For years, I have been going to AcupunctureReliefProject.org , exploring the opportunity of volunteering my acupuncture services with them in Nepal. In March-April 2018, this became a reality. After 2 months and 585 acupuncture treatments, I gained significant perspective about this project. This starts off a series of 5 blogs about ARP and my life-changing experiences with this charitable organization.
The ARP Clinic is a unique setting, where compassion, health, and service interlace with the heart of humanity. It is the place where volunteers give their time and hard work for no pay to educate and provide healthcare services to a rural, Nepalese community. It also is a place where connection transcends language barriers, with medical interpreters, body language, facial expressions and the all-encompassing message, “Namaste”: the divine and self is same in you and me.
ARP has developed into being much more than an acupuncture clinic. Other health practitioners can volunteer, and Acupuncturists provide primary care services along with acupuncture: taking blood pressure, vitals or blood sugar levels and refer to the western medical healthpost or even Kathmandu for conditions beyond their scope of medicine. Primary Care Kits:
ARP’s 2400 square foot building (see above photo) comprises of the living quarters and kitchen upstairs, with the clinic, dispensary and classroom downstairs. By 8 am, many patients are lined up outside the clinic waiting to be checked in and greeting us with their palms together and a slight bow, saying, “Namaste.” During my time with ARP, 4 acupuncturists paired up with their own medical interpreter to practice in areas consisting of a curtained bed and 3 chairs, providing each with the capacity to treat 4 patients at once, up to 20-25 treatments/day.
ARP began over 10 years ago by the Acupuncturist, Andrew Schlabach and other Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) graduates. This project has evolved into being more integrative, with opportunities for Acupuncturists, Naturopaths, Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Physical Therapists and allopathic MD’s to volunteer their services. In 2015, ARP was invited by the district health office of Makawanpur to establish an integrated health care facility in BajraBarahi. The ARP site is next to a western medical healthpost (see above photo) (according to a 3rd world standards), where there is a limited supply of free pharmaceuticals and tests for conditions like HIV, hepatitis, typhoid, TB or malaria.
One of my interests in the ARP mission work was to explore the concept of free healthcare in a third world setting (Nepal is rated as 12th poorest country in the world). After performing 585 Acupuncture treatments in 7 weeks, I got this wonderful opportunity. It’s my belief that everyone deserves free healthcare, and it’s not my intention to ignore the elephant in my own country’s living room. However, I like what is happening here, in that because of the third world setting, this clinic is able to grow from a grass roots origin with a relatively little amount of money to go a long way and less red tape. For more detail, I encourage reading Andrew’s, blogpost on acupuncturereliefproject.org, “Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers.” In this, he writes that in 10 years the entire project has spent $1.2 million, with 350,000 patient visits, costing $3.50/visit. If you consider the volunteers financial contribution, that increases to approximately $4/visit. In the last 10 years, over 150 volunteers and 50 interpreters have served with ARP.
ARP has made quantum leaps in just a decade. It is now recognized through Nepal’s Ministry of Health, Social Welfare Council, and the district health office of Makawanpur. Amazingly, ARP has partnered with rural health education to establish the first acupuncture school in Kathmandu. We had 2 compassionate Nepalese graduates volunteering at our clinic, always reminding me the spiritual gem of humility. In 2018, ARP will be undergoing a research study through Nepal Health Research Council to help assess risk factors and prevalence non-communicable diseases in Nepal.
The grounds from which this project has taken flight truly amazes me. I enthusiastically love to write about it and promote the reality that all this is possible, and I am so privileged to be a part of ARP’s successful blueprint for free healthcare in a third world setting. This has felt to me like being part of the solution to a more sustainable and healthy planet!