It all started in 2007. Two acupuncturists, Walter Fischer (Belgium) and Jacques Beytrison (Switzerland) go to Mumbai, India. They witness the evident lack of access to appropriate healthcare in the poor areas of the city and decide to use their skills to provide some solutions. “Barefoot Acupuncturists”, a non-profit organisation, would be created for that purpose.
January 2008. Walter Fischer decides to set up a small clinic in a slum of Mumbai. Ujwala Patil, a young Indian social worker, joins his efforts and together they open a rudimentary acupuncture clinic (7 square meters, two treatment beds, no running water).
In response to the positive results, acupuncture begins to gradually spread its way across the poor areas of the city. A few months later Ujwala creates her own NGO, “Barefoot.Slums” that will be in charge of running the future acupuncture clinics in Mumbai, in association with Walter and the “Barefoot Acupuncturists”.
May 2009. Due to the increasing crowd of incoming patients, the acupuncture clinic moves to a larger facility in the same slum, offering 5 beds and, at last, a toilet and running water.
June 2010. Opening of the first rural clinic in Tamil Nadu (in southern India).
Since its inception, “Barefoot Acupuncturists” has treated over 4,500 patients in India. On average, 25 patients are treated per day in each clinic. A treatment requires several sessions, from a few days for common problems to several months for heavy handicaps.
While acupuncture can treat many more disorders, physical pain makes up about 90% of the cases in our slum clinic. We also treat paralysis, neurological pathologies, digestive problems, sleep disorders, gynaecological diseases….
100% of the patients are discovering and experiencing acupuncture for the first time. Women, who deal with the large majority of heavy domestic tasks, represent 65% of the patients.
The nominal fee requested of each patient is 20 Indian rupees ($0.45) per treatment, while the regular fee asked by an acupuncturist in Mumbai would be around 200 rupees, and can go up to 1000 rupees. Needless to say, such services are out of reach for most of our slum patients.
“Barefoot Acupuncturists” plans to open more clinics in other slums of Mumbai and also in isolated villages in India. We are co-operating with an Indian acupuncture school (ATAMA) in Tamil Nadu, southern India, and opened our first rural clinic in June 2010. We hope to inaugurate one more by 2012, with a constant objective: to reach the poorest populations.
In order to meet this goal, we must achieve local autonomy, producing clinics run by local practitioners who will in the future handle the day-to-day operations and hopefully take over the management. The best way to succeed is by training Indian acupuncturists through our own training centre in Mumbai and ATAMA facilities in Tamil Nadu. Classes started in March 2010 with our present staff. Practitioners from India and several other countries have already joined us and will continue to support us by teaching and practicing in our clinics.
Tomorrow is by definition uncertain, but we believe in it. We will continue to put our efforts into building up autonomous structures, giving acupuncture training in villages and slums and reaching the poorest to improve their tomorrow. We do this because we see what can be achieved. Because we believe that it will make the world a slightly better place.