During the cultural revolution in China, barefoot doctors were village doctors who would walk to peoples homes to administer treatment. This is a visual story of my time as a volunteer acupuncturist (barefoot doctor) in Nepal in May 2014. I did this with an NGO called the Acupuncture Relief Project. This is an organisation that has been going for almost a decade and now has an established clinic dedicated to acupuncture in a remote town called Bhimphedi. Bhimphedi is located south of Kathmandu. I passed through Bhimphedi on route to a small village called Kogate, further in the mountains.
This is the Himali Tiger- the bus that got me from Bhimphedi to Kogate, where I stayed for 3weeks. From Kathmandu to Kogate is only around 90km. My trip began with a 3 hour ride in a jeep on winding roads, then another 3 hours on the Himali Tiger. From Bhimphedi to Kogate is only 18kms, but on very windy, rocky roads with occasional landslides. These sections of the road have been repaired by locals so the bus can keep running. The scariest part is when you notice the tyres are completely bald. But the the driver was a good driver, taking the corners slowly. People climb aboard with sacks of rice, goats, chickens and whatever else they may need from the bigger town of Bhimphedi. Many people sit on the roof racks.
This is the village of Kogate. Families live in little self built houses scattered around the hillsides. People make everything themselves from nature that surrounds them, and they are proud of it. Kogate is a very beautiful place in a high valley. The elevation is 1800m. My general impression is that people have a sense of well being, but life is physically tough.
These people are all translators and work for the ACUPUNCTURE RELIEF PROJECT. They work with trained acupuncturists from more affluent countries to help people in the villages with healthcare. The nearest doctor is 1 days ride away on the bus. There is a health post in Kogate and Bhimphedi that provides very basic medical care. These wonderful translators come from either village and were training to be acupuncturists. My assignment was to run the first part of a professional level training in acupuncture. I was met with enthusiasm and gratitude. Its fair to say that we brought out the best in each other. The training was engaging, dynamic, and life changing for some, including me. Acupuncture seemed a reachable career path for these students to consider seriously. People in the villages are becoming more familiar with and learning about the possibilities of acupuncture through interaction with Western practitioners. I was inspired by the idea of local practitioners treating people in their own village, and being accredited by the Nepalese government.
I would teach in the mornings and treat people in the afternoons. Some days I would run a clinic, some days I would hike and do home visits.
The man in this picture below lived about 2 hours hike from Kogate. He had a stroke and was unable to walk, although he had the spirit for it. I walked over hills to him with 2 translators to give him treatment. He is there alone with his wife. She has back problems from carrying him in and out of the house, carrying firewood on her back and running the house. They can’t get to hospital because he can’t walk to the bus. It is this kind of outreach that ARP provides. I am so grateful to the support and care of my translators/ students. They also received supervision practice and observation on site.
The community asked me to give information on high blood pressure as it is common. I worked with my students to put together a village drama called ‘High Blood Pressure, the Stranger in Our Village’. Its a wonderful play that emerged from each of the students life experience. Issues of education, poverty, oppression, the changing role of women, as well as medical reasons for blood pressure were woven into this drama. Not only did the students get an education about high BP, but they also took on the responsibility for educating their community. Over 100 people came to our performance and have asked for it to be put on again as a bigger production. At the end of the play, women drummed, sang and danced in celebration of our play. ARP’s resources for working with these communities is growing.
The Acupuncture Relief Project is a not for profit volunteer run organisation. It enables primary healthcare for villagers who have no access to this privilege. You can find out more about this organisation here and make a donation.