Notes from the field: November 2014:

This November, The Global Acupuncture Project (formally The PanAfrican Acupuntcure Project) embarked on a new initiative. Having trained over 300 health-care workers in Uganda, we began visiting our Trainees where they practice to provide ongoing support and supervision and to enrich their skills and understanding of acupuncture. In addition, we wanted to work with the Trainees to ensure better integration of acupuncture into their facility and the overall Ugandan health-care system. During this time we also began to collect data to evaluate how acupuncture has changed our Trainees and benefitted their patients. While in Uganda, I had the benefit of having acupuncturist Cynthia Miller, Trainee Patience Kinahirwe, and Trainee and Coordinator Allen Magezi working tirelessly with me.

On our first day, we visited Trainee Silicity at the Kyalurangira Health Centre. This facility is in a small, isolated village that has no electricity and a poor supply of potable water. As we drove up, we found that already there were at least 200 people waiting to receive acupuncture. To address this rather overwhelming number of patients, one of us worked with Silicity as he treated patients in a treatment room, while the other three treated the many waiting patients. What was striking were the large number of people suffering from itchy, painful eyes, probably due to contaminated water.

On Tuesday, we travelled to the Kalisizo Hospital in Rakai, where Trainees Hassan and Sarah work. We were pleasantly surprised when another Trainee, Judith, arrived to take advantage of our supervision. Here too there were many patients eagerly waiting for treatment, and the Trainees worked very hard to address all of their health needs.

Wednesday, we visited the St. Andrews Bikiri Health Center, a facility run by the Catholic Church, where Trainee Sister Christine practices. Just like the previous two sites, when we arrived there were already many people waiting for acupuncture. While Christine provided acupuncture in a treatment room, supervised by one of us Trainers, the other Trainers addressed the needs of the patients, treating in rooms and in the hallway, a number of times having to move to avoid the rain that blew in and streamed down the floor. The sisters were all very excited about incorporating acupuncture into the health center, making it unique among the many clinics opening in the area.

The following day we visited the Ssanje Domicillary Clinic, run by our Trainee Lucy Lwekunda. Located down a bumpy dirt road, this small clinic provided an impressive array of services, including maternal care (one baby was delivered while we were there), HIV care, and acupuncture. Lucy, a strong, motivated, and compassionate provider with an equally strong smile and hug, includes growing fruit, vegetables, coffee, and chia, as well as brewing pineapple wine among her repertoire. We all worked in a single large room, supporting Lucy as she treated the many patients that came for help.

On Friday, we drove to the Rakai Hospital, where we were to work with Trainees Peter, Apollo, and Betty. This was to provide our greatest lesson about the Ugandan Health-Care system and the importance of proper communication. Before we were able to treat any patients, we had to work our way down the hospital hierarchy, educating each individual and getting permission from each one. (As is usually the case, we had assumed that this had already been done by the Trainees.) One bright spot was the impromptu testimonial by the Principle Nursing Officer. She expressed praise for the acupuncture she had witnessed and was impressed by the results that patients reported. It is so meaningful when such feedback comes unsolicited. Although in the end little acupuncture was provided during our time there, these conversations were important to ensure the continuation of acupuncture at the hospital. We believe that we helped to create a framework within which this would take place.

From small, remote village clinic, to large hospital, wherever we visited, all of the Trainees expressed their commitment to continuing to provide acupuncture and an eagerness to learn more. And the many patients who journey sometimes long distances to receive acupuncture are an indication of the need for simple, effective treatments and the significant benefits that the people experience from acupuncture.

For more information about how to become a volunteer, go to (Continuing education credits are available for licensed acupuncturists.)

Notes from the field: October/November 2011:

PanAfrican Acupuncture Project - Part I

In early November, I returned from Uganda having taught, treated, worked and played with an amazing cast of characters: 2 acupuncturists/trainers, 1 bearded director, 1 spirited Ugandan coordinator, 2 talented filmmakers, 1 quietly focused driver, over 50 motivated local health care workers/trainees, mobs of curious children, and hundreds of patients hoping to reap the benefits of an unusual offering.

The backdrop: lush rolling hills, groves of banana trees, winding red dirt roads, candle-lit storefronts, mopeds zipping by (stacked with all things imaginable and unimaginable), air smelling of wood smoke, kerosine, and earth, and people with eyes shining of kindness and presence.

The soundtrack: symphonic morning birdsongs, roosters crowing, late-night rhythms, and the occasional mosquito ominously buzzing by.

Before embarking upon this journey, I did not know what to expect. I approached the project with an eager curiosity balanced with a touch of skepticism and a dose of fear. Upon returning, I knew that the people, the landscape and the project had breathed a little extra life into me.

Side by side with the local healthcare workers, our team gave birth to two temporary teaching acupuncture clinics. Within days, we were serving a patients with an astounding range of ailments, scars, pains, diseases, complications. The patients returned day after day and waited hour upon hour to receive treatment. The trainees worked eagerly and tirelessly to refine techniques that would enable them to carve unique niches for themselves at their health clinics. If I hadn’t witnessed patients repeatedly expressing gratitude with my own ears, if I hadn’t seen the confidence and skill of the nascent acupuncturists with my own eyes, I would not have believed that such profound transformation could have been possible within such a short period of time. In the two small towns of Isingiro and Kamwenge, tucked away in distant corners of Uganda, the firey spirit of collective compassion blazed.

The scene echoed a rural China, where acupuncture was born thousands of years ago, where “barefoot doctors” brought acupuncture to remote communities only a few decades back, where for many this simple medicine emerged amidst few other options.

Thank you again to everyone who supported this effort and made it possible for these rare and inspiring events to unfold. As an acupuncturist, I often envision my job to be that of “holding space” for bodies, minds, and spirits to return to their natural states of intelligence. During my time in Uganda, I felt the generosity, trust, and kind words of those at home “hold the spaces” that grew healers.

In gratitude,

Kim, PAAP Trainer

Notes from the field: October/November 2011:

PanAfrican Acupuncture Project - Part II

I knew that we were traveling to Uganda to train health care workers. I knew that we would be treating local patients to achieve this end. I did not expect to arrive at the clinic on day two, to a winding serpent of people, willing to wait five, six, seven hours for the opportunity to be treated with our tiny needles. With peaceful acceptance, they all waited, quietly and patiently, for their name to be called. They were clearly not strangers to business of waiting, and from what I have learned, this is especially true when it comes to health care. Most of these patients probably had only the vaguest idea of what type of treatment they were about to receive. Despite this, they put their faith and their trust into our hands. To adequately respond to such a tremendous act of hope would have seemed daunting to me, had it not been for the curious, focused, driven nature of the trainees at our sides. The trainees formed the essential bridges of trust between the care we were offering and the recipients to this care.

Many of the trainees themselves did not know much about our mysterious medicine before assembling on the first day. Most were asked by their districts to participate in the training in order to further serve their communities as health care providers. Once the week was rolling, however, their commitment to learning this healing art was unquestionable. When we opened the door to the patients, they put their heads down and got to work.

On the third morning, do to limited vehicles, our team of trainers arrived to the clinic after about half the trainees. Our plan had been to teach in the morning and treat in the afternoon. When we walked into the room, the beds were full, the moxa was burning and many of the patients were reporting improvement. To our surprise, the trainees took it upon themselves jump start the day without us. They saw patients waiting for care and they acted. While this turn of events meant we had to reorganize our teaching schedule, it didn’t matter. We were floored by this demonstration of initiative and leadership. These traits would prove to be the hallmarks of this inspiring group.

While we worked tirelessly for two weeks, we were still managed to carve out a few moments of play. On the second day of the second week of training, I glanced out the window of the clinic to see a boy doing a full flip on the top of a nearby hill. It wasn’t until hours later, when the work day was ending, that we were able to investigate this incongruous moment. It was dusk, and we were tired. But as our group walked up to the road above, we discovered a small band of boys practicing gymnastics under a tree. They paused a moment as we approached. But with only a small nudge of encouragement, they were back to their tricks, evidently happy to perform for a new audience, an audience of “masungo,” “strangers”. We had learned in the previous weeks that Anna, one of our trainers, happens to be well-versed in acro-yoga. Anna, Sarah, and I began to demonstrate a few acrobatic moves of our own. Before long, the boys and our team of acupuncturists were swapping athletic maneuvers. The playing field was leveled. We were sharing a language as old as people: pure and playful movement. The exchange was infectious. I looked around and noticed that a patient we had treated earlier that day in the clinic was working on a yoga pose with a giant grin spread across her face.

In gratitude,

Kim, PAAP Trainer

What We've Accomplished So Far... April 2003 to March 2011

In April 2003, The PanAfrican Acupuncture Project began training 20 healthcare workers. Based in Kampala, Uganda, the first phase of the project saw three acupuncturists hosting a two-week intensive. The second phase was conducted eight months later.

The initial training was a great success. Under the supervision of trainers Richard Mandell, Lic.Ac., Alison Quiring Lic.Ac., and Debi Shargel Lic.Ac., the Ugandan healthcare workers treated over 20 patients and obtained the skill and knowledge of how to treat several commonly-occuring symptoms with acupuncture.

The follow-up training, held in December 2003, focused on expanding the range of symptoms the trainees could treat. Read a detailed description of the initial training, and notes on the follow-up.

In June 2004, US acupuncturists trained 19 healthcare providers in the rural district of Mbarara. Follow-up trainings took place in October 2004, January 2005, and August 2005.

In May 2005, we conducted the initial training of 21 providers in Mbale. And, in August and again in December 2005, we returned to provide two enrichment trainings.

In December 2005, we traveled to Kyazanga in the District of Masaka to conduct the first training of 23 healthcare providers. And in April and July 2006 we returned to Kyazanga to provide the first and second enrichment trainings.

In December 2006, six licensed acupuncturists traveled to Ibanda, where two concurrent trainings took place at the Ibanda Hospital and at a local health center. There, 34 nurses, nurse midwives, and midwives participated in the initial training. The second training occurred in April 2007.

July 2010 - March 2011

June 2009 - Lyantonde

May 2008 - Nakivale Refugee Camp.

December 2007/April 2008 - Mukono & Kisoro.