The inspiration for the Humanitarian Acupuncture Project (HAP) is derived from President Anne Biris’s experience with the European organization, Barefoot Acupuncture, that was actively involved in treating and setting up clinics using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in isolated and extremely poor areas of India.
Why did we begin in India? There are 40 million people in slums throughout India and the number continues to grow at alarming rates. Five million of them are children.
In the beginning: A Collaboration with Impact
In January of 2011, Biris went to Mumbai, India, and met with Barefoot Acupuncture staff to experience and discuss the need for acupuncture and TCM in underprivileged and remote areas of the country. Biris was immediately drawn to the effectiveness of the treatment on-site and its relatively inexpensive way of providing relief to the people. The demand for this treatment modality was far beyond the capacity of the Indian NGO, Barefoot.slums, and it was clear that more financial help and more volunteers were critical for the survival of the program. Additionally, Biris saw that a comprehensive clinical education for local practitioners was an issue to be addressed, and so the implementation of a standardized teaching method was thoroughly discussed.
The medical needs of the people who have little to no money was disheartening, especially for such simple medical conditions as pain management, which acupuncture perfectly and appropriately addresses. Cultural standards were another issue of interest to observe and potentially positively address. As healthcare providers in a country where women have very little social status, the project personnel of our two organizations realized that acupuncture treatment was something that could be taught to help local women gain a profession, and thereby, some independence and social standing.
In just five years, the collaborative effort between Barefoot Acupuncturists and Humanitarian Acupuncture Project established five clinics in Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, trained seven Indian acupuncturists to direct the clinics, and treated 12,000 patients yearly.
Sikkim Province, India
Now an independent charitable organization (501 (c) 3), HAP is focusing its efforts in the very north of India in the Province of Sikkim, which borders on the countries of Nepal, China, and Bhutan. Cross-border interaction with China and Bhutan is virtually impossible for political reasons. The majority of Indian provinces, too, are politically and culturally antagonistic to the population of Sikkim. For the Sikkimese, this leaves the healthcare centers of Nepal, which are too long a trek for most people to reach. The majority of this population is isolated and underprivileged, and urgently in need of medical care that HAP can provide.