To coincide with publication of the first phase of the report into the Grenfell Tower fire, Rachel Peckham, director of the World Medicine project there, reflects on the the work carried out with survivors.
NADA Acupuncture at Al Manaar Mosque post Grenfell
The unimaginable event that was the Grenfell Tower block fire happened last year on June 14th. Nearly 80 people are known to have lost their lives. It was and remains horrific. Nearly a year later, the block stands as a crime scene only partially covered by scaffolding and white sheeting. Mental health experts say the haunting image of Grenfell against the skyline is affecting both survivors and the community. Latest reports say that 11,000 people in the surrounding areas as well as survivors will experience mental health problems as a result of this terrible tragedy.
The huge volume of help that arrived literally from the next day onwards was extraordinary and wonderful. I live and work five miles from the area and have patients and NADA contacts who were involved with that very early support. They would report how the distress was unbearable and that the chaos was very difficult to deal with. Understandably there was and is a lot of anger.
Dr Michael Smith MD DAc (1942 – 2017) was the director of the Lincoln Recovery Centre in the South Bronx, New York, and he is the founder of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association – most commonly know as NADA. Dr Smith used the acronym NADA because it means nothing in Spanish. The NADA protocol is a simple Taoist-based concept of acting without acting. Taoist philosophy suggests that the name NADA is important, because, as Dr Smith has told us, in treating people we do a lot, maybe even too much, and we can forget that the rest of life is out there. Until you get out of things, you can get trapped by your own mind. NADA has to be simple because everything else is so complicated.
And the fire at Grenfell Tower falls most unfortunately into these latter categories. I was in admiration of the acupuncturists who were there at this time, treating and helping all who were affected – and managing to do this on the streets amidst all the chaos. At this point I was thinking of the work that had been done by NADA US following the Twin Towers attack 9/11. A NADA clinic was started two weeks subsequently at St Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, close to Ground Zero. I’ve been showing a short film to NADA trainees every time I run a NADA training about the St Vincent’s clinic, plus other trauma settings where NADA has been offered. The film, Unimagined Bridges, demonstrates the power of NADA acupuncture in helping to cope with trauma following a catastrophic event. This clinic ran regularly until 2010 and was open to anyone affected by the event. It showed that people chose to have acupuncture rather than counseling as they didn’t want to talk about the trauma. Reports showed that the acupuncture helped with sleep, anxiety, grief and generally enabling people to feel a sense of calm. Plus it brought communities together as people sat quietly in a group all having acupuncture treatment for a common cause.
I began to have telephone conversations with Alison Gould chairperson of World Medicine Charitable Trust, and we spoke about the possibility of a collaboration between NADA GB and World Medicine (WM) to set up a volunteer service delivering NADA treatments. I also spoke to Gisela Norman and later on Sheira Kahn who were among the first responders of acupuncture and did such a remarkable job in terrible conditions. They went on to head up Emergency Acupuncture, a large body of volunteers which preceded the NADA clinics we began delivering four months after the fire.
Emergency Acupuncture had established a venue at the Al Manaar Mosque in North Kensington and had been given a room for delivering acupuncture treatments. The mosque wanted to continue the service as they had seen the benefits acupuncture treatment was bringing to the survivors and to the Grenfell community. This was clearly something NADA could offer, so early in August last year Gisela set up a meeting with myself and Mr Sayed, CEO at the Mosque. We agreed to start a weekly NADA clinic there and committed to run clinics for a year provided the service was taken up. The clinics started on 3rd October and have been running weekly on Tuesday mornings ever since.
Later in August, World Medicine held a NADA training day for BAcC members who wished to volunteer at the then future NADA clinic at Al Manaar Mosque. I ran the training which was free of charge. All the World Medicine trustees at that time were there plus eight attendees, a few of whom had already volunteered at Grenfell under the auspices of Emergency Acupuncture.