• rural nepal

    Home to eight of the highest mountains in the world including Mt. Everest, Nepal remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
  • Research Focused

    Conducting research studies and documenting patient cases helps us analyze the efficacy of our clinic and contribute to the body of evidence that supports our project model.
  • Patient Education

    By providing simple explanations, we help patients understand their health concerns and make informed choices regarding their care.
  • training & mentorship

    Acupuncture Relief Project offers meaningful training opportunities and employment to interpreters and local healthcare workers.
  • Providing Access

    According to the World Health Organization, Nepal's healthcare system ranks 150th in the world with less than one doctor per 6000 people.
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Our Mission

Our unique model provides effective, efficient, primary care in rural Nepal. Read More
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Our Clinics

Since 2008, our clinics have provided over 350,000 primary care visits. Read More
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Our Partners

Influencing government policy and achieving educational goals. Read More
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Volunteer With Us

We need your help. Serve others while learning new skills. Read More
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Our Evidence

Case studies and field research helps us analyze our efficacy. Read More
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VOLUNTEER COMMUNITY CARE CLINICS IN NEPAL

Nepal remains one of the poorest countries in the world and has been plagued with political unrest and military conflict for the past decade. In 2015, a pair of major earthquakes devastated this small and fragile country. 

Since 2008, the Acupuncture Relief Project has provided over 300,000 treatments to patients living in rural villages outside of Kathmandu Nepal. Our efforts include the treatment of patients living without access to modern medical care as well as people suffering from extreme poverty, substance abuse and social disfranchisement.

Common conditions include musculoskeletal pain, digestive pain, hypertension, diabetes, stroke rehabilitation, uterine prolapse, asthma, and recovery from tuberculosis treatment, typhoid fever, and surgery.

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Featured Case Studies

  • Cervical and Lumbar Spondylosis +

    70-year-old male presents with severe cervical and lumbar pain, neuropathy of the arms, hands, legs and feet, incontinence Read More
  • Chronic Gastritis with Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome: Crohn’s Disease +

    40-year-old male presents with chronic, burning gastrointestinal pain with accompanied acid reflux, belching, fullness, diarrhea, weight loss and Read More
  • Chronic Abdominal Pain +

    31-year-old male presents with chronic abdominal pain. The patient has suffered from abdominal pain for the past 11 Read More
  • Ulcerative Colitis +

    70-year-old female patient presents with urgent, frequent diarrhea. No enteropathogenic organisms are present, however blood is found in Read More
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Compassion Connect : Documentary Series

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    In the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, this episode explores the challenges of providing basic medical access for people living in rural areas.

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    Episode 1: Rural Primary Care

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    Acupuncture Relief Project tackles complicated medical cases through accurate assessment and the cooperation of both governmental and non-governmental agencies.

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    EPISODE 2: INTEGRATED MEDICINE

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    Cooperation with the local government yields a unique opportunities to establish a new integrated medicine outpost in Bajra Barahi, Makawanpur, Nepal.

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    EPISODE 3: WORKING WITH THE GOVERNMENT

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    Complicated medical cases require extraordinary effort. This episode follows 4-year-old Sushmita in her battle with tuberculosis.

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    EPISODE 4: CASE MANAGEMENT

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    Drug and alcohol abuse is a constant issue in both rural and urban areas of Nepal. Local customs and few treatment facilities prove difficult obstacles.

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    EPISODE 5: SOBER RECOVERY

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    Interpreters help make a critical connection between patients and practitioners. This episode explores the people that make our medicine possible and what it takes to do the job.

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    EPISODE 6: THE INTERPRETERS

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    This episode looks at the people and the process of creating a new generation of Nepali rural health providers.

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    EPISODE 7: FUTURE DOCTORS OF NEPAL

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    In this 2011, documentary, Film-maker Tristan Stoch successfully illustrates many of the complexities of providing primary medical care in a third world environment.

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    COMPASSION CONNECTS: 2012 PILOT EPISODE

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From Our Blog

 

Jessica Maynard Acupuncture Volunteer

These past six weeks have been a whirlwind!  Treating patients in Chapagaon, Godhavari, Champi, and Sipadol has been wonderful, challenging, gruelling, a test of patience, endurance, ingenuity, and yes, a test of using the art of language and communication.  “But you have interpreters!” You say.  And I agree.  They are incredibly capable at what they do, and they make this operation go round.  But the art of communication is a tough one, and as practitioners, part of our responsibility is to make the message we want to give to the patient communicable, and clear.  However.  This isn’t the end of the story.  What happens when you must tell someone something that even in English is a challenge to say?  This takes on a whole new level of skill, compassion, and of course, truth. 

One of my regular patients has Parkinson’s disease. She has come in faithfully to the clinic, 4 and 5 days in a row, for six weeks straight, for acupuncture.  On the first visit she was told that her hand and facial tremors could perhaps be decreased by regular treatments, but that they would never completely go away.  However, throughout the entire duration of her coming to the clinic she has been anxious to have her disease ‘cured’ so that she can return to her village.  In almost every intake  her reply to “how are you doing today” is some kind of wry answer like “well, I’m still shaking”  or “look at me.  How do you think I am?”  But her commitment to stay in Chapagaon, live with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, and make the trek to the clinic on foot on a daily basis is strong.  Because she has believed that she will, in fact, be cured.

As a new medical practitioner, and one who hasn’t dealt yet with terminal and permanent illness to a great degree, I am discovering that the line between contributing to a sense of hope for a patient, and giving them the honest, hard truth is a fine one.  Add to that a culture of people who haven’t heard the terms ‘Parkinson’s’ and ‘Alzheimer’s’ and the tendency is very attractive to keep a patient in ignorant bliss, thinking that if they come in every day (or as instructed) to get their treatments, that they will someday be free of their afflictions and life will go back to the way it was. I am sure this is a common feeling underlying all practices of medicine.  We all want to breed hope.  But if the truth underlies the hope, and the level of wellbeing and awareness of a patient as to his or her condition is under threat due to dishonesty, then what we have as primary care practitioners (as we acupuncturists are considered here in Nepal), then we have a tremendous responsibility.  And it isn’t our responsibility to give diagnostic news to our patients in the US, so. Here comes a grand opportunity.

And so, a few treatments in, it started to become apparent  that nobody had yet given her the news, the honest truth, about her disease(or so I thought.  I later learned that it had not been explained with clarity, nor had the patient or the family assimilated, either through lack of understanding or perhaps acceptance, the information that her disease was progressive, and without cure) .  So I asked.  “Has anyone ever talked to you about Parkinson’s disease?” she and her daughter-in-law looking back at me with a blankness that whispered, “they have no idea.”  And so, in one moment, it became my responsibility to tell her about her disease and its implications for her life. 

Acupuncture Patient Nepal

The beauty, and irony, of this moment, is that it was inextricably linked in my mind to my father.  I stole the title of this blog from him, from his book about communication and the deliverance of news in a clinical setting, written in sociological, ethnomethodological, conversation analysis language and code.  I hope he doesn’t file for copyright...!  But in all seriousness, I knew that this very moment  in my life was a moment that my father has dedicated years of study and passion to understanding.    As I explained what Parkinson’s disease is to the patient and her family member (mind you, this is also in a room full of other patients, and hardly a private space), split-second thoughts ran through my head.  Am I doing a good job?  Am I saying enough?  Am I delivering this news in the best possible way, showing honesty, clarity, and of course, compassion? And I hope to whatever I can hope to that I am doing it well.   Partly to honor the studies that my father has done, but most importantly for this patient, for her hopes, her life, and for her understanding of what is happening to her body. 

She seemed to understand, albeit with a stubbornness that I could sense, both she and her daughter-in-law listening and silently passing a moment to process the news that her condition is ‘irreversible’.  They showed no signs of having heard this news before.  I delved into explaining simple idiopathy, and suggested that she, the patient, could elect to continue treatment with acupuncture, seek allopathic care and pharmaceutical therapy, or both.  Ultimately, it was up to her.  When all the needles had been taken out, she stated that if I cured her illness, she would give me a prize.  I believe that I was as clear as possible, but the hope of the human heart is astounding.  And in some ways, who knows.  Miracles happen.

As it turned out, she in fact had been to see a western doctor, and also had been prescribed Levodopa.  She returned to the clinic following our discourse with records from the hospital, stating her condition as Parkinsonian.  It was now revealed to me that she had taken pharmaceuticals, went off of them, and decided to try another course by putting her sole efforts to return to health into treatments at our clinic.  The interesting thing is, if she has records stating her disease, and medications to potentially help alleviate the symptoms,  how could she and her family not know what is happening to her?

It has become readily evident that communication in the hospitals and clinics here is scanty, if not absent.  In Nepal, we as Chinese medicine practitioners are considered on par with allopathic care.  Our opinions matter equally to patients, and the faith given to our medicine is perhaps as much or beyond that given to the Western form of medicine.    Working at the clinic we consistently see patients on medications who have no idea what their medications are for (not always the case, to be clear, but enough of the case to note).   Surely there is a mix of educated  (doctors) vs uneducated (patients), and a communication gap that occurs due to many factors that exist in the interplay of the two sides.  Over the course of treating in our clinic, it appears as well that the communication that we are providing to the patients goes above and beyond what they are getting from allopathic doctors, and also surpasses patients’ expectations. 

The interesting thing is that the first day that I told my patient about her illness wasn’t the last.  She and her daughter-in-law at various times have continued to ask about the possibility of cure.  So I’ve gotten to practice delivering a compassionate and truthful message a few times over!  Progressive, irreversible, brain, nervous system, acupuncture may help, no guarantees, the most important thing is for you to be happy...these are the nuts and bolts.  When I am not at the main clinic they have asked other practitioners, as if they may tell them what they want to hear. They get the same answer... One day my patient with Parkinson’s told me that she liked me very much.  This was such beautiful news, as her moods are variable, and sometimes, honestly I just can’t tell. 

Working with her over these weeks has been beautiful, and tough.  Her symptoms do improve sometimes, which is incredibly encouraging.  But they also go in waves.  Although her symptoms do fluctuate, both in what she states, and in what can be observed, the most remarkable thing is her personal aspect.  She is smiling much more, her eyes are brighter, she is quite a bit more chatty.  She even cracks jokes, a dry sense of humor that makes others in the room laugh.  Another practitioner described her as “glowing” just the other day.  She has, what we call in Chinese Medicine, Shen.  Her Shen is bright.  I can tell she has done much in her life, and cared deeply for her family, for whom she has taken care until she began to lose her dexterity, her clarity of speech, and with it, her identity.  A few weeks in, she began walking to the clinic by herself on a daily basis.  She would announce it as she sat down, “I came by myself today”.  She had a gleam in her eye and a shining smile under her hesitancy to show it. --- Jessica Maynard

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