For Humanitarian Acupuncture Project President, Anne Biris, the comprehensive vision of her profession always has encompassed the use of acupuncture to relieve the suffering of those who have few or no options for ongoing healthcare, treat the populations of impoverished and isolated communities, and empower women at the grassroots level by giving them a medical education and an income-producing profession.
Biris has been asked many times why she chose to train local people. The answer is quite simple: Real change cannot be effected if individuals are not trained and educated to help their own people. Chinese medicine can become a powerful vehicle once a grassroots movement is enabled. HAP’s president believes that giving individuals a vocation, which they can mold to their own culture, is the only way to proceed respectfully and effectively, all the while keeping in view the guiding principles of empowerment and sustainability.
From her observations of more than four years of volunteer work in the slums of Mumbai, India, Biris has seen that these objectives are not fanciful goals: Put into motion by seasoned practitioners and volunteers, these projects work well, and they work even more effectively on a smaller village scale where they serve as ‘incubators’ for replication in nearby communities.
Biris’s aspirations for Sikkim, a province in the very north of India, are important. An indigenous team brought together by Biris in October and November of 2015 is now on-site and organizing as HAP’s collaborating nonprofit organization (NPO) and crucial projects are taking form. Certainly, there are challenges to be met: The nature of the country of Sikkim is unique in that it is largely contained culturally and politically. Currently, there is no acupuncture available, even though Sikkim shares a border with three countries–Nepal, Bhutan, and China. Relations between these countries are strained. As a result, Chinese medicine has not made inroads through these formidable borders. The residents of Sikkim who want acupuncture treatment must make an arduous 12-hour trek to Kathmandu, the capital and largest municipality of Nepal. To be able to offer acupuncture within the province of Sikkim is clearly a great service to these largely isolated communities.