On the Road with Modern Barefoot Doctors: Acupuncture in Humanitarian work

On the Road with Modern Barefoot Doctors:

Acupuncture in Humanitarian work

By: Anthony M. Giovanniello, MS.Ac.,L.Ac.

Founder of Acupuncture Ambassadors

 Siem Reap, Cambodia 2008: “A barefoot doctor was an ancient Chinese phenomenon which was then revived as part of a 20th century Maoist healthcare initiative to train individuals in the basics of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine to keep the Chinese people healthy and productive. These doctors traveled from village to village treating local people in need of medical care. Barefoot--because many of them were also farmers who, when not treating patients, worked in their fields shoeless.  As I stand barefoot, on the deck of a one-room floating schoolhouse on a lake in Cambodia, acupuncture needles in hand, I think about those barefoot doctors who have come before me.

When the only school teacher in the area invited our humanitarian acupuncture volunteer group aboard, we had no idea what was in store for us on this day. Word of our arrival traveled quickly through this Vietnamese refugee community.  These refugees have been living together in this houseboat village since they fled their home country during what was then called the “Vietnam Conflict.”  Dozens of shabby, rundown canoes floated to us carrying people who haven’t seen any medical care in what probably felt like a lifetime to them.

Through the use of acupuncture, we witnessed some amazing transformations. Many who had been suffering with various common illnesses, such as arthritis and rheumatism, as well as a patient with long-standing lung cancer, became pain-free for the first time in many years. Patients with infectious wounds due to their poor immune systems began to heal by using simple needles. Old men suffering from insomnia due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) even 40 years after “the war” were sleeping like babies on the schoolhouse floor.  The most touching moment of our day, was when a small boy with one arm paddled up in what looked like an oversized noodle pot. Because his family was poor, this was his only means of transportation. He had been in pain since he lost his arm to a landmine, which are still scattered around the country-- a reminder of a not-so-distant time of war.”

Excerpt from the journals of A.M. Giovanniello, Acupuncturist

I vividly remember this day, as it was the first time I truly understood why I had spent so many years of study and personal sacrifice to become an acupuncturist. Since that first “getting my feet wet” mission, I have created and participated in numerous medical missions with my non-profit organization, Acupuncture Ambassadors. My colleagues and I have traveled to some of the most incredible places in the world -- including the Navajo Native American reservation in the State of Arizona in the Western area of the United States.

I am part of a community of Humanitarian Acupuncturists who take time out of their busy practices and home life to travel throughout the world, bringing help to those who have little or no access to healthcare. We are the modern barefoot doctors.

The medicine of Acupuncture, fits perfectly into the field of humanitarian work. It’s effective for many health issues, including helping patients with chronic conditions who live in poor countries that can’t afford pharmaceutical solutions. The WHO (World Health Organization) has deemed Acupuncture to be a viable treatment for more than 40 health issues, including anxiety, depression and PTSD. It is efficient, economical and extremely portable. In a volunteer mission, we potentially treat more than 100 patients in a day for less what than most of us spend in a month on our daily coffee addiction.

At present, there are more than 30 caring and compassionate volunteer organizations which work in diverse and sometimes dangerous locals all over the world. In recent years, the worldwide Humanitarian Acupuncture community served victims of disasters, including the earthquakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Tsunami in South East Asia and Hurricane Sandy.  Missions are ongoing in Thailand, India, Nepal, Tibet, Peru, Guatemala, Uganda, South Africa and the Republic of Congo.

Humanitarian Acupuncture organizations are helping to change world health “one needle at a time”.

Anthony Giovanniello Ms.Ac.L.Ac.

Founder Acupuncture Ambassadors

For more information about Acupuncture Ambassadors, please go to: www.acupunctureambassadors.org