Since May 2016, AWB has offered trauma-healing treatments in Greece where tens of thousands of people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries live in refugee camps. Many refugees experience significant trauma from war, displacement, dangerous migration, and loss of friends and family. Immigrating to EU countries like Germany is not a possibility for them because they migrated to Greece after the border to the rest of Europe was closed in March 2016. They are stranded in Greece until they receive asylum there, or are likely to be deported back to the Middle East. Greece cannot provide an economic future for them (many Greeks have no work) and deportation can mean death.
In 2020, AWB-trained acupuncturist Gaia Ivri (right) set up an AWB-sponsored clinic for refugees on the island of Chios in Greece. Gaia is part of AWB-Israel, and received her training as part of AWB’s Medicine of Peace project in Israel-West Bank.
Meanwhile in Athens, AWB is helping local acupuncturists incorporate as AWB-Greece. Once this happens, trauma-healing projects like the one in Chios, as well as treatments offered at refugee community centers in Athens, can gain funding and support from EU foundations. AWB is mentoring this effort and supplying projects with funds and supplies.
AWB is the first organization that we know of that has brought trauma reduction acupuncture to refugee camps in Greece. Our mission is to create as much “capacity” as possible, which is why we are now training Greek acupuncturists to offer treatments.
In 2019, in response to the large number of people stranded in refugee camps at the US/Mexico border, AWB began offering treatments, practitioner trainings, supplies and monetary donations to support trauma-relief efforts for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The health status of many asylum seekers in Mexico (including many people from Central America, Haiti, and Africa) is increasingly precarious because the Mexican government stopped providing health insurance coverage for migrant. Refugees will have to rely on services provided by clinics like Espacio Migrante and Prevencasa (sponsored by the Refugee Health Alliance), more than ever. Uniquely, these two clinics provide integrative care, including natural therapies like acupuncture and herbs. AWB has partnered with these organizations as well as with the Parteras midwives in Tijuana, Mexico, sponsored by the Refugee Health Alliance. AWB did four service trips to work with the midwives in Tijuana, before CoVid prevented us from doing in-person field service.
We also have joined the InnSpot, an AWB-affiliated Military Stress Recovery Project clinic based in San Diego, to offer treatments at the US Deported Veterans Center in Tijuana.
AWB Treatments in Greek Refugee Camp, 2020
AWB Treatments at the Texas/Mexico border, 2019
Moving forward, AWB intends to:
- Create new refugee support clinics in the US. We especially intend to build on our trauma-relief project at the border in Brownsville, TX and Tijuana, MX to treat migrants, asylum seekers and community first responders.
- Continue direct service in the refugee camps we are currently working in and expand services to other camps in mainland Greece.
- Train more Greek acupuncturists to provide treatments. We are supporting them by offering training, transportation and supply stipends.
- Train acupuncturists in European countries such as Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands who are working with over 1 million resettling refugees.
“When I think of the service work that we do I realize how intimate it is. As I treated the children and their mothers seated on the floor of the tent with a platform floor, I felt energetically intertwined…so aware of the physicality of our treatments…treating the mothers with curious children pulling on my arms and knees to be able to see what I am doing. So much mutual love.
Nour,Shahein, and all the other people in the EKO camp are foreigners here in Greece-just like me. In theory they can leave this place, but they are not free. I can drive away, use my passport and fly back to my home. They have no status here – no connections, family outside the camp, options to get a job or make a choice of where to live…they are essentially in prison. And yet we are similar in almost every other way.”
Ritsona Camp at Night