This December just gone, I spent two busy weeks in Chaparda, a tiny rural place in the Indian Western province of Gujarat, with a team of volunteer acupuncturists from the UK. We went as part of a project run by UK-based charity World Medicine which organises projects such as this in different parts of the world. Our aim was to offer free acupuncture to the nearby villagers, mostly poor farmers unable to access healthcare, and also to give basic ear acupuncture training to members of the local charitable hospital set up to serve the community.
|Our team of UK acupuncturist at Jay Ambe Hospital|
It took me a few days to grasp the extent of the work of our host organisation which not only comprised the charitable hospital we were to give treatments from – the Jay Ambe hospital- but also several schools and homes for disadvantaged children and adults in need. Our accommodation was next door to the homes for elderly men and women who were often happily sitting in the sun to get the early morning chill out of their bones and would greet us as we walked past to get our breakfast. Every morning when I saw them, I thought to myself that if it weren't for this local charity, they would all have been living in the streets without any shelter or food.
The work in the hospital started the day after our arrival. The project consisted of two body acupuncture multi-bed clinics – one for men and one for women - , an ear clinic which would provide pain relief ear acupuncture in group sessions that run throughout the day (up to 6 per day) and, during the first few days, the ear acupuncture teaching clinic in which 4 or 5 members of the hospital staff would be taught the 5 point protocol that was being used in the ear clinic.
After some unsurprising hiccoughs that made us start relatively slowly, by the fourth day we were up and running at full capacity at the body and ear acupuncture clinics. Several ear acupuncture sessions were offered through the day, each time treating over 20 people, while the body clinics had queues outside their door at all times. The final countdown of treatments came up to over 700 given in the body clinics. By the time of writing we were waiting for the Ear clinic numbers
|People awaiting treatment outside our treatment rooms|
|Ear acupuncture group session|
|Giving a treatment for knee pain at the ladies clinic|
I have rarely felt as exhausted as I did at the end of this trip, but it felt great that we had made a difference –even if small- to the lives of some of these villagers not only because our treatments brought relief to some of their symptoms, but because we left everything in place for our work to continue in the ear acupuncture group clinic now run by the people trained during our stay. The latest news we received from them was that the ear clinic was up and running again after receiving new needle supplies from Delhi – they had gone through the incredible amount of needles we took we us and run out on our very last day in India! – and hundreds of villagers are still turning up for treatment.
|Most of our hard-working hospital team|
Deep gratitude to each of those who made this experience possible: to those who donated money to help me get there, to the project organisers, my colleagues and fellow travellers, our lovely committed interpreters and helpers, the members of staff at the hospital who worked extremely hard, the staff in our host organisation who fed us and put up with our requests, and of course to all those who used our services in Chaparda for it could not have happened without them!