Volunteer Coordinator, Rich Blitstein
Our last volunteer was sent to the Kathmandu Clinic in 2012. Because the clinic was so successful, managers decided to look for a permanent Nepali doctor who could provide acupuncture. MMW maintains a good relationship with this clinic, providing support in their process of independent care. The following are past volunteer blogs while at the Kathmandu Clinic.
Volunteer Coordinator, Rich Blitstein, 2012
I am writing this on my last day in Kathmandu after a whirlwind two weeks which were very fulfilling, tiring and especially fruitful. It was wonderful to see first hand, the results of our work at Mindful Medicine Worldwide (MMW) on the ground in Nepal.
I began my visit by being picked up at the airport by Sonam, our translator at Sechen clinic and Kelsie Coy who is currently our acupuncture volunteer there, and driving up to Nagi Gompa on a hill high above the valley. There we have an outreach clinic on Fridays in order to serve the nuns who live in this beautiful but isolated setting. The road was barely passable due to the monsoon rains but we did make it and had a wonderful time treating the nuns.
Kelsie is in her 3rd month of a 4-month commitment at Sechen Clinic in the Boudha area of Kathmandu where we have had volunteers for the last two years. There she sees more than 20 or more patients a day 4 days a week, from all around the Kathmandu area suffering from a variety of complaints with neuropathy, musculoskeletal pain and sinusitis being most common. Our efforts in providing continuous staffing of this location have not only been greatly appreciated by the patients but the staff running the clinic could not stop saying positive things about our services and thanking us for our work.
Next I spent 3 days at the Vajra Varahi Clinic in Chapagaon on the other side of the valley from Kathmandu. There I was happy to see my former student and current Mindful Medicine Worldwide volunteer, Ben Hoff, who is finishing up his four-month commitment working at the clinic. Here the majority of the patients are rural farmers from the surrounding communities and some patients regularly travel two or three hours to visit the clinic. Here too, the patient load is high and the clinic runs very smoothly due to the dedication of the volunteers, the Nepali staff and Nicky Glegg’s (the clinic director) great organizational control.
After a couple of more days back at Sechen clinic in Boudha I travelled up to the Thrangu clinic in the monastery near Namobuddha which we began to staff this year. There I was greeted by Lama Yonten and Jamyang, both monks and managers of the clinic. The stunning location, surrounded by terraced fields covering the steep hills is only surpassed by the beautiful monastery perched high on a hill top. The clinic is in a new building with two floors dedicated to the clinic and two dedicated to living quarters for the monks and volunteer staff. The clinic offers western medicines, small outpatient surgeries and some emergency care, acupuncture, Tibetan medicine and currently, massage therapy provided by our volunteer Joe Jablonski who is doing a great job there working sometimes 7 days a week. The patient population is similar to Chapagaon clinic with the majority of patients being rural farmers coming from the Tamang villages surrounding the monastery. There are 200 monks at the monastery and many also come for treatment, as well.
After 3 days at the monastery I did not want to leave but I had last minute Mindful Medicine Worldwide tasks to complete back in Boudha so it was with great regret that I returned to Kathmandu yesterday. Tonight I fly out feeling that my time here has been very productive with a number of pending tasks having been completed and plans begun for our future project of educating translators and staff at the clinic to become full-fledged acupuncturists.
It has been a very busy new year in Nepal. We have had 5 volunteers spread over our three clinics since January. It has been quite an international crew with volunteers from Colombia, the United States, Israel and Singapore. There has been a heavy load of patients at all of our clinics but our volunteer acupuncturists have been able to keep up with the long workdays and sometimes difficult conditions. Bravo! We are forging ahead with our mission to train local personnel in acupuncture and have been making important connections with a small new acupuncture school in Kathmandu. We are planning to help them with seminars taught by our visiting senior acupuncturists. Sending our Nepali trainees/interpreters to this school will give them an invaluable base upon which they will build as they work in our clinics in an apprenticeship model. We have made a number of internal changes to systematize and streamline the volunteer application and selection process. On another note our plans for staffing clinics in Thailand have been moving along with a few good contacts that are willing to handle our dealings with the government health ministry. Stay tuned for more news!!