Chaparda

Lochgilphead to Chaparda

Emma Vaughan, Chaparda volunteer and World Medicine Trustee, describes her journey…

I live and practice Chinese Medicine on the west coast of Scotland. Ordinarily, I would say I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, unscarred by development and with a perfect combination of remoteness and community. However.. when it comes to travel the journey even from where I live to Glasgow can be fraught with difficulties and can involve 60 mile detours when we experience landslides through the hilly pass known as “ the rest and be thankful “, sometimes unexpected ferry journeys and often shocking weather conditions making driving extremely challenging.

So I wanted to describe this years journey to Chaparda to give a flavour of a different aspect of our time.

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On Tuesday the 7th of January a friend dropped me off with my cases at the bus stop in Lochgilphead. The journey takes 2.5 hours to Glasgow and it poured with rain the whole way. I feel excited but also vaguely sick. ( I am a notoriously bad traveler) To help with the nausea I eat crisps and chocolate. I feel more sick naturally.

Once in Glasgow, I have a 40 minute window before my train to Oxenholme in the Lake District, so I rush to Debenhams with my cases and get my eyebrows threaded… a travel essential. I am excited with my eyebrows ( I’m extremely vain sadly!) and lug the cases through the rain to central station.. where I find my train has been cancelled.. no driver apparently! I immediately text Barbara ( team leader and great friend) to share my panic and then Jude who I am staying with in Sedburgh. I am directed to another train pretty quickly however and am soon on my way on a 2 hour journey to. Oxenholme.

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Jude , my wonderful friend and world medicine colleague comes to collect me from station along with her husband and dog. We immediately compare baggage, stress about weight allowance and pick each other’s bags up to decide if the stress is warranted! It is! They feel very heavy but we are sure we can manage. We have 3 bags each. One large case, 1 smaller cabin size case and a small passport etc size bag. I stay the night with a Jude, and then lunchtime on Wednesday, Hugh drops us back off at Oxenholme to catch the train to London. It’s my son’s birthday and I ring to chat to him and feel a little homesick before I have even left the country! Jude and I have journeyed to India together 3 times now and each time we feel stressed and excited in equal measure. We have developed small rituals now.. almond cookies and a cup of tea on the train to London marks the start of the journey..and a travel sickness tablet for me! We then both rummage in bags for things we think we have forgotten and generally find them. It’s comforting!

In London we wait at Euston about 20 minutes for Barbara who is arriving in on a different train. We soon see her huffing up the concourse, pulling two ominously large bags with her.. so far so good. We are a team of three!

We jump in an Uber with all our bags and head across London to a Heathrow hotel. We have a minor hiccup with our room booking, but once sorted we dump our bags and head to the bar ( no indecent haste, rest assured)!

The following morning ( Thursday 9th January) we are up early ready to meet the rest of the team at terminal 5. One by one we find each other, Sally, Marta, Catherine and Satish. It feels so wonderful and we are all full of beans and full of chat. We have a few more issues…. Sally exploiting the luggage allowance!!! Catherine’s travel jumpsuit! ( don’t ask!)

The acupuncture team 2020!
The acupuncture team 2020!

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Our flight leaves for Ahmedabad on time but we have an extra 90 minutes of flight time as the plane was rerouted for political and safety reasons, giving us a 10.5 hour flight. I feel a little anxious about this as we have a train to catch from Ahmedabad to Rajkot and I know we will now be cutting it fine. Immigration clearance at Ahmedabad is a nightmare, long queues adding to the stress. Eventually, we emerge and secure a couple of taxis to the train station. We know we will be lucky if we catch the train!

It’s a wild ride in the taxi but we all feel we have arrived! Who doesn’t love an Indian taxi journey? We pile out at the station, a fairly shambolic group and race ( no exaggeration) towards the platform that says our train is at. We have a 5 minute window. We literally run with our bags, hurtle downstairs and find…. we are on the wrong platform. Out of nowhere 6 coolies arrive, pile our bags on their heads and instruct us to “ run” as they set off at an unbelievable pace to the correct platform. We hand over the rupees and jump on the train that our bags have been dumped on. The train is heading for Rajkot! We are now starting to feel exhausted, it is about 5am and we have a 4 hour journey ahead of us. The train conductor then informs us that only 1 of us has a confirmed booking and there are not bunks for everyone. Our fellow passengers were sleeping which we don’t quite grasp and manage to waken the entire carriage with the rumpus that ensues! Surprisingly several of them take pity on us however and make space until eventually we get a little cabin for the 6 of us. At this point we had lost Satish at the train station in Ahmedabad!! ( He found his way to Chaparda, don’t worry)

When we arrive in Rajkot we negotiate two tuk tuk drivers to take us to our overnight hotel. This process is rather chaotic as we have attracted a circle of onlookers and drivers offering to take us to our hotel, and demonstrating how 6 passengers, 12 pieces of baggage can fit into two tuk tuks! This journey marked my undoing! I have been on many tuk tuk journeys and this one was not exceptional. Fast, bumpy, thrilling! We get to the hotel remarkably with all our luggage intact and are shown to our lovely rooms. Jude and I shared, but within 5 minutes I am profoundly sick and need to lie down. Things settle quickly and after a wee sleep I feel much better. Jude and I have a cup of tea on our balcony and relish those first few hours of being in India.

We have a really nice dinner all together and then head to various beds ready for the last leg of the journey in the morning !

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We are collected from Rajkot by car and our driver Jay makes easy work of the 3 hour journey to Chaparda. We are all excited to be reunited with the rest of our team and the Ashram staff. We arrive Saturday lunchtime…. it’s been quite a journey, but one I feel privileged to make and hope that I will make it many more times yet!

So that’s my journey, home to chaparda!

Fundraising Teamwork

In this blog Marta Koszo describes how she raised funds to support what will be her first visit to Chaparda.

I first learned about World Medicine and the Chaparda project during my second year of acupuncture studies when I attended the ACMAC conference in 2016.

I was amazed at the wonderful work they have been undertaking for several years and wanted to join them. However, I was not yet a qualified acupuncturist. The requirement is to have at least one year of experience as a practitioner before one could apply. So after graduating in 2018, I applied and was accepted to be part of the 2020 Chaparda team.

In January 2020, I will be going to Gujarat in India as part of a 12- member World Medicine team made up of 6 acupuncture practitioners and 6 interpreters, to provide acupuncture to local people of the area. We will be treating for 3 weeks and expect to provide in excess of 1500 treatments, using 30,000+ needles in that time, approximately 6000 needles per practitioner!

Click the photographs for a full size image...

Marta doing cupping and Gua Sha at the fundraising day

World Medicine projects are often self-funded, meaning that we volunteers have to fund-raise to cover costs of travel and clinical supplies. As I was trying to figure out what I could do to raise funds for my trip, I realised that the best way to do it was to offer acupuncture and tui na treatments in exchange for donations! That way, people could receive a treatment whilst contributing to a good cause. And so, I reached out to several colleague practitioners and we set a date that worked for everyone, the 10th of November.

As I also work as a Teaching Assistant at the City College of Acupuncture where I graduated from, I asked for permission to use our clinic and one adjacent classroom for the fundraiser and they kindly agreed without any charge for rental. I also contacted Phoenix Medical and explained the purpose of the event and they generously donated acupuncture needles. I advertised the event on several social media platforms, as well as through my network of friends and colleagues and the acupuncture students at our college.

My team of 6 very enthusiastic practitioners for the fundraiser were graduates as well as acupuncture student practitioners from our City College of Acupuncture who are qualified in tui na and the NADA protocol. I had set up a booking schedule for tui na and body acupuncture treatments, whereas the NADA treatments were set up as drop- in. Tea, fruits and biscuits were offered as refreshments and treats in the waiting hall.

Kaye doing Tui Na at the fundraising day
Sophie doing the NADA Protocol at the fundraising day

The response we had from people coming, and the atmosphere on the day, was amazing! We used the opportunity to talk to people in the waiting hall about Chinese Medicine and benefits of acupuncture and tui na, over a nice cup of tea. That resulted in having some of the people who came for the NADA treatment, wanting to wait and try tui na or body acupuncture, as they hadn’t experienced it before! Everyone attending the fundraiser made generous donations and some even asked if we are going to organise similar events, as they would recommend it to friends and family.

Fleur doing Tui Na at the fundraising day
Annette doing the NADA protocol at the fundraising day

The outcome of the fundraiser was more than incredible - we raised a total of £450! I have also received generous donations prior to the event from people who wanted to contribute but were unable to attend. I continued to receive donations for a couple of weeks after the fundraiser, reaching the grand total of £800! These funds will be sufficient to cover my travel costs and clinical equipment.

Besides the needles we will need for the 2020 visit I will also purchase additional equipment that will remain in Chaparda for future use, such as glass cups for cupping treatments and one machine for electro-acupuncture.

I feel really humbled by the result of the fundraiser but it couldn’t have happened without the selfless help of my colleagues Anjulie, Kaye, Fleur, Annette and Sophie. I feel really grateful to all of them for being so enthusiastic and donating their amazing skills and time!

Anjulie doing acupuncture at the fundrasing day
Thank you to everyone for supporting me!

Chatting About Chaparda

During the October training weekend for Chaparda 2020 four current and former volunteers members of the team, Emma, Alison, Jude and Barbara (behind the camera!) met to talk about the experience of working in Chaparda over the years, and what new volunteers can expect from the experience.

It's just over 8 minutes in length and very informative, so grab a cup of tea, click the video, and listen in!

Fundraising – How We Use What You Give Us

This month, Barbara, Catherine and Emma (supported by Dave, Barbara’s husband!!) all part of Chaparda 2020 team, head to Edinburgh to take on The Big Stroll a 15 mile walk through historic Edinburgh.

We have been very committed to fundraising through 2019 and this will be the third walk by various combinations of the team to raise money for World Medicine. ALL funds raised for World Medicine are used to support our projects and apart from a small amount of administrative running costs we have no fixed overheads that require donated money to be used for.

We have two projects at the moment. One in London, providing auricular acupuncture for the community impacted by the Grenfell disaster – a lot of this work focuses on post traumatic stress. (For further reading on this condition and how acupuncture can help go to acupuncture.org.uk) Costs for this project include, auricular needles, sharp boxes, insurance and training etc. Annual costs at present stand at around £1000 annually.

Our second project is in India, and January 2020 will see a team of acupuncturists and interpreters travel to Chaparda to run an acupuncture clinic for 3 weeks. One of the reasons that we remain committed to this work is because over the years we have witnessed incredible healing in our Indian patients, that in turn has allowed them to continue working and supporting their own families. This is key to our work, bringing effective treatment to areas where healthcare resources are limited. Each year the numbers attending our clinics continue to grow and the impact of our work continues to spread out into the surrounding communities.

Travel is the biggest cost to the volunteers and stands around £700 per person.

We have estimated each acupuncturist will need 5000 needles each for our next project so, a total of 30,000 needles. A box of 1000 needles costs approximately £24. This year our needles will cost us around £720. In addition many of us will use moxabustion therapy and so we may spend a further £100 on moxa. Other equipment includes, sharps boxes, forceps, cupping sets, alcohol wipes, cotton wool, hand sanitizer, paper for documentation etc. Another cost is insurance and training.

This year we plan to offset our carbon footprint as a charity by donating the carbon cost of our travel into an environmental project as local to our project as we can manage. (Look out for future blogs with further information about this!)

We very much hope that our supporters understand just how much we appreciate their willingness to help us raise money. We are passionate about our work and we know that many, many people, who will never be able to voice their gratitude personally, are similarly appreciative for the opportunity to benefit from the service that World Medicine offers.

Spotlight on World Medicine Translators

Emma Vaughan, one of our Trustees and a volunteer in Chaparda, reflects on working with translators:

Our work in India would not be possible without the skill, dedication and patience of our amazing translators. They form an integral part of the team and enable communication between patients and practitioners in a highly skilled and sensitive manner.

We ask them to offer literal translations rather than summarising conversations in order for our practitioners to develop a greater sense of what is really going on, and, most importantly so that they can identify what the patients’ needs are. This unique 3-way rapport can provide surprisingly rich, moving and sometimes humorous encounters.

Our current Gujarat speaking team of volunteer translators are fabulous, bringing a sense of compassion and integrity to their work that has been invaluable. They come with a great deal of goodwill, committing a lot of time at their own expense and have maintained strong, personal investment in the work of World Medicine.

Batul and Najma are two of our volunteer translators:

Batul describes her experience:

I thoroughly enjoy being a translator and part of the World Medicine team. It is a very rewarding experience and one that has seen me about to return for my third time in January 2020.

It feels good to be part of a project where you can witness on a daily basis the positive impact on patients’ lives.

On our last trip, Barbara and I saw a young man, a diamond polisher who attended the clinic with multiple problems that had resulted in very poor mobility. His medical history was complex resulting in many visits to hospitals, different specialists and complementary therapists. He was feeling desperate and was doing everything he could do help himself – including walking on cow dung! Over his course of acupuncture with Barbara, we observed gradual improvements in his mobility and more importantly he himself started to feel the change. It was fantastic to see, and also to be part of a process that brings positive changes to people’s lives. I definitely appreciate the contribution the whole team make to the people living around Chaparda who have no access to this type of health care. To provide the service at no cost to the patients is even more amazing!

Najma, another seasoned translator and also a trustee for World Medicine reflects on the collaboration of the team:

I see my role of translator as a bridge between patients and practitioners. By feeding back to the practitioner the content of the patients’ story and what had bought them to the clinic we are able to begin a course of treatment, tailored to the patient’s problems and subsequent progress.

There have been times when it feels emotionally challenging, relaying these personal stories to the practitioner as often their issues reflect the harsh reality of living in isolated, rural communities. However, there are often lighter, funny and touching moments too. I was once very impressed when a patient very eloquently asked me “if the “doctor” could reduce the tyre around her waist!”….a familiar wish that many of us are conscious of these days!

It is easy for these nuances to be lost in translation but I believe that the team works effectively and efficiently so that every patients experience with World Medicine is a positive and worthwhile one. 

Of all the work I have done in my life, I can honestly say that my work as a translator in this setting has been both the most rewarding and the most enjoyable. 

Although our current projects are based in the UK and India, we are keen to build a database of volunteers who speak a second or indeed several languages who may like to consider working with us in the future.

Please get in touch if you are interested in working with us! We absolutely need you!

Reflecting On My Volunteering Experience

Sally Connelly; new graduate volunteer

When I initially applied to be considered to join World Medicine on their 2019 trip, I had not yet graduated, nor ever been to India, so both of these possibilities seemed somewhat abstract and very far off events! By the time I set off for Gujurat, I had been in my own practice for just 6 months and was treating an average of 10-15 patients each week, sometimes less, sometimes more.

World medicine occupied two wards within Jayambe Hospital in Chaparda, creating a men’s clinic and a women’s clinic. I was working within the women’s clinic. On my first day, as I turned the corner towards our allocated wards, I was greeted with a long queue of patients who were waiting for treatment with us. Some had been sleeping on the cold floor all night in order to be seen. Many had traveled from far off villages, setting off from home in the early hours.

I was eased in gently to the work and only expected to start treating when I felt ready, but I was really keen to get started and on my first day I treated 11 patients. There was a real sense of being new again, and I was taken back to my first day in student clinic when I suddenly felt like everything I ever thought I knew had abandoned me. Like a rabbit in the headlights, I felt as though I knew nothing.  But, and this is one of the many valuable lessons I learned during my time in Chaparda, I did! The knowledge was there, I just had to trust myself and dive in.

I kept my treatment plans simple and treated what I saw, I wasn’t too adventurous with my point choices to begin with.  With the help of the incredible translators I was able to establish their primary concern and take it from there. The primary issues people sought help for were very often musculoskeletal and each patient was asked to commit to at least 3 sessions.

By the end of the first week I was giving around 25 treatments a day, and had built a rapport with the returning patients. As a new practitioner it was really exciting and rewarding to see the improvements and changes in returning patients, and to witness how transformative intensive treatment can be. Many of the locals who sought treatment earned their livelihoods through physically demanding work, so enabling them to continue this with less pain and hindrance was a privilege. The days were long and tiring, but always ended with a delicious chai tea, incredible food and good humour.

My time volunteering with World Medicine so early on in my professional career has been an absolute gift. The intensity of work allowed me to cement my newly acquired abilities, to trust my instinct and to hone my diagnostic skills. I have made lifelong friends and mentors, whose depth of knowledge and experience has been shared with generosity and humility. I have seen first hand what an incredibly effective and adaptable form of medicine acupuncture can be, and have returned to my own practice with a renewed sense of confidence and purpose.

My Trip to India with World Medicine

My Trip to India with World Medicine – Gary Carvill

World Medicine is a charity which provides acupuncture around the world to people suffering the effects of trauma, disaster and poverty.  I was delighted when I received their email informing me that I had been selected to be part of their 2019 project in Gujurat, India.

However, the trustees from the charity had not held back during the interview I attended in describing some of the challenges I was likely to face and so there was also some apprehension and wondering what I was letting myself in for.

In January 2019 I touched down in Rajkot, Gujurat and walked out of the airport to meet the other acupuncturists and translators I would be working with for the next two weeks in a hospital in the rural area of Chaparda.

After a three hour drive we arrived at the ashram that would be our home.  In true India style, each bathroom had a selection of buckets that could be used for a ‘bucket shower’ if you were unlucky enough to be in one of the rooms where the shower didn’t work.  Fortunately, mine did!

The next day was spent preparing the clinics at the hospital we would be working from.  It was only a ten minute walk from the ashram and reminded me immediately of the ‘Good Karma Hospital’ for those who are familiar with the TV show.  A row of ambulances outside the main entrance, nowhere near as sophisticated as those we’re used to seeing in the UK, were parked alongside dozens of pairs of shoes removed by the staff and patients before entering the building.

There were two clinics, one for men and one for women, with about twelve beds in each.  Three acupuncturists would be working in each clinic alongside the translators and some local physiotherapy students who helped with massage, cupping and removal of needles.

The next day the clinic opened.  It was clear that the demand was going to be huge.  An advertising campaign including TV coverage before our arrival meant some people had travelled 200 miles for a chance to have treatment.  Some people slept in the hospital from 10pm the night before to ensure they were at the front of the queue.  At one point we were told ten people were being turned away for every person being treated so there was pressure on us to treat as many people as possible.  On the second day of clinic I started to take my own patients and managed to treat 19.  The next day 27 and the next day 38.

During the visit we managed to treat 379 patients and provide 1214 treatments.  At times it did feel relentless however it also felt a great privilege.  The people of Gujurat are some of the warmest and friendliest people I’ve ever met that showed a humility and gratitude that was incredibly touching.  The role of the translators was crucial in being able to communicate however with a few quickly learned phrases in Gujurati it seemed very easy to build rapport and connect with the patients.  Some of their stories were heartbreaking and sadly a few needed more than acupuncture or massage can provide, however many showed great improvements and continued to attend the clinic regularly for the duration of our visit.

One example was Mahesh.  A diamond polisher who works long hours in the local ‘diamond factory’ but who without any parents was responsible for looking after his younger brother and sister as well as his elderly uncle.  Mahesh had pain in most of his body particularly in his legs and lower back.  Typical of many of the patients we saw Mahesh held his body rigid with tensed muscles even while laid on the bed.  Telling him to ‘relax’ made no difference as if the concept was alien to him.  During our visit Mahesh had five treatments including acupuncture, electro acupuncture, massage and use of a heat lamp.  Gradually his muscles began to relax and his pain to diminish.  Since returning to the UK Mahesh sent me an email to tell me that ‘my pain is gone’.

The fortnight seemed to whizz past in a bit of a blur and it was soon time to wind down the clinic and return home.  The whole experience was both exhausting and fascinating and one that I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of.

For any acupuncturist or acupuncture student who relishes a challenge and enjoys being part of a team, volunteering for World Medicine is a fantastic opportunity.