AWB Provides Treatments to Puerto Ricans after Earthquakes

AWB Provides Treatments to Puerto Ricans after Earthquakes

This is an update from Ramon Serrano, L.Ac., who coordinates AWB service work in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. He is reporting from Guayanilla, Puerto Rico – January 11, 2020.

On my way to Guayanilla at 8 am, another tremor measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale shook the already traumatized inhabitants of La Isla del Encanto. Fortunately, I did not feel it on the road. Since Dec. 28th when the first major one struck, there have been at least 900 detectable episodes. Because the epicenter of the seismic shifts lies directly to the south of the Island, it is the southern towns where most of the structural damage has taken place, and as a result, where the physical, mental and emotional dislocation is most evident.

Puerto Ricans are still recovering from the PTSD associated with Hurricane Maria two years ago, so that the fear and panic being experienced by an already fragile psyche is quite understandable. Part of the underlying insecurity lies in the distrust of a local government that failed them miserably during the last disaster, and a Federal Government led by a narcissist who witholds badly needed aid while insulting the most vulnerable.

The silver lining in this scenario lies in the non-governmental response to both the crisis of Hurricane Maria and to the present moment. The Puerto Rican people on the Island and in the Diaspora, eight million strong, have demonstrated an inexharable determination to help their brothers and sisters most in need. During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria grassroots organizers met during the rescue efforts and have established a nexus that has proven its metal during the current situation. Physical Therapists, Community Health organizations, Food Coops and all manner of transportation services are now coordinating their efforts in the most efficient fashion.

When I arrived in Guayanilla we were directed to a stadium where the townspeople were being refuged. Entire families, including the elderly and children, were living in the outdoors under tarps and tents. This is also happening along most of the Southern coast from Penuelas to Sabana Grande. Folks are terrified to go indoors for fear that any shift in the tectonic plates will compromise the structures, causing them to collapse. The amount of activity in the adjoining parking lot with all manner of vehicles arriving with people and supplies was truly impressive. There were people cooking and free food was being handed out alll over.

We introduced ourselves as an international aid organization, Acupuncturists Without Borders, and were told that we could occupy any empty tent and set up shop. We found a recently constructed mobile wooden structure that actually had folding chairs inside. Serendipity! We announced our presence over a community sound system and began to “recruit” patients. A big part of what we do as an organization in Puerto Rico is introduce the idea of acupuncture. Most people outside the San Juan metropolitan area have never heard of it. We use the NADA protocol and attempt to convince people that five needles in their ear will reduce their anxiety. Usually the community is in such dire emotional stress that they will try anything. After the first few are convinced, the ice is broken and we normally get a steady flow of patients. In this instance, with the veteran skills of AWB volunteer Maria Lulu Castro and her able assistants, we were able to treat more than sixty people.

The work is really just beginning. Luckily there are other groups also using the NADA method. Acupuncture P’al Pueblo and Boricua Barefoot Doctors are helping to bring attention to the benefits of this medicine.to a much wider population. Also we will once again be welcoming our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora, who are coming with supplies and medical missions, in order to once again demonstrate that eight million really equals ONE!


AWB returns to Matamoros, MX to treat refugees

AWB returns to Matamoros, MX to treat refugees

Please check out this USA Today article written about this trip.

This report comes from Diana Fried, Founder & Co-Executive Director, who just returned from Matamoros:

Just back from Matamoros, Mexico, an area where the bridge between the US and Mexico meets land. I was there in January and everything is completely different. 

Where there were 10 or 20 people waiting to seek asylum then, now there are a thousand in tents cramped together on the bridge and in an area just off the bridge. 

We walk from the comfortable world of the US  that we live in, with our fresh clean clothes and just showered bodies, just 10 minutes, pay our $1.00 in quarters to cross, and all of a sudden we are worlds away in stench-filled garbage- filled camp with lovely people who are sad and happy and with their families and alone, cooking and cleaning and walking and trying to remember who they are such a long way from home in a foreign land simply trying to find a little bit of safety and a home.

It is rough beyond that 10 minutes from the US border. 

The eight of us AWB team members are thrown into a completely different land and we lose track of ourselves as well for this temporary time. As we walk through the smoke-filled dusty path of the tent camp, trting not to step on garbage, we see the cobb ovens that the people have created by digging down to mud and then pulling it up and drying it so they have something to cook on. The ingenuity is amazing.

There are piles of stuff everywhere and kids running around. Women look exhausted and disheveled, some of them. Others look absolutely pristine with their makeup and smiles. It is hard to know what is going on. 

We hear that 100 people crossed over the border last night. They have left all their stuff and some people are scrounging through piles and piles of things to find what maybe they can use. 

We do our peaceful treatments and then we hear that for one man, he has not had a moment since he can remember where he hasn’t been thinking and worrying and fearing for the life of his son and himself. We watched him go very deep in the treatment and afterwards he told us that it was the only time he was thought free since this whole horrendous journey. 

People are so grateful, so open and loving. Our hearts open too for this time. And our tears stream sometimes. 

One of our team members sees a boy she had seen before. This time he will not accept any hugs, and he is totally withdrawn. He says he doesn’t hug anymore. Our team member is torn apart and wonders what happened to him during these months. 

As we go back to the US, walking 10 minutes, one of the team members says to me this was a good day, this is how a day can be, this was a day of giving where we feel full from it. It is so simple when the exchange is like this. 
Sweaty and dirty now, we go eat tacos and ice cream and laugh a lot together and once again I fall in love with these incredible people who come into the world of AWB to do this giving. It is a miracle.

2019 Military Stress Recovery Project Update

2019 Military Stress Recovery Project Update

Download the PDF of this update here!

Since 2006, Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) has trained over 6,000 licensed acupuncturists to offer trauma-healing treatments to people affected by disaster and human conflict. Many AWB-trained practitioners have gone on to create healing projects in their communities for veterans, active duty soldiers, reservists, first responders, and their families.

These projects are part of AWB’s Military Stress Recovery Project, a network of thirty free Community Service Clinics serving wounded warriors and their families. MSRP clinics offer over 30,000 treatments annually to help people recover from the emotional and physical wounds of war. They offer safe haven for warriors and their families to connect with one another, feel less isolation, and receive support.

Click here to see a list of MSRP clinics.

Stories from people served in AWB MSRP clinics in 2019:

Acupuncturist Ida Mat Harris treating women and children  

“Healing Circle Veterans Acupuncture Project (HCVAP) is part of AWB’s MSRP network, started in Sep 2013, and since then we have served approximately 500 military and first responders including their families. Our goal is to help alleviate some of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experienced by combat veterans and active duty, both its degree and severity, over time. We hope to bring healing and peace into the lives of those who receive treatment, as well as to help their families and their communities. We expect this work will help reduce anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, violence, suicides, substance abuse and other difficulties often experienced by those with untreated PTSD.” 

-Ida I Mat Aris   
InnSpot coordinator and veteran Guy Page with first responders

“I feel amazing after one session. I cannot wait to go again and I’m so grateful to have met Guy (coordinator)! Thank you. Living in pain and with PTSD is manageable thanks to AWB and #theinnspot!” 

– Danae Wakefield, after receiving treatment at the InnSpot, an MSRP clinic in San Diego 
Don Lau and friend at BAYVAC, an AWB community service clinic for veterans in San Francisco

“I came back from fighting in Vietnam with a broken heart.  I saw horrible things and did them too, so I know that mine was not the only broken heart… Until I had acupuncture, I could not sleep through the night for over 40 years. I feel like my life is coming back to me after a very long nightmare. I’m very grateful to get the acupuncture that is healing my body and soul.”

~Don Lau, Vietnam Veteran from San Francisco

Thank you to the volunteer practitioners and donors who make the AWB Military Stress Recovery Project possible!

Update on AWB California Border Project

Update on AWB California Border Project

Since January 2019, AWB has been working at the US-Mexico border to bring trauma healing treatments to migrating people and community volunteers. Our work began in Texas, and has expanded to California, where AWB volunteers have taken two week-long service trips since August, 2019. We’ve treated hundreds of people-asylum seekers and refugees who face devastating living conditions, legal challenges, and health problems – as well as community activists and health practitioners who often suffer from secondary trauma due to their tireless, supportive work.

AWB acupuncturist and trainer Julia Raneri providing treatments in Tijuana, October 2019

AWB is working with the Refugee Health Alliance in Tijuana, as well as local migrant support organizations in Southern California. We offer direct service (acupuncture, herbal medicine, body work) and are training local practitioners, to expand services and access for thousands of people who need help with physical and emotional pain.

AWB’s goal is to train enough practitioners to provide weekly trauma-reduction acupuncture services in Southern CA-Tijuana locations within the next year.

AWB acupuncturist Ida Mat Harris treating women and children, October 2019

For more information on the AWB CA Border Project, contact Carla Cassler at director@acuwithoutborders.org.

AWB field team at the border, October 2019