Monday, July 27, 2009

Providing Chinese Medicine in Rural Guatemala

By Eric Aufdencamp, L.Ac.

In May 2008, I had the privilege of doing volunteer work with a non-profit called GUAMAP, the Guatemala Acunpuncture and Medical Aid Project. The organization sends Spanish-speaking acupuncturists and other health care volunteers to remote villages in northern Guatemala. They teach health promoters acupuncture skills so they can treat those in need. Health promoters are Guatemalans who receive special training in basic medicine to help the people in their communities. I am looking forward to returning this summer as well.

The first time around each practitioner was interviewed to assess the effectiveness of their treatments. Everyone responded that they were pleased with their results. They also reported that the demand and request for treatments continues to grow.

One of the more seasoned practitioners was pleased to tell us about a practitioner from the level two training, who had successfully treated four cases of poisonous snake bites with moxa. He was impressed, because he had always had access to western medicine and did not want to take the risk of seeing if the treatment would be successful. However, his colleague, who did not have any other options since he lived far from any western medical facility, treated him just with moxa.

The health promoters are working to create a local acupuncture committee to support each other, as well as to improve their status as health practitioners. Indeed, many of them provide other types of healthcare education, such as oral hygiene. The level of enthusiasm and interest in Chinese medicine shows that it will continue to flourish in a country where many lack access to basic medical services.

During my time teaching and treating patients, I was reminded of the ability of Chinese medicine to heal and improve the lives of so many people. I look forward to working with GUAMAP again this year and thank all of you who so generously supported my participation in this wonderful program.