Blog Post by Catherine Watkins, Chaparda 2020 Volunteer
I have travelled to India a few times before my time with World Medicine in Chaparda and thought I remembered it well, however when we left the airport at sunrise I realised I had completely forgotten about the bombardment of sights and sounds on your senses!! India is like no other, an organised chaos seemingly disorganised to the newcomer! Bet as you let go of where you have just come from and ride with it, the charm of India takes you under her wing and guides you along…with many laughs along the way.
This was my first time volunteering with World Medicine; we were based in an ashram in Chaparda, a small village a million worlds away from the noise of the cities from where we had just come. Here, you are immersed with sounds of the birds, insects, children playing, and women in the ashram clapping and singing. It is so peaceful. The grounds are full of organic fruit and veg and a family of dogs roam happily free with a stunning sunrise and sunset.
I recall thinking how modern the hospital was that we were to be working from, after a day setting up the clinic, selecting our own treatment area within the multi-bed set up, we were ready for clinic to begin.
We quickly form a daily routine, with early breakfast, morning clinic, delicious lunch, afternoon clinic, delicious evening meal, chatter and rest.
It was refreshing after the cold winter and busy festive period to be in such beautiful, peaceful surroundings practicing acupuncture 5 days per week with such a high turn over of patients and a great team. We could gauge how busy our day ahead might be by firstly the number of shoes lined up at the hospital entrance and secondly the number of people sat on the mats awaiting our arrival up on the first floor of the building. I must admit I succumbed to the wearing of socks and flip flips…those mornings could get so cold!
I was based in the women’s clinic; the majority of the women we saw worked hard in the farms and sought help for various musculo-skeletal problems associated with that type of work (predominantly back, knees, shoulder injuries). There were also many women with varying degrees of numb extremities, pins and needles and digestive complaints such as indigestion and constipation. I was surprised at how many of the patients were yang deficient (aka very cold!) but I soon realised that they walked around in cold wet socks all day, heat lamps and moxa were loved by these women.
Each patient was given access to 6 free treatments and it was fantastic over those sessions to witness the cumulative effect of the acupuncture treatment. With the help of our fabulous translators, many of the women used percentages to express how much better they felt, however the most encouraging information was when we would discuss what they could do now compared with what they couldn’t do previously.
I would hear such encouraging accounts from them….
“I can now sit and eat on the floor with my family, rather than on a chair on the outside”
“I can sleep on the mattress on the floor…I used to have to sleep upright on the chair”
“I went for a walk yesterday so I could tell you how much it hurt, but it didn’t hurt at all!! I don’t remember when I was last able to walk pain free for 2km” I recall this lady holding my hands tightly as she started to cry with appreciation.
“My hot flushes have completely gone!”
“I have had a headache constantly for 2 years, no tests could diagnose why and no medication could help, my head has been pain free for 5 days, I can sleep again” Over the 6 treatments this young woman greatly improved and gradually the number of pain free days increased. When the pain returned it was at such a low level that no longer affected her quality of life, her face looked much more relaxed and she smiled again. I would have loved to have been able to treat her for longer to see what further improvements could be achieved. I sincerely hope they are able return again on the next visit for further treatment.
As I’m sure you can imagine, this experience was truly humbling and to have the opportunity to be immersed in nothing but Chinese Medicine during our time in Chaparda really highlighted how powerful the practice of acupuncture can be. The three weeks we were there went so quickly and as well as feeling humbled, it was a whole heap of fun too.