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Published March 05, 2013, 11:36 PM

HerVoice: Fifth-grader starts local campaign to raise funds to fight malaria

WOLVERTON, Minn. – At just 10 years old, Ava Aigner of rural Colfax, N.D., heard about how malaria is killing hundreds of thousands of people each year.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

How to help:

• To help Ava Aigner reach her goal of raising $3,000 for the ELCA malaria campaign, send donations to Faith Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 175, Wolverton, MN, 56594.

• To contribute directly to the ELCA Malaria Campaign, send donations to: ELCA Malaria Campaign, PO Box 71764 Chicago, IL 60694-1764, visit www.elca.org/malaria or call 800-638-3522.

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WOLVERTON, Minn. – At just 10 years old, Ava Aigner of rural Colfax, N.D., heard about how malaria is killing hundreds of thousands of people each year.

She decided to do something about it.

She was attending vacation bible school at Richland Lutheran Church in rural Walcott, N.D., when she learned about the disease and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Malaria Campaign to combat it.

When she returned to her home church, Faith Lutheran in Wolverton, she started a campaign of her own. Ava’s goal was to help raise $350 for the cause, but she ended up encouraging her congregation to donate more than $1,000 to the campaign. Now, she wants to help raise $3,000 over the next two years.

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite that is passed from one human to another by the bite of infected mosquitoes, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Symptoms include high fevers, chills, bloody stools, flu-like symptoms and anemia.

Malaria kills 655,000 people each year, and most are children younger than five, the ELCA states. The ELCA Malaria Campaign is trying to raise $15 million to help prevent and treat the disease and educate communities in Africa about malaria.

“I was scared for them, and I just wanted to help them,” Ava said of learning people can die from malaria.

Ava, who is now 11 and a fifth-grader at Richland County Elementary, shared the information with the kids in Sunday school. Then, she spoke to the congregation in church during announcements.

“When she wanted to speak to the Sunday school students, I thought that was great and took courage, but then when she was asked to speak to the congregation, I was really impressed that she felt confident doing that,” said her mom Sara Aigner.

Ava, who her mom says someday wants to be a nurse or teacher, told the congregation about Malaria, sharing facts about the disease and numbers she had gotten from the ELCA, Sara said.

A family friend suggested Ava set up a doll cradle with netting over it to show people what a mosquito net looks like.

She also wrapped Hershey’s Hugs candies in little pieces of netting to give to people who donated to the Malaria Campaign.

She set out both as part of her display during coffee hour.

Ava said her campaign has been fun to work on.

“It feels good to help people,” she said.

Ava said it feels great to have surpassed her initial fundraising goals.

“I really was happy that a lot of people participated,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526.

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