Ven. Thupten Jinpa: A fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk and Haitian, Jinpa realized in the weeks following the January 12 earthquake that he would have to go to Haiti to try to take his old father out of the country. “While I am there waiting for the papers to be processed, I would love to help my people,” he said. An herbalist and student of naturopathy, he assembled natural remedies to bring with him. Upon arriving, he quickly discovered how much his help was needed and which other conditions were prevalent. Being able to bring help to his own people was Jinpa’s greatest joy.
Julia Graves: Julia, a naturopathic doctor and homeopath, planned and organized the entire fund-raising effort and clinic. She compiled lists of the most-needed remedies and thought about what would be smallest, lightest, cheapest and most efficient to take. She arrived a few days after the clinic started and stepped in as head doctor.
Michelle LaDue: Michelle is a Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist in New York City. She has been working with the Naturopathic Haiti Clinic for the past two years and will be returning again in the Spring of 2014 for her third time, the clinics sixth trip. Her methods of Acupressure/Acupuncture have brought about much relief of the many painful maladies that the Haitians are experiencing.
Oliama Deriviere (1960-2014). Oliama was an herbalist, midwife and bone-setter in the Afro-Haitian tradition. He provided bone-setting and massage to the earthquake victims suffering from head trauma and/or displaced bones from falling debris or from having been buried under the rubble. Skilled also in cupping, he provided relief for three patients at a time. Read “Homage to a Great Afro-Haitian Traditional Healer.”
Lisa Schrempp: Lisa is an Ayurvedic massage practitioner, as well as an Ashtanga yoga teacher and practitioner. She came from Arizona to join the clinic, where she specialized in giving vata-reducing massages to reduce the earthquake victims’ trauma and grief.
It was incredible for me to work in a mixed team of therapists from different countries, and everyone was valuing my skills and knowledge. We were respecting one another, and learning from one another. This solidarity amongst us really touched my heart. I was so happy to be part of a clinic in which we were diagnosing the patients just by touch, without all kinds of machines and gadgets. This is real medicine. This all is thanks to the glory of God that we were able to help so many people.
When I heard that my country had collapsed, I felt moved to go and help. I was so happy to have had the chance to actually go and be part of the clinic effort! Although I am not a therapist, so much help was needed around the clinic that I did not have one idle moment translating, filling essential oil bottles, bagging herbs, arranging people in lines… I regretted very much having to leave, and hope that I can return soon for more concrete help to all those desperate people.
I was incredibly touched by the suffering and resilience of the poor children. We had Rescue Drops candy to give out, and none of the children ever took a second piece when we asked ‘Did you already get one?’ So much integrity really moved me.
These poor little dirty sick creatures, pushed about and yelled at even by some of our helpers had such shame, and yet such beautiful souls. They would come and shyly sit on the outer edge of the consultation chair, eyes downcast, and if we asked what happened to them in the earthquake say ‘Nothing’. After insisting, we’d find out that their house collapsed, they fell off of a wall from the quake, knocked a rib out, and had 13 family members die. That, in their eyes, meant that nothing bad had occurred to them, and all they were complaining about was pain upon breathing. I do not think we people from developed countries can even start to imagine the courage it takes for such a child in rags to come to the clinic alone. Some six-year-olds were carrying crying babies to us to treat them for diarrhea, malaria and the like.
I remember this very skinny girl in rags of about 8 years who was the last person I saw that day. She complained of breathing difficulties. I had to do a lot of asking to understand what had happened to her: a rock had hit her ribcage in the back during the quake. So she was not one of the many asthma patients, but injured. I asked Oliama to adjust her ribs. From touching her belly he knew she also had worms, like so many of the children. This little girl looked like she had never gotten this much attention in her life. Each time I said one thing or gave her one part of the treatment (essential oils to rub on her belly, flower essence spray, or homeopathics), she slid off the chair assuming she was done. I constantly had to ask her to sit back down and receive more care. Whenever I treated a child like that, I felt that my purpose of coming had truly been fulfilled.
I thought we would mostly be dressing wounds. I expected that Jinpa would teach me to dress wounds with lavender oil, and that most people at the clinic would be freshly injured. Instead, we found all these emotional wounds, just barely scabbed over. I felt that the moment I was massaging these traumatized people was the first moment they had felt safe since their houses had fallen down, and their humanness along with it. Allowing them just one moment to feel safe and protected allowed them to reconnect with a deep inner source of healing, and enabled them to start on the road to healing. I was most deeply touched by the profound sadness and devastation in the children’s eyes.
Coming here to my own country and serving my own people was a tremendous experience, especially when we went to the neighborhood where I grew up. This was even more so treating the people I grew up with, including their children and children’s children with fever, diarrhea etc.
Seeing the fear and hope in the faces change when I came back a few days later and hear them say ‘You helped me! The headache is gone! The heart palpitations are gone! The hallucinations about the earthquake are gone!’ It was a powerful experience for me to see how many people I could help in such a short time, really help them and have them come back and report ‘No more back pain, no more itching, no more sour stomach.’ For me, it was a wonderful experience.
I was quite amazed how courageous children are. In my retreat, I experienced that the energy, the strength, the courage one needs to be on the spiritual path is the energy of a child. I thought that that was a dream. But when I actually looked into the eyes of the children, the little eight-year-old girl who saw her parents crushed in front of her, the beaming in her eyes just after a little Rescue drops… looking into her eyes I see her soul saying ‘I want to live, I want to live’, and that makes me believe in the power of a child to overcome. If only we grown ups could tap again into this power, our lives would be better and less chaotic.
Pierro (driver and remedy-preparer):
I was just hanging around doing nothing, because my boss had left the country. So the clinic allowed me to first of all get going and get around. On top of that, I learned a lot. In fact, I learned so much that now I have the confidence that I can save someone’s life with natural remedies. I hope that the spark of this clinic will not die out, and that you will come back to Haiti again.
I also started to have problems with some of the people in my neighborhood as a result of running the clinic on my porch. One man who had been in charge of handing out thousands of food tickets for rice and beans had only given allotments for a tiny amount of rice to each family in the neighborhood and kept the entire rest for himself. After I brought the clinic for a second time to my street, the neighbors where putting this man down: ‘Look at Pierro, he is bringing the doctors here, and we all get a free treatment. Look at what he is doing for us. You should do the same!’ So this man and another one with a similar case really started to dislike me.