Humanitarian Efforts are Everywhere
I felt like I walked into a dream from the moment I stepped into the car service to go to LaGuardia and then 13 days later back in another car service returning to Bay Shore. Many life-learning messages started with the cross-wearing driver Henry. He left me with some quick last second advice as he was unloading my suitcases at the airport curbside….. He said, “Watch out for the evil spirits”, as I interpreted that as a sign to “pay attention to things around me and take care of myself during the many miles of travel ahead. I realize there are problems out there in the world such as the many faces of crime, addiction, mental disorders, pickpocketers, scammers etc….. and I know that I was going to a country of another spoken language which already places me at a great disadvantage to negotiate my simple daily errands. I knew that I was leaving my safe and sacred space of the Healthcare Wellness Center that I inhabit most of my waking hours but I was compelled to promote wellness in the form of Acupuncture, Massage and Reiki to people of regions of Peru that have never seen or heard of these medical practices. And in fact, many of these people may have never seen a Caucasian man or women from the United States in person. Not being alone on this trip, I joined nine other people from the U.S. in the international city of Cusco. We all had a common purpose for our “adventure vacation travel”. We wanted to help people. Most of us have never met before but as soon as we met we felt as if we were a team.
The following morning we set out for Ollantaytambo or Tambo, which was a much smaller city surrounded by mountains located another two hours away in a van ride southeast of Cusco within the Sacred Valley Region of Peru. Tambo is one of the resting places for tourists who are traveling to Machu Picchu and further beyond to Lake Titicaca. Mountains as high as 19,000ft flanked us on both sides for the entire trip. I was in heaven for this entire drive. As a matter of fact, I was in heaven for the entire two weeks probably because I have been an avid hiker for the past 25yrs and find my peace among the mountains. The weather at this time of the year is dry, cool in the evening and about seventy degrees every day. There were snow-capped mountains in the upper altitudes and driving through endless miles of farmland and adjacent terraced farmland mountain side that was created by the Inca people of 700 hundred years prior.
Later that morning we joined with the people of Sacred Valley Health. SVH is an NG0 or Non-profit Government Organization that is dedicated to helping people to live with better living conditions particularly healthcare. Yes, I was introduced into the world of Public Health and to the multitude of organizations throughout the world that are trying to make the world a better place. We spent the first day together organizing and getting to know one another with a day of orientation and clinic setup. I was extremely impressed with these young well-educated people of SVH who traveled from abroad to set up residence f
or usually a time length of six months to a year living in service.
For the following three days we treated approximately 120 people with Reiki, Acupuncture and Massage. Many people received all three healing modalities which can be extremely powerful to facilitate the body’s natural healing abilities. All SVH personnel spoke fluent Spanish so were able to translate very effectively health issues that were of immediate concern for the local people of Tambo.
As the clinic supervisor, I was fortunate enough to step into the lives of just about every patient who was treated in the clinic by way of inquiring about their health history and a brief description of their life. Gaining someone’s’ trust in a brief moment of time was one of the principal challenges that was set before me. To accomplish this, I demonstrated Acupuncture on myself to every person so they can see that it is not painful. Most patients were amazed at how small or “hair-like” the size of the needle were. The clinic was set up as a “Community Clinic”. Treatments were all given within a large room. We were able to treat about ten people at one time so we could get a good flow going between patients and practitioners. This type of Clinic is very common in China for people who do not have the financial means to have a private treatment. Actually, this format of treatment it is becoming quite common in America as well. Just Google “Community Acupuncture” and you will see many health facilities that now offer these services.
Our U.S based group Healer2Healer, participated in the international Homestay program. The Homestay is a wonderful organization that helps the local economy. It was definitely a great way to “step inside” the culture of the Peruvian people and force myself to speak better Spanish. We dined with them for three meals a day and used all their facilities. As an aside, it was very easy to get close to my young friend Rio, who was only five and we loved to play soccer inside the house together and play with his race cars.
As you can see, the experiences of traveling abroad are vast and much too long to complete in this article. Being the radical optimist that I am, many of the positive lessons learned about the nature of humans as a whole were amazingly impressive. Numerous acts of kindness and acts of good faith were abundant. May we pass a little of this “positivity” on to all we meet throughout our day.
This article will appear in the Great South Bay Magazine October 2013 Health and Wellness Section