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 This time he will not accept any hugs, and he is totally withdrawn.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.
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 volunteers Julia Raneri, Meg McDowell, Jennifer Trombley, and Carla Cassler just returned from four days at the Enclave Caracol Clinic (sponsored by the Refugee Health Alliance) in Tijuana, Mexico. This is the first of regular service trips that AWB will be making in the coming year to provide trauma and pain relief treatments to asylum seekers, immigrants, refugees, and community support volunteers in the Tijuana-San Diego area. AWB already has a similar project in Texas.
Over 9,000 people are waiting in Tijuana for asylum processing, many living in shelters under very difficult conditions. The Refugee Health Alliance was created last year “to help mobilize Southern California providers and their networks down to the Tijuana/San Diego international border to aid in the refugee crisis.” The Enclave Caracol Clinic, staffed by volunteer medical providers, herbalists and midwives, is open weekdays to provide integrative medical services to the migrating community. On Saturdays, additional volunteers staff mobile clinics in shelters throughout Tijuana, where people are living while they wait.
On this first service trip, we treated many people (most from Honduras, Haiti, and Cameroon) for significant pain and trauma patterns. We also worked with clinic herbalists to enhance a wonderful pharmacy that includes many traditional Mexican herb remedies. Over the next months, as we work with the clinic staff, we will learn more about traditional healing practices and herbal medicine used in Mexico and Central America, and offer Chinese medicine as a complement.
We plan to train local practitioners to provide treatments, and work on the California side of the border to support asylum seekers once they are within US borders.
Special thanks to the Mayway Corporation for donating huge amounts of herbs, to Lhasa OMS and Acurea Medical for acupuncture supplies, and to Kurt Chilcott (CA Endowment) and Patricia Simpson for financial support for this project. If you would like to participate in this project, please contact Carla Cassler at email@example.com.
Please check out our newvideo,AWB Bridging Borders, which documents our work with immigrants, asylum-seekers and community volunteers at the Texas/Mexico Border. Thanks to Diana Fried and Naike Swai for their work on this!
There is a humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. Large numbers of refugees are camping out for weeks and months on or near the international bridges connecting Mexico and Texas. They hope to enter the United States legally; many seek asylum. They have few resources and are in desperate need, relying heavily on grassroots volunteers from the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) for sustenance. If allowed into the U.S., they spend additional weeks or months sleeping on the floor in harsh conditions in detention centers at the border, where only minimal clothing and food are provided. From there they may be deported or eventually released, sometimes hundreds at a time, with no resources and often nowhere to go.
Between January 4 and January 6, 2019, an 8- member team representing Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) conducted 4 acupuncture trauma-relief clinics in the RGV in response to this humanitarian crisis. We partnered with Angry Tías & Abuelas of the RGV to identify local connections and site locations. Our goals were to offer primary trauma relief to asylum seekers and secondary trauma relief to community first responders.
Since 2016, AWB has provided acupuncture to migrating people in Greek refugee camps and community centers. We have supported a core group of Greek acupuncturists to work in the Athens area with people transitioning from refugee camps to family housing.Every Monday, AWB acupuncturist Artemis Karnezi offers treatments at the Melissa Network, an amazing social service support center serving women and children from 45 different countries.
Many Melissa program participants have experienced war and poverty in their countries of origin, as well as gender-based violence, displacement, potential deportation, and unemployability in Greece. They suffer from insomnia, nightmares, body pain, hormonal imbalances and skin conditions related to stress. Regular acupuncture for the women at Melissa has helped immensely. Program participants and staff alike are emphatic when discussing the benefits of acupuncture in their lives.
In the words of Melissa director Nadina Christabou:
“The response (to acupuncture) is incredible…if the women could have it everyday they would have it. It’s probably one of the best experiences they have. It stays with them when they go home. And then when life is difficult again they want to come back to have acupuncture again, to feel this release from all the stress and anxiety they are facing.”
The Melissa Network and AWB are discussing a collaborative wellness program that includes acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, yoga and Qigong for its staff and program participants. AWB is committed to helping make this happen!
We just completed an amazing three-week journey to Israel and the West Bank where AWB has been working for the past five years. AWB works here because it is a conflict area where most people suffer from deep trauma. Palestinians suffer displacement, discrimination, economic restriction, high imprisonment rates, and other horrors of the occupation. Israelis suffer from traumatic war experiences, terror attacks, and transgenerational trauma from the Holocaust and centuries of antisemitism. And there are other communities that experience trauma-the Druze, Sudanese refugees, and Palestinians who are also Israeli citizens. It is a complicated place with more nuances than not.
It is AWB’s mission to treat EVERYONE suffering from trauma, to intervene in trauma cycles that perpetuate fear and hatred. We also train practitioners to provide trauma reduction treatments in their own communities so that people can receive support over time.
As part of this WHE trip, AWB trip participants trained a group of Palestinian health-workers in the West Bank to do the NADA protocol. This is the second Palestinian training AWB has done this year, and we hope to do another in the near future as word about this work spreads in the West Bank. The other important element of the training is that we bring Israelis, Americans and Palestinians TOGETHER to train and practice. Then we go to Palestinian communities and provide treatments as a mixed diverse team of professionals. This is part of the healing work-to demonstrate that people can work together to serve diverse communities despite all the conflicts and challenges. During the trip we did clinics (called healing circles) for Bedouin women in Tel Sheva, for Palestinians in Beit Jala and Bethlehem, and for a group of settlers and Palestinian farmers who are trying to work together in the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion.
A few comments from women in Bethlehem after their treatments: “I was afraid before, do not feel afraid now.” “I felt like something was getting out of my body…I had stress and a headache, now I feel much better, no headache or stress.” “I feel like I am in a different world.”
This is the Medicine of Peace.
We learned about indigenous healing practices: Kaballah healing, Bedouin herbology, biblical medicinal plants, modern herb farms in Israel, and how TCM is practiced in integrative settings in Israeli hospitals. We also spent time with old friends from AWB Israel and made many new friends in Palestine. It is easy to give up hope that the conflict here will ever resolve. We are doing what we can, along with many others, to make sure it will. Thank you to everyone who supports our work in this region and throughout the world!
Special thanks to Lhasa OMS and Acurea Medical-USA for donating supplies, and to Ray Lifchez for supporting the Palestinian practitioner training!