The Bush Homeopaths, a registered charity, is celebrating its second birthday — running bi-annual free mobile homeopathic clinics in The Gambia, West Africa. Co-founder Danielle Abramov reports on its progress so far and plans for the future.
My colleague Sameena Azam and myself made our first trip in January 2010 and spent the week travelling from village to village on dirt roads, treating a few hundred people with what we jokingly called ‘bush homeopathy.’
We set up under trees, in dusty clearings, with dozens of villagers crowding us and clamouring for assistance. We prescribed for people with a wide range of conditions from scabies, conjunctivitis, worms, bedwetting and female complaints, to an old snakebite that had refused to heal. Conditions were primitive and getting to isolated villages, orphanages and Islamic schools was challenging, but the appreciation and smiles we received more than made up for it.
But the story had begun a few months earlier when Sameena, a fellow student on the Centre for Homeopathic Education BSc ‘top up’ programme, was approached by one of her clients who manages a small charity in the Gambia, providing basic necessities to needy communities and opportunities to attain self-sufficiency. Hearing that Sameena had booked to go for a week to treat and assess, I jumped at the opportunity to join her.
The two of us returned exhausted and exhilarated; apart from vaccinations for babies, most outlying communities have hardly any access to healthcare and are generally too destitute to afford it. We roped Kim Purdy in to become our third ‘Bush Homeopath’ and set out in June for our second visit.
We established our modus operandi; we set up by invitation to a site and we’d see as many people as possible, trying to focus on the most “needy,” using observations and a few differentiating keynotes with the help of translators. Given the limited amount of time and the number of people waiting for treatment – all suffer from long-term malnutrition and chronic malaria or TB – we prescribed tissue salts for everyone. Each person seen is left with a month’s supply of pills, to be taken one daily (plussing) in a ½ litre bottle of water, thus helping with the general dehydration. The packets are left with a responsible person on each site with instructions on keeping notes.
During this second trip we saw approximately 500 people, and had the transport been more effective, we could have seen more. Initially we were met with some suspicion from various individuals, but once they realised that we were donating our time and remedies, they were helpful.
On our 3rd trip in January 2011 we were six, enabling us to treat substantially more Gambians and also giving us the opportunity to start with our long-term goal of teaching homeopathy to Gambians. We gave a few trustworthy individuals a general introduction to homeopathy, with instructions on how treat some acute conditions with a few common remedies.
Overall feedback has been positive, with an impressive number of people having had no re-occurrence of their symptoms since taking the remedies. We travel out twice a year, once in January, the dry season and again in May/June just before the rainy season. Dry coughs become wet coughs with the high humidity; many of the children get skin eruptions with the wet coughs. Among the many other conditions, there is a high incidence of pneumonia and TB, and they can be fatal. In contrast to other African homeopathic projects, we have so far not encountered HIV-AIDS related symptoms.
We are entirely self-funded, limiting the amount of time we can spend there. We have just recently been awarded charity status, which is great news as it means that donors can now claim “Gift Aid”– making a significant difference. Our affiliation with the Centre For Homeopathic Education (CHE) will ensure materials and training for teaching homeopathy to Gambians.
The Bush Homeopaths are helping numerous Gambians to better health with homeopathy. Our aim is to lay down a permanent base where homeopaths can spend longer periods of time in a cost effective manner, and treat people constitutionally as well as acutely. This would give us the opportunity to train local people and give them more consistent support. We actively welcome interested homeopaths and students to join us on a very fulfilling experience.
If anyone wants more information on the project, go to the charity’s website www.thebushhomeopaths.org
Marcus Fernandez, Vice Principal of Centre for Homeopathic Education, is a trustee of the Bush Homeopaths.