3 for 2! The 2020 trip to Chaparda, Gujarat, 13th January to 31st January, and onwards ……
Blog Post by Barbara Robinson
Our hosts in Chaparda have always encouraged the WM team to go more frequently, double up the camps, treat more people. To have a longer camp of 3 weeks was the logical step to find out a) if we could manage the demand, b) if we could form a team happy to leave UK for 3 weeks and c) if team members were able to work at the Chaparda pace without burnout, illness or getting on each other’s nerves!
The enthusiasm and energy of everyone working as a cohesive team, right from the off, was heart-warming. Queues of patients waited for us when we arrived, and the first were through the clinic doors by 8.30am Monday 13th Jan. In the 3 weeks we were there, 6 practitioners delivered 1907 treatments to 573 patients – an amazing number, made possible by the help of our wonderful translators and local staff who, after training, also moxa’d, massaged and removed needles.
As previous years, we found that 80%+ of patients suffered from pain and musculo-skeletal conditions. Most of our patients live in nearby villages and either have physical work on the land or labour-intensive jobs, so that is not so surprising, but we were struck this year by the number of patients presenting with pain after surgery.
The remaining 20% suffer with migraines, hypertension, diabetes, kidney stones, gynae problems, auto immune disorders, and various digestive problems. It is a low risk area for malaria, but patients can present with sequelae of other mosquito borne viral diseases, such as chikungunya and dengue fever, and may be affected for many years.
The 2020 team
Back row: Sally, Zehra, Catherine.
Front row: Kuman, Najma, Marta, Jude, Satish, Barbara, Batul, Sheela, Emma.
(Not pictured: Pushpa)
This was my 6th Chaparda visit and previous camps had all been 2 week duration, but the 3 week trial was very much a success: we saw more patients pro-rata but with less stress and a sense that events and patient numbers could be anticipated and managed more easily knowing that we had the extra week.
The camps take place over three weeks starting on Monday morning week 1, and ending Friday afternoon week 3. Additionally, 2 days travelling each end need to be factored in. The clinics are closed Saturday afternoon and all Sunday, and a further afternoon off is taken by each volunteer during the second week. All acupuncturists have slightly different work rates, some patients may present with more challenging problems and those unused to multibed may take a little while to ‘get into the zone’! However, we find that a general work rate of 21 – 25 patients a day, per practitioner, can be achieved while still maintaining enthusiasm and energy.
Up to 2018, volunteers were required to have solid experience backing up their skills and training – however, for the 2019 trip the trustees decided to create an opportunity for newly qualified acupuncturists to join the team. We felt that the core of ‘old hands’ could provide solid mentoring and support to new graduates with a view to widening their experience of volunteering and working in a multibed setting. Sally Connelly and Gary Carvil joining the team was such an outstanding success in 2019 that we continued the idea and Catherine Watkins and Marta Koszo joined the team for 2020. Indeed, Catherine was so new she missed her graduation day – but we had an impromptu celebration anyway!
If you are an acupuncturist or Gujarati speaker reading this and considering volunteering, please do not be put off by the 3 weeks – it can be hard work, you will need to be resilient – and reflective at times – but it’s also good fun resulting in hundreds of appreciative patients, a feeling of satisfaction and enduring friendships.
While we remain committed to the Chaparda Camp project, the current virus pandemic has caused us to rethink the timing and logistics of the next camp. There is much media talk of ‘second spikes’ and ‘winter spikes’ and World Medicine is mindful that there should be no increased risk either to our team or our hosts. Before any final decision is made the trustees have a number of considerations in light of this unpredictable virus, not least the ability of WM to form a team and travel, and the impact on our friends at Chaparda and their ability to receive us.
We will be delaying a decision until late summer; however, the most likely scenario will be to postpone the January 2021 trip until at least November 2021. More of this over the next few months.
Trustee and TL 2020
It is not all work! Travelling to next village for shopping expedition!