News BlogLatest News From Our Volunteers in Nepal

 

Thank you Nepal

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Angela Freeman

3:38AM - can’t sleep.  We have 6 days left of clinic. For those patients we see only once a week, today will be our final goodbye.  A lump forms in my throat as I write these words…I’m not ready to say goodbye. How can I slow down the hands of time…Nepali time?  The two months that I’ve been here have flown by.  I don’t want these remaining days to go at the same pace. I want to savor every moment. I want to hear more stories. I feel I've only scratched the surface. I want to embrace this beautiful community that has enriched my life so much. The generosity. The kindness. The love.  The thoughtfulness. The authenticity to which the Nepalese conduct their lives. I was not anticipating this…and I’m not ready to say goodbye.

Read more: Thank you Nepal

A different way and different time

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Zoe Nash

Nepal is a materially poor but culturally rich country. They are the warmest hearted, most generous and toughest people I have met. Truly a humbling experience to be immersed into their culture and their community for this period and to build this relationship with them.

Actually getting to the clinic we have set up in the village is simple, although perhaps not easy, many have to walk, a long way. There has been a fuel crisis in Nepal for the last 5 months, making it extremely challenging for people to be mobile by way of cars, bikes and buses. 

The acupuncture relief project is in the village of Bajra Barahi nestled in a valley within the Himalayas, about 36 (long and dusty) km’s south of Kathmandu. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Zoe Nash

The surrounding villages are scattered around the hills and to reach the clinic. We see patients every day in the clinic that have walked anything from 1-4 hrs to come and see us at the clinic. They have to walk up rough dirt paths, up mountains paths, and across bridges and through the fields, no exaggeration.

I know because I have taken some of these walks during my days off. The walks were a fulfilling experience for a Saturday challenge, dressed up in my hiking gear and ready for adventure, not necessarily something I would want to undertake if I wanted to go and see the doctor about my painful osteo-arthritis on my knees from overwork, or my bad back!

This has really opened my eyes to so many aspects of life out here. 

Of course, for a start, most of us cannot really even imagine this a reality in our lives - that we would have no choice but to walk for up to 4 hours each way to visit the doctor! The fuel crisis has definitely added to this aspect of being here, however in my observation I feel that transportation is essentially still a huge luxury here regardless. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Zoe Nash

For me, it’s fascinating coming from a world where there are so many  ‘cheap flights’ across the globe and for some people are as easy as getting a bus, yet these local villagers don't even have local transport set up for essential needs, what a paradox world we live in. 

The majority of these patients are coming to see us for pain management of their knees and backs – and what with walking such distances to come for treatment seems a little counter productive sometimes. Unless of course this clinic is providing more then meets the eye, and they are coming for more reasons than the just pain in their knees, perhaps they are coming to simply be taken care of by someone, to be heard, to tell their story, which is undeniably a huge part of any healing process, and something of a revelation to most of the patients we see here. Most of these people have never spoken to anyone about their health complaints before, not even friends and family. Evidently complaining on any level is just not a part of their culture! I quote one of my patients - ‘Until I came here I thought I was the only one with knee pain, now I see almost everyone suffers from it!’ 

What a marvelous revelation to know she was not the only one who has this!!! 

Cars are still a rarity here in the villages, its hard to fully grasp if its always like this or the fuel crisis for the past 5 months has transported life back in time100 years, when fossil fuels were just not a part of life.  As we walk, we frequently come across men, women and children carrying the farm goods on their backs, in woven baskets with a strap around their head. It is no wonder that we see so many patients coming in for chronic pain management, degeneration of their knees and cervical compression giving widespread numbness and tingeing in their limbs. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Zoe Nash

Nepal seems to live in an almost timeless space as well…(we often joke about things happening n Nepali time - meaning when it happens it happens!)

I do see the magic of not living by such regimented time…and simply being, something that we are al in search of in the western cultures, the simple art of being. 

Yet these people are living like this in their daily live. We have a busy clinic of approximately 100+ patients each day. All booked in to either come in the morning or the afternoon, no set times as this wouldn't make sense to them. So they turn up and wait outside gathering together in community for perhaps hours before they get into see us. Yet they are so content waiting, chatting, being in the sun, simply BEING, no iphones to play on, no kindles, no newspapers, no phone calls to distract themselves or keep themselves entertained, they simply are, simply let themselves be, what else to do, Perhaps they have the art of conversation that has been lost in the modernised and technology-led modern world. Wow such profound teachings to share with us all.

Another thing by which the Nepalese people have inspired me is their adaptability. Since there is limited fuel they don't have the gas for cooking, yet this is not an issue for the people here in the villages. 

After the earthquake in April 2015 most of the people in Nepal continued to live in the tents they built as shelter afterwards for some months, as either their homes were crumpled, or unsafe to live in, or they didn't feel safe being in them anymore with the continuing aftershocks. They got used to preparing wood fires again outside in the ground to cook their food. Now that the fuel crisis has limited the amount of gas that is available they are all continuing to use this ancient method of food preparation with ease. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Zoe Nash

Our clinic is in the middle of a very rural farming town, where every house is like a little farm, with chickens, ducks, a couple of buffalo, some goats, drying corn hanging on the washing line next to the colourful clean laundry. 

Inside the houses, the picture is very similar with the downstairs consisting of a room that is literally full of potatoes, winter vegetables and possibly their prized water buffalo. 

Nepal is very cold in the winter, and it is felt here, as there is no heating, and no soothing hot water to thaw the bones out at the end of the day, conditions are very challenging to live in. 

The local villagers essentially live in sheds, they wash in the streets using a community tap to wash their dishes, their babies, their clothes, and yet these people are the happiest people I have ever met. Always smiling, enjoying the simple pleasures of life of just taking such pleasure in greeting each other with such enthusiasm with putting their hands in prayer position and singing Namaste to each passer by.

Children run free in the fields, playing with each other, the goats and simply just being care-free children…. It’s evident that not having so much material possessions is also an incredible blessing to people. --- Zoe Nash 

Significance

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Sheri Barrows

I have been filling the role of secretary/treasurer of Acupuncture Relief Project since 2008 when Andrew’s dream reached the point where it shifted from idea to action. When meetings with bankers and lawyers became necessary; when he needed my “type A” brain to figure out how to manage the mounds of information we were accumulating; and when the piles of legal documents needed to be filled out and filed – that’s where I came in.  Since I am neither an acupuncturist nor a health care practitioner of any kind I have always felt a bit removed from the practice side of ARP.  I handle the receipts for needles, otoscope’s, cotton balls, electro machines, foot stools, blankets, moxa and every other item used in the clinics and yet I have only heard second hand the stories about how the supplies have made a difference in the lives of the patients.  Until now!  This year I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to be here in Nepal for several months. To spend time in the clinics and to connect with the patients, practitioners and interpreters first hand.

Every day has been a learning experience and a gift but I am most affected and inspired every time one of our stroke patients comes to the clinic.  Sure, I have watched the video on our web site of Birbahadur Thapa, showing his progress recovering from his stroke and I have heard the stories of other patients but it wasn’t until I actually witnessed the impact of acupuncture on a stroke patient for myself that I truly understood how important these clinics are.

Most of the stroke victims in Nepal are sent home from hospital with no physical therapy and no instructions on what they and their families can do to try to recover lost abilities, therefore they rarely experience any improvement after their stroke.  Since a large number of our patients are illiterate, they also don’t really understand what happened to them and what “stroke” means so understandably this creates a lot of fear. When they come to our clinic they are often totally hopeless and demoralized because they have been in their condition for at least a year and often for many years.  After just one or two treatments they experience noticeable changes and begin to feel hopeful.  It is that shift to hopeful that moves me so deeply. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Sheri Barrows

There is one man in particular that I have become very attached to.  Jagat came to the Bhimphedi clinic for the first time with several family members because he needed their physical support to get to the clinic and, since he could not speak at all, he needed his wife to translate his facial expressions into words. I don’t believe I have ever seen a man as dejected as Jagat was on that first day.  He is 35 years old with a wife and 3 kids and all of a sudden he cannot take care of his family nor support them financially.  He no longer has a role in his community and people have stopped making eye contact with him – he has become invisible because he cannot participate in life and therefore he no longer matters.

His ARP doctor, Rachel Hemblade, went through multiple physical and vocal tests with him to determine what his abilities were, treated him with acupuncture and physical therapy, and then created a homework plan. Rachel recruited his family members to help him at least twice a day and taught them how to perform the physical therapy and voice coaching themselves. Jagat is very fortunate to have a caring family and everyone stepped up and said they would help.

The way Rachel fully and cheerfully engaged with Jagat and his family and her deeply compassionate manner had to have been reassuring for them on that first scary trip to the clinic. 

On that initial visit, Jagat could not make any sound at all for two of the vowels and could barely sound the others. His entire right side was severely stroked. Hand in a claw like grip, shoulder barely mobile, unable to lift his arm up from his side, leg could move forward to walk at the hip only, foot had no motor control, face totally expressionless. Eyes immensely sad.

His home is a 4-hour walk from the clinic and thus would make daily treatment unreasonable so thankfully he was able to make arrangements to stay in Bhimphedi with friends. 

When he came back to the clinic for his second treatment you could see an ever so slight sparkle in his eyes. For the first time since the stroke he had felt his body change and suddenly, he had hope!

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Sheri Barrows

When he arrived for his third visit he was excited to show us that he could now pronounce all of his vowels.  I will always remember that visit because it was also the first time he was able to smile and his smile lit up the whole room.

By his fifth treatment he no longer needed a family member to interpret his facial expressions because he could answer Rachel’s questions himself, albeit slowly, and each treatment since has continued to bring improvement.

The crooked smile he directs at me when I exclaim with joy at his progress is a gift I will never get tired of receiving.

This is but one example from the hundreds and hundreds of patients ARP practitioners treat every year.  And this is why I will never again be able to file a receipt for needles or pay for an order of cotton balls or any of my other secretarial duties without being deeply touched by my experience here. I am immensely proud and appreciative of everyone who makes this project function on a daily basis  – Tsering, all the interpreters and practitioners, all of the advisors – and I cannot begin to express my admiration for the dedication, love and energy Andrew has given to make this project happen, year after year.  When I signed on as a board member 8 years ago, I never could have imagined the significance it would have in my life. --- Sheri Barrows

More Articles

  • Everyday Acupuncture Podcast

    Everyday Acupuncture Podcast

    Here in the west we are used to seeing acupuncture clinics in an urban setting, and it is often sought as an adjunctive therapy used in combination with other modalities.

    Read More
  • Jatra: The goddess

    Jatra: The goddess

    Patients come on a first come, first served basis, often arriving a little before 6am, slipping their appointment cards under a designated stone on the reception window sill. Many will

    Read More
  • Beyond the White Coat

    Beyond the White Coat

    When I started fundraising for this volunteer trip, many friends asked me why I chose to come to Nepal with ARP, and my simple response was, “to step out of

    Read More
  • Baskets and Knees

    Baskets and Knees

    In the foothills of the Himalayas, Bhajra Barahi is made up of steep hills, the slopes of which have been terraced for farming. These plots of rice, cauliflower, mustard, squash,

    Read More
  • A Day in Bajrabarahi: Where There are No Doctors

    A Day in Bajrabarahi: Where There are No Doctors

    When we open the clinic doors at 8:30, there are usually already a handful of patients waiting outside in the crisp morning air. Patients arrive throughout the day. There are

    Read More
  • Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers

    Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers

    The day started like most days, a brisk late-autumn morning with a light frost on the ground and clear blue skies. A breakfast of churra (beaten dried rice), chickpeas and

    Read More
  • Death

    Death

    Today's topic: Death! (the author does not pick blog topics; the blog topics choose him) I began thinking about this after hearing that one of our ARP staff members, Tsering,

    Read More
  • Together We Drink Tea

    Together We Drink Tea

    The morning sunlight, through a gap in my curtain reaches onto my bed and teases my skin. I look outside the window to see beautiful blue sky above our mountain

    Read More
  • I love food

    I love food

    Fun fact, my body is 85% digestive tract with the rest being sensory and motor structures that assist me in attaining more food. My genetics are closely related to a

    Read More
  • Return to Baseline

    Return to Baseline

    As part of our long term goals in Nepal, it is our aspiration to train several Nepali born practitioners to serve in our clinics. We have partnered with a small

    Read More
  • Today, I am very happy.

    Today, I am very happy.

    After clinic one day I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful delve into the down country culture of the local folks I've befriended over the last couple weeks. Gunaraj,

    Read More
  • My Bone Problem

    My Bone Problem

    Today I fitted my elderly patient with her (hopefully) semi-permanent shoulder cast. This woman came into the clinic a few weeks ago. I remember treating her knee pain and when

    Read More
  • Worth it

    Worth it

    Having lived my whole life in a developed country, with most of my needs magically looked after for me, it was a cultural shock to see the many inadequacies the

    Read More
  • More than just acupuncture

    More than just acupuncture

    In Bimphedi, a small remote village in the hills south of Katmandu where the acupuncture relief project has a clinic there is also an orphanage. The children that are there

    Read More
  • Trust The Process

    Trust The Process

    It’s been one week in Nepal and 3 days of clinic in Bajra Baraji. I’ve gone through so many emotions and learned so much about practicing primary care in a

    Read More
  • Bookends

    Bookends

    At the beginning of my service with Camp B at Bajra Bahari, my first patient is a 70 year old male with right-side hemiplegia resulting from a stroke. I look

    Read More
  • The Magic of Determination

    The Magic of Determination

    I meet Buddhi for the first time at the end of the second last week of the camp. He had a stroke 5 years ago which affected the mobility of

    Read More
  • Groundlessness

    Groundlessness

    Nepal for me was a practice in being comfortable with the feeling of groundlessness. Have you ever been on a suspension bridge? Nepal I came to learn, is full of

    Read More
  • Birth

    Birth

    There was definitely a special something in the air that Saturday night. We had just had a fantastic day off from clinic visiting the home of one of our rock

    Read More
  • Two Realities

    Two Realities

    Has anyone ever seen the movie, or read the book The Hunger Games? I know it is a teen drama but I am not sorry to say I have done

    Read More
  • Compassion is the Communication

    Compassion is the Communication

    I come from a large Russian Orthodox family and an even larger community. I spent my childhood wondering what any limits might be. What would that look like, where would

    Read More
  • My Nepal Experience

    My Nepal Experience

    Nepal and people who live in this country, the Nepalese; where do I begin? It was sensory overload the moment our flight landed in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.

    Read More
  • Avoiding the Finish Line

    Avoiding the Finish Line

    Upon arrival to the ARP Clinic in Bajra Barahi, nestled amongst the peaceful tree covered hills in the countryside of Nepal, I sensed a note of an “uh-oh, what have

    Read More
  • The Heart of Good Healthcare

    The Heart of Good Healthcare

    It has been a pleasure to spend two months as part of the project living and working with the people of Sipadol and Bhaktapur. In retrospect my role as a

    Read More
  • Compassion Connects The Series

    Compassion Connects The Series

    In the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, Andrew Schlabach, Director of the Acupuncture Relief Project and Tsering Sherpa, Director of Good Health Nepal begin a new primary care clinic

    Read More
  • The Interpreters

    The Interpreters

    For me, meeting the local interpreters, acupuncture students and our cook, and getting to know them on a personal level, has been the most amazing experience. The high unemployment rate

    Read More
  • Context is everything

    Context is everything

    Time is flying by and we have less than a week before this camp’s rotation is over and the clinic will close until September. The first week or so here

    Read More
  • The Pushing Away, Pulls You In.

    The Pushing Away, Pulls You In.

    When it's all said and done, leading a team in any capacity is not an easy job. Being a medical volunteer here also stretches each of us. I thank my

    Read More
  • Thank you Nepal

    Thank you Nepal

    3:38AM - can’t sleep. We have 6 days left of clinic. For those patients we see only once a week, today will be our final goodbye. A lump forms in my

    Read More
  • A different way and different time

    Nepal is a materially poor but culturally rich country. They are the warmest hearted, most generous and toughest people I have met. Truly a humbling experience to be immersed into

    Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

News Archive

Latest Instagram

Follow Us on Facebook

Your Donations Help

In addition to volunteering their time and energy, our practitioners are required to raise the money it takes to support their efforts at our clinic. Please consider helping them by making a tax deductible donation in their name.

DONATE NOW

Support our work

Donate Volunteer Get in Touch

Support Us