“Barefoot Acupuncturists” is a non-profit organisation with no political or religious affiliation. Our only objective is to offer acupuncture treatments and training to less privileged populations in order to relieve them from illness and support them in having greater autonomy in healthcare.
“Barefoot Acupuncturists” believes that for a humanitarian action to be successful and sustainable in the long term, it must be managed and owned by those whom it serves. This is why our action is now focused on the training of slum and village people so that they can offer to their own communities an efficient healing technique in addition to their existing practices.
“Barefoot Acupuncturists” as a non-profit organisation was created in Belgium in January 2009 after a year of active presence in slums of Mumbai that had proved the real necessity of such an action. The administrative functions of the organisation are handled by the five founders on a voluntary basis. Work in the field is operated by a team made up of Walter Fischer, Ujwala Patil and an Indian staff. Visiting acupuncturists from various countries regularly join them to share their experience and knowledge, by giving treatments as well as teaching.
“Barefoot.Slums”, a non-profit organisation, was created in 2009 by Ujwala Patil and local social workers in order to assure the administration and proper functioning of “Barefoot Acupuncturists” in India, in accordance with Indian legislation.
The activities of “Barefoot Acupuncturists” have so far been carried out thanks to private fundraising, both in Europe and India. Indian Government institutions have been approached regarding the issue of subsidies aimed at healthcare and self-employment projects.
PERMANENT TEAM IN MUMBAI
Walter Fischer imagined a “Barefoot” project while studying acupuncture at the Swiss Institute of Chinese Medicine Guang Ming. He realised how powerful and economical this drug-free-medicine could be for the poorest. He later developed his idea during a primary exploratory trip to Kashmir in 2007, after he had spent two years in China, improving his acupuncture skills in a government hospital as well as private clinics. Walter now lives in Mumbai and handles the “Barefoot Acupuncturists” clinic, located in a slum of the city.
Ujwala Patil is a young and dedicated social worker who assisted Walter and Jacques as a translator during their first free clinic organised in Mumbai in 2007. It is thanks to her constant help and valuable connections in the slums that the first Barefoot Acupuncturists clinic could open in 2008. Since then, Ujwala has founded “Barefoot.Slums” and handles the smooth daily functioning of the activities through the also daily obstacles encountered in such projects.
The daily functioning of the clinic itself, from Monday to Friday, the registration of patients, appointments, translation, moxibustion, stock keeping… are the responsibility of Pooja Thenge, an attentive and conscientious young woman from the neighbourhood. Clinic without her would not have the same friendly and calming atmosphere.
Mohamed Rafi has been at the Barefoot clinic for more than a year as assistant, trainee and replacement acupuncturist. At the age of 26, Mohamed shows a true passion for acupuncture, together with a good potential to be developed. He was recently put in charge of coordinating a new initiative in Tamul Nadu, his native place, where “Barefoot Acupuncturists” has started to settle small rural acupuncture clinics.
VISITING ACUPUNCTURISTS TO MUMBAI
Jacques Beytrison, licenced from the Swiss Institute of Chinese Medicine Guang Ming, runs a successful acupuncture and herbal clinic in Lausanne, Switzerland. During his rare free time, he realises an old dream of his: walking the world with his needles and knowledge. He initiated and organised the first acupuncture camp in Mumbai together with Walter and regularly comes back in town to support the Indian team of barefoot acupuncturists. Thanks to Jacques’ strong practical experience, his short stays in India are always rich in practice and teaching for the small slum clinic.
Dr Bandula Kumara had the rare chance to study with the renowned and charismatic professor Anton Jayasuriya, founder of the Medecina Alternativa School in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Dr Bandula has his own private clinic in Colombo and also teaches acupuncture to international students. His stays at the Barefoot clinic are looked forward by the patients who greatly benefit from his holistic approach and effective treatments.
Ryan Thompson is licensed with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of BC, Canada since 2003. He lived in Beijing, China, for three years. He has participated in humanitarian acupuncture projects in Guatemala and, therefore, arrived to Mumbai with a valuable experience of teaching and treating in a basic environment. The discipline of his practice and his knowledge of humanitarian work brought a solid support to the Barefoot Acupuncturists clinic. Ryan regularly practices acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the Vancouver area.
Eric Schmidt is a California Licensed Acupuncturist, currently running a clinic and practicing Chinese Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Eric has studied and worked in clinics around the world including major TCM Hospitals in China, Japan and in Rural Health clinics in India and Nepal. Although his experience in China was enriching, Eric’s true passion is traveling and volunteering in India. Having spent over one month there, the Barefoot Acupuncture Clinic is certainly one of his favorite spots to volunteer and connect with the local people in a profound way. Eric is looking forward to many return trips to help the people of Mumbai and beyond… and so are the patients.
David Vial (Spain) completed his studies in Chinese medicine at the Escuela Superior de MTC in Madrid, Spain, in acupuncture and phytotherapy. Recently graduated, he joined the Barefoot Acupuncturists clinic in September 2010 with the desire to work in Mumbai for a whole year. David is making his debut as a practitioner with us, but quickly found his place on our small team and with the patients, thanks to his grounded knowledge, his working ability and his integrity.