Acupuncturists Without Borders is providing free community-style acupuncture to help victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Nationwide Effort to Provide Much Needed Relief through Acupuncture

In the wake of the recent devastation in Haiti, which has affected hundreds of thousands of individuals, a 3,000 year old-medicine has emerged as a remedy for survivors and relief workers to combat stress and trauma. Free community-style acupuncture, provided by the volunteer-based organization, Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB), has been the source of that relief this last week, in their first of many trips to Haiti. According to volunteers and Sarasota News Network’s (SNN) witnessing journalist, Mia McCormick, the treatments AWB offered during the pilot visit to Haiti February 3-8 were highly effective within a matter of minutes, resulting in a visible decrease in discomfort and creating a rare light of hope for those affected most by the dark and devastating event. Local doctors observed their patients feeling sudden hope, which seemed dramatic in those impacted most by the dark and devastating event.

In these types of trying situations, acupuncturists can be one of the greatest supports. Once the people affected by this type of tragedy have water, shelter, food, and immediate medical attention, the need goes to the next critical step of mental, emotional, and spiritual care, along with ongoing physical care; this is where acupuncture comes into play. Acupuncturists can provide significant calming relief in these situations.
AWB got its start when it offered much needed relief with free community acupuncture during the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, providing more than 8,000 free treatments in New Orleans. The organization also has an ongoing national Military Stress Recovery Project which treats veterans, active military and their family for trauma in more than two-dozen affiliated clinics around the United States. AWB has now mobilized a team of volunteer acupuncturists to treat those devastated by the recent earthquake. The organization is working closely with contacts at the Port-au-Prince General Hospital, Universite Quisqueya medical school, displaced camps in Port-Au-Prince, and many other grass roots organizations and international medical teams. Treatments by AWB volunteers are based on the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) ear protocol, which has proven to be extremely powerful in alleviating symptoms of stress and trauma. 

Diana Fried, Executive Director of AWB, who recently traveled to Haiti to organize the relief efforts, stated the purpose of her visit was to assess the needs on the ground in Haiti for acupuncture services. She found that there is a tremendous need and desire for acupuncture treatments for physical and emotional trauma. A number of volunteer groups expressed, in addition to the need for treatments, an interest in having AWB come back to train local nurses, doctors, medical students and other health practitioners in the NADA protocol, so that they can use it in the field on an ongoing basis. Fried added,”Everyone in Haiti has had a terrible loss…everyone is suffering from some level of traumatic stress and/or post traumatic stress disorder. We feel honored that our treatments are welcome in Haiti, and that we can do our small part to help ease the suffering, and bring about some recovery for the body, minds and spirits of the Haitian people, whose lives we touch.”

The American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the national trade association for acupuncturists in the Unites States and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), the certifying body for professional acupuncturists, have teamed up to promote  AWB’s relief efforts and the benefits of acupuncture treatment for individuals affected by disaster. Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, CEO of the NCCAOM states, “Many are not aware of the healing effects of receiving acupuncture treatment during the aftermath of an overwhelming disaster such as the Haiti earthquake. By bringing this medicine to the streets of Haiti, not only are they improving thousands of lives, but these acupuncturists also bring public awareness to the value of this medicine during crisis situations.”

The AAAOM, an organization devoted to promoting the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine and educating consumers about its many benefits, has been instrumental in getting the word out about the healing powers of acupuncture during crisis times. Deborah Lincoln, President of the AAAOM stated, “With a devastating disaster such as this, having acupuncture there to aid those most in need, from patients to relief workers, is truly a core value of this profession.  Acupuncture is a simple way to give relief, rest and a glimmer of hope.  We are proud to work with the NCCAOM and AWB in continuing these efforts, so that more people can be given this opportunity of healing.”

AWB’s Haiti Disaster Recovery Program is being coordinated in collaboration with Pathways to Wellness in Boston. The pilot trip to Haiti was made possible because of a partnership with Sarasota Bay Rotary Club. AWB intend to send teams within the next few weeks and thereafter on an ongoing basis and expects to start trainings in Haiti within the next few months. The longevity of AWB’s relief effort in Haiti will depend on the availability of funds, since costs for water, food, housing, and local transportation in Haiti are currently high.

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