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Returning to Chaparda

Blog Post by Sally Connelly, Chaparda 2020 Volunteer

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At beginning of 2020 I was fortunate enough to embark on my second trip with World Medicine, to Chaparda in Gujurat, India. This year, fully versed in what to expect in terms of accommodation, food and clinic life I was far less trepidatious and was able to enjoy the excitement. I also knew to pack a 12 cup cafetiere and copious packets of coffee. Oh, and lots of chocolate.

The adventure began immediately on arrival at Ahmedabad airport, with a mad dash to catch our train to Rajkot. Those who have travelled by rail in India know it isn’t for the faint hearted, the crowds, the chaos, the sights, sounds and smells were all overwhelming. Coupled with 2 suitcases a piece and a hefty does of jetleg we stood out a mile. After waking the entire carriage on our sleeper train we finally managed to find somewhere to sit and were on our way once more.

The peace and tranquillity of the Ashram awaited with open arms, and arriving there felt just as welcoming as the first time I stayed. There is something really special about this place, the people, their hospitality, the food! The view from my room is now a screen saver on my phone, drinking my morning coffee everyday with my fellow acupuncturists with the sun peaking over the horizon is something I will never forget. After a days rest we were ready to open our clinic up to help the local population with a wide variety of ailments. Let the hard work commence!

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The challenges faced by the patients we were helping were very different to those of the people we work with at home, the access to healthcare, the physical work expectations and poverty all contribute in ways we don’t experience in the west. As an acupuncturist it’s a such a great opportunity to witness just how much the medicine that we practice can achieve, with one patient that we treated particularly highlighting this.  A gentleman in his early 50’s attended the clinic, his chief complaint being severe dizziness on lying down, so severely that he was unable to sleep at night. He had been blind for around 15 years after an unsuccessful cataract operation. He returned to the clinic after his first treatment to report that his dizziness had gone, he was understandably ecstatic as it had impacted his quality of life so much. Galvanised by the success of his first experience of acupuncture, he asked the translator if we could help to bring his eyesight back. A heartbreaking request. We explained that this was highly unlikely, but that we would continue to treat him with the focus being on eye health. We administered points Bl 1, St1, GB1, GB37 & Liv3 to treat the eyes, and He7 and yintang to calm the mind. He was instructed to return the day after next.

Return he did, and with much excited chatter the translator finally reported (having checked 4 times to be sure he could believe what he was hearing) that the patient had experienced some improvement in his sight and was now able to make out his hand in front of his face (lots of visual demonstrations and hand waving at this point!). After 6 sessions he was able to differentiate light from dark and see blurred shapes moving towards him. This enabled him to grow in confidence and gain a small amount of independence, his spirit was well and truly lifted too. We were moved to tears at this point and it was a true reminder of how incredible acupuncture is. This is just one of the remarkable changes we were able to facilitate in Chaparda for the people who live and work there and each and every patient was a privilege to help.

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My second year working with World Medicine was just as humbling, inspiring and life changing as the first, a reminder of how lucky I am to do what I do, and how important it is to put energy into helping others. Thank you World Medicine for having me along, and thank you to my fellow travellers, acupuncturists and translators.