Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB), an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based non-profit launched in 2005 by Executive Director Diana Fried, has received a $20,000 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to train Haitian health-care providers in trauma recovery methods. This training will be conducted in Haiti during the spring of 2011 for 30 to 40 local health-care providers.

Throughout 2010, AWB volunteers provided more than 4,500 trauma recovery treatments in Haiti. AWB’s protocol, which uses five, tiny, disposable needles in the outside of each patient’s ear, offers striking results in re-setting a person’s nervous system to initiate the process of trauma recovery. The results are often life saving, allowing each patient to begin to feel “like themself” once again.
“After the disaster…I get many trouble, you know, because I lose many friends. When the first AWB team coming here, they explain me about the acupuncture. I take the first therapy. I feel so good. There’s no stress, pain for me. I sleep well. After that, I explain this to the other people. They agree with me…This is the best therapy that I ever know.”
— Excerpted from a letter by Jean Marie Exavier, 2010 earthquake survivor, Leogane, Haiti

Health-care providers from around Haiti quickly caught on to the power of this technique and requested AWB to train them. AWB’s first training for 30 Haitian health-care providers took place in Port-au-Prince in August 2010. The goal was to spread this powerful trauma recovery work throughout Haiti so that many more people could receive support, and to empower Haitian nationals to heal each other and themselves. For a news video about this training,click here.

Since that time, the trainees have requested more support in mastering the techniques and launching their treatment efforts around the country. Fried noted, “Even though the method is very simple, it helps to practice it for a while after you are trained, and then be able to ask questions and receive feedback from a trainer. That’s what we’ll go back and do–so that every single trainee feels fully confident in using these techniques. With that confidence, they can treat hundreds of thousands of people a year in Haiti – more than we could ever treat by coming in from the U.S. for short periods of time.”

In the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the level of physical and mental/emotional trauma throughout the country is at an all-time high. Prior to this devastating event, Haiti was struggling as a result of many previous disasters and political/economic challenges, and was already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere with 80 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 54 percent living in abject poverty. Now the Haitian people, resilient as they are, have become victims of sustained trauma. As quoted in a New York Times article March 19, 2010, symptoms of extreme post-traumatic stress disorder are everywhere, and more help is needed if Haiti is going to get back on her feet.

When people are traumatized they often can’t sleep, digest food properly, think and sometimes even speak. Their nervous systems become stuck in a state of fight or flight. Symptoms of mental-health problems may become more pronounced, such as uncontrollable rage, catatonic depression and psychosis. Because of this, it’s virtually impossible for a person to begin rebuilding a life or a country when their immediate experience is one of profound trauma. Although counseling and talk therapy are important, they cannot address the need alone since severe trauma is a physiological response which becomes locked in the body, and requires a physical intervention to unlock. The community-style acupuncture treatments provided by Acupuncturists Without Borders serve this function in a way that is low-tech, low-cost and easy to teach, as well as highly effective.

For more information on AWB’s Haiti Disaster Recovery Program, visit http://acuwithoutborders.org/haitiprogram.php.

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