Amchi Medicine Clinics
Healing Hands and Heart-minds
Non-biomedical health systems and forms of traditional medicine remain a crucial avenue through which many Nepalis seek care for both chronic and acute illness, including mental health and responses to trauma that manifest in embodied ways. Many Nepalis rely on Tibetan medicine to address their health concerns. Also known as Himalayan Amchi Medicine or Sowa Rigpa, the "science of healing", this medical practice is less formally recognized and supported by the Nepali government than Ayurveda, even as amchi work at the frontline of care for many of Nepal's high mountain and Tibeto-Burman communities, including aspects of mental health and the promotion of collective wellbeing. Nepalis from other regions of the country also regularly seek care from amchi in the urban areas.
Nepal's amchi are united in their desire to respond to this suffering by deploying mobile Amchi Medicine Clinics. These clinics will provide Tibetan medicines and external therapies to individuals who have been injured during the quake and its aftermath as well as food aid; amchi will also give people psychosocial support through ritual practice to honor the dead and protect the living. The goal of these camps is to provide culturally astute, mindful care for people whose wounds are at once physical and psychological - embodied trauma that can be well served by this medical tradition.
Amchi Camp Structure
Amchi from Dolpo, Mustang, and Gorkha as well as those based in Kathmandu and Pokhara are mobilizing. The aim is to deploy camps to mountain communities and among displaced communities from Nepal's Buddhist highlands, now camping in Kathmandu, including those from Rasuwa District. Nepal's amchi will work closely and coordinate with other relief organizations working in these areas. The aim is not to "reproduce" the infrastructure of aid delivery but to connect directly to such efforts while providing distinct forms of aid.
A first camp will be led by amchi from Lo Kunphen School and Mentsikhang in Mustang in late June / early July 2015. They will head to Dolakha, one of the districts hard hit in both the April 25 and May 12 earthquakes. Subsequent camps are being developed for August and September in Rasuwa and Gorkha Districts. Amchi Camp teams will include at least one senior amchi, as well as several novice amchi and youth support staff.
Amchi will carry with them the following:
- Tibetan medicines for treatment of a variety of physiological and somatic disorders caused by conditions of trauma; sleeping in rudimentary conditions outside; rheumatic and gastrointestinal disorders aggravated by current living circumstances; sleep, anxiety and stress related problems, etc.
- Basic first aid equipment
- Foodstuffs to be distributed
- Materials for spiritual practice and ritual healing, including butter and ritual implements for butter lamp offerings, protective amulets, blessing medicine (chinlab, etc), and, as resources and supplies allow, precious pills (rinchen rilbu)
Although this work is proposed within a "camp" structure at present, amchi would also welcome opportunities to work on reimagining post-quake healthcare infrastructure in ways that more directly incorporate amchi medicine into the provision of primary health care. The foundation for such work exists, as amchi are recognized (if not supported by) the Department of Ayurveda, Ministry of Health and through the Council on Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT).
It is estimated that each 7-10 day camp will cost approximately $3000. This is inclusive not only of the materials and equipment named above but also transportation to and from the site and daily subsistence for those running the camps. Amchi will contribute their labor for free and will also donate medicines to these camps to the best of their ability. We are also seeking out support and donations of high quality Tibetan medicines from institutions outside of Nepal, to aid in this mission.