is working to rescue more children from poverty, slavery, and despair.

29 Apr

Supplies for Malawi and Tanzania

CompassioNow is venturing into new projects in an effort to spread life-saving medical care to more parts of Africa. The latest expansion will help to serve the impoverished nation of Malawi, located in Southeast Africa. Through Rock of the Foothills Lutheran Church in LaVerne, CA, Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom learned of the work performed by the Passion Center for Children in Zomba, Malawi. As stated by the center’s mission statement, “The Passion Center for Children serves children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Malawi. We seek to rescue those children at greatest risk, providing food, comfort, medical care, and a safe place to live in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Children at the Passion CenterChildren receiving care from the Passion Center in Malawi
(Image Source: 

Similar to the Community Caregivers program at 1000 Hills in South Africa, the Passion Center runs its own Community Health Network. Team members serve local villages around the Passion Center by providing basic health care, as well as hygiene and sanitation training. They visit TB and HIV/AIDS patients regularly, bringing medicine and supplies. Community Health Network volunteers use bicycles to transport villagers who need more serious, immediate care. Through this outreach, the Health Network helps thousands of villagers who would otherwise have no access to quality healthcare. Currently, the Passion Center is training another 40 volunteers to cover even more nearby villages.

            Rock of the Foothills has accumulated enough medical supplies and medicines to fill a 40-foot container that will be shipped to the Passion Center. It is our hope that the items will serve the center and its Community Health Network for the next four years! CompassioNow has donated thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies to the container, including two wheelchairs, crutches, a walker, and bandage and wound supplies.

Gathering supplies for the Passion CenterKathy Johnson of Rock of the Foothills Lutheran Church gathers supplies for the Passion Center for Children

            CompassioNow is also excited to be sending a donated birthing bed to the Tanzania Christian Clinic. The TCC has been planning and praying for a labor and delivery center to be added to their clinic. With the arrival of this bed, they will be a few steps closer to opening this exciting new service.

Birthing bed for TCCA birthing bed is wrapped and ready for shipment to the Tanzania Christian Clinic

29 Apr

Community Caregivers at 1000 Hills Clinic

At 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa, Dawn Leppan has started a program called “Community Caregivers”. 31 caregivers travel throughout the area surrounding the clinic, always on the lookout for anyone in need of medical help or nourishment. The Caregivers are divided into groups of two and serve a population of approximately 30,000 individuals. If a person is found to be in need, an ambulance is sent to transport them to the clinic.

Caregivers in ambulanceCommunity Caregivers head out in the ambulance to visit homebound patients

The Caregivers are given a food parcel once a month in exchange for their work in the community. They receive weekly training at 1000 Hills to ensure that they are qualified for their positions. Every morning the Caregivers gather together to sing before starting their day at the clinic. During the Bjurstrom’s trip to South Africa, Stina Bjurstrom taught the Caregivers how to take basic health assessments using their newly donated blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, and first aid kits. Praise God that Wendy and Stina were able to successfully deliver these life-saving supplies!

Follow this link to see the Caregivers at 1000 Hills joyfully singing at their Monday morning meeting!

Caregiver trainingWendy, Stina Bjurstrom, RN and Sister Dlimani presented Thandeka with a certificate and a pouch of Compassion Tea after she completed her Caregiver training

            Thoko, one of the Caregivers, looks after a 59 year old man named Petros. Petros is diabetic, has high blood pressure, and is likely HIV positive. In March, both of his feet were amputated. Because the hospital released him far too early, he is often in great pain, especially at night. Unfortunately, his next appointment at a government hospital is months away. There are almost never enough wound dressings at 1000 Hills clinic to keep up with the demand. However, due to the medical supplies that CompassioNow donated, Thoko was supplied with extra dressings to help Petros heal.

Nurses at 1000 HillsSister Dlimani hands Thoko wound dressings donated by CompassioNow; these dressings will be used to treat Petros

            Elphus, another member of the 1000 Hills community, is in the end stages of AIDS. He lives in a tiny, one-room hut, alone and helpless. But because of the Community Caregiver program, Elphus receives regular visits to keep him and his belongings clean, as well as provide compassionate care and comfort during his last days.

            This past Christmas Eve, Dawn Leppan stayed late at the clinic to ensure that every family in her community had something to eat on Christmas day. On Christmas Day itself, she did nothing for herself but go to church and thank God for all of her blessings. It is our sincere prayer that this same selfless spirit encompasses everything that we do at CompassioNow!

29 Apr

Visit to 1000 Hills Clinic

            In September of 2013, two members of our team, Wendy Bjurstrom and her daughter Stina Bjurstrom, RN, spent two weeks working with the clinics in Zambia and South Africa. They flew to Africa bringing with them over 400 pounds of medical supplies and medicines. Three large duffel bags filled with supplies were first delivered to Mission Medic Air in Zambia. These supplies will allow MMA to continue flying doctors, dentists, and ophthalmologists into the bush. Without MMA, these isolated villages would have no other opportunity to receive western style medical treatment.

Wendy and Stina Bjurstrom, RN,  met with the staff of Mission Medic Air in Zambia

Wendy and Stina were also able to deliver a new dental chair to Mission Medic Air during their trip. Purchased with funds from CompassioNow donations, this chair is lightweight and foldable, ideal for dental check-ups during weekly medical visits to remote parts of the bush. The chair and its portable drill are powered by solar batteries. Medical personnel will be able to charge the battery even while hiking to these isolated villages. The chair can also be used during medical exams out in the bush. What a great blessing this is to Mission Medic Air in Zambia!

After meeting with Mission Medic Air, Wendy and Stina flew to South Africa and drove to the Valley of 1000 Hills to spend the week with Dawn Leppan and her staff at the 1000 Hills Community Helpers  Clinic.  Stina recently graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in Nursing.  She was able to utilize her nursing skills by treating patients at the clinic and training the Community Caregivers in using their new, donated stethoscopes from MDF Instruments. These Community Caregivers visit homebound patients in the surrounding clinics, as well as assess the needs of individuals and families in nearby villages.

Stina trains caregivers
Stina Bjurstrom, RN, trains Caregivers in the proper use of their new stethoscopes

Throughout the week, Wendy continually documented the needs of the busy clinic, its patients, and its staff, all while learning the stories of the community – both the heart wrenching and the beautiful. The clinic serves a community of 20,000 people and continues to add new programs. The latest program is a safe house for children, families, and individuals suffering from physical, emotional, and financial abuse.

Wendy at 1000 Hills
Wendy holds one of three infants currently living at 1000 Hills after being abandoned by their mothers

Although the work at these clinics is far from finished, we at CompassioNow are celebrating these victories as we continue to experience God’s great faithfulness in Zambia and South Africa.


29 Apr

Visit to Village of Hope

This past October, Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom and their daughter Stina Bjurstrom, RN, headed out to Africa once again. This was their first visit to Village of Hope Uganda since we began supporting their medical clinic.

“In Uganda, you are born poor and you die poor.” Florence had tears streaming down her cheeks as she shared her story with Wendy. A Ugandan woman living near Village of Hope, Florence shared her small, round hut with her husband, children, and 14-year-old cousin, Scovia. The Lord’s Resistance Army killed Scovia’s father and her mother died when Scovia was very young. The family eats only one meal a day, of posho and beans. Their faces are like so many in Uganda – tired and hungry, yet still smiling. In the face of this poverty, in the face of the terror left over from the 23 year war against the LRA, in the face of displacement and disownment, in the face of a past filled with abuse, murder, and starvation, Wendy continually saw a deep thankfulness that rarely surfaces in our own blessed American culture.

WendyandScoviaWhile in Uganda, Wendy met Scovia and shared school supplies

When the Bjurstrom’s visited Village of Hope in October, they brought bags filled with medical supplies. Dr. Mac and Nurse Susan, employed at the medical clinic, were extremely thankful to receive these supplies, as well as the Compassion Tea that the Bjurstrom’s brought along to share. We at CompassioNow are also extremely thankful to our supporters. Together, through the Lord’s providence, we are saving lives in Uganda!

Ed and Wendy share some Compassion Tea with Dr. Mac and Nurse Susan

28 Apr

Trip to East Africa

In preparation for their June 2013 trip to Tanzania, CompassioNow Board members Anne and Lee Kennedy, and Pastor Mitch Ribera and his wife Jamie from New Harvest Church in Clovis, CA, packed up medicine and supplies that were collected through generous donations from medical non profits, individual donors, and funding from Compassion Tea. They managed to fill 4 duffel bags, each weighing about 50 pounds, to distribute among the clinics in East Africa.

            One of the clinics that we visited was the Tanzania Christian Clinic in Monduli, Arusha, Tanzania. Located in Northern Tanzania near Mt. Kilimanjaro, people of this medically underserved area suffer from a myriad of tropical infectious diseases, including malaria, typhoid, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, and amebic dysentery. Tanzania Christian Clinic provides primary care under the direction of Danny and Nancy Smelser, both specialists in their respective fields.


The team was overwhelmed by the work that they saw being done here and found it hard to imagine how one couple’s dream has lead to such great achievement in a such a short period of time. They experienced the warmth of the native tribes. They learned of the differences in their cultures and were humbled by their deep appreciation. Particularly moving was the sign displayed near the entrance of the clinic, proclaiming, “healing for the whole man”, referencing John 7:23.

TCCVisiting the doctor in all her finery at Tanzania Christian Clinic

            The Smelsers have much more in mind for this clinic and the surrounding area. Following the completion of a new church, they intend to build a school for the local children, as well as continue to sponsor adults completing their education at higher learning institutions.

DavidClinical officer David at Tanzania Christian Clinic

            They had the privilege of seeing a different world in East Africa. The wildlife was incredible, the scenery beautiful, and the people radiant with their smiles and hugs. They were inspired and, at times, saddened by what we saw and experienced. They returned home with many thoughts and questions as we continue our mission of “helping the least served” in Africa.

08 Apr

Visit to Village of Hope


Wendy, Ed and their daughter, Stina, visited the Village of Hope in Uganda in October 2013. We visited with Mike and Janelle Doud who oversee the Village of Hope. They manage the 200+ children, their homes, and everything else including farming, water, latrines, piggery, corn shucking, tractor driving, mango planting, hosting visitors, Beads of Hope jewelry project, budgeting, and ordering the medicine.


We really enjoyed meeting the children and learning their stories as well as visiting the clinic on-site for the first time.

03 Oct

Directors Visit African Clinics

In August of this year, Compassion Tea Company co-founders Jack and Chris Faherty hand-delivered 250 lbs. of donated pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to clinics in South Africa. Both clinics, Lily of the Valley Medical Centre and 1000 Hills Community Helpers, have partnered with Compassion Tea Company’s parent organization, CompassioNow, for years. In an effort to “share tea, save lives,” Compassion Tea Company sells premium teas online and donates 100% of its after-tax profits to CompassioNow. Through the sale of tea and tea memberships and its innovative relationship with CompassioNow, Compassion Tea Company provides medical care to “the world’s least served.”

25 May

Medical Team Visits Rural Hospital



The airplane is under maintenance so this trip was made using our land vehicle. It started as a normal trip when we left Ndola at 09.20hrs on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, the vehicle broke down partway to our destination. We had to rebuild the diesel pump and filter which delayed our arrival at the mission hospital significantly. We finally arrived in the early morning hours on Friday. We found one of the housekeepers waiting for us and found a meal that was meant for supper still on the table. We had it as an early breakfast and retired to bed for some much needed rest.

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