A CORK acupuncturist is part of a global 10 person team who are travelling to Vietnam later this year where they will treat 100 impoverished people each a day in a conveyor belt system.
Fiona Barry and her team-mates will be helping field workers and those that can’t otherwise afford treatment for musculoskeletal issues, diabetes, polio, malaria and even stroke victims.
For Fiona, of Comhar Acupuncture & Wellbeing in Midleton and Ballincollig, the trip was both a New Year’s resolution and a birthday gift all in one.
And she’s appealing to businesses and individuals to help her cover the €6,500 cost of the mission, which takes place in April.
This Sunday, March 11, Mother’s Day, she will host a ‘Feel Good — Do Good, A Self Care Event for Women’ at the Cork International Hotel, with funds going towards the trip.
The mum of two explains: “For the past number of years I have made a resolution in January to do something outside my comfort zone and each year something has presented itself. This year it came pretty fast, just two days after New Year’s Day. I saw a post on an acupuncture Facebook page that I’m part of, saying that US acupuncturist Brad Whisnant was looking for a small group of acupuncturists to join him for a week of volunteering in Vietnam. I emailed him, expressing my interest, and asking for more details and ended up doing a Skype interview the following day, which coincidentally was my birthday. At the end of the interview he invited me to join him for the trip, I was gobsmacked. It all happened so fast… one of the best birthday presents ever!”
Far from a holiday, the trip is going to be gruelling and full on, but Fiona said she has always had a very strong desire to help people: “Life has become very materialistic, I think it’s important to remember to give, to do something for those that need a helping hand.
“I am very grateful for the life I have, with a loving family and a roof over my head. Some people aren’t so lucky. I also think that it is an important lesson to teach my children.”
Along with Brad and his wife, Minh, who will co-ordinate the group, the team comprises of seven other acupuncturists: two American, two Australian, one from Norway, one from Denmark and one from Limerick.
“Of all of us chosen I think there is only one male delegate so there’s a bit of girl power going on too!” says Fiona.
“The aim is for us to treat a 1,000 people a day, that averages out at over 100 each. We will be treating in a large pagoda, where there will be rows of 25 mats and we will work our way along each row.
“Obviously, making a diagnosis quickly will be critical so you can choose the appropriate acupuncture points to treat; once the needles are in you move on. You’ll then return 20-30 minutes later to remove the needles but by that time you’ll have seen, diagnosed and put needles in four more patients.
“It will be a bit like a conveyor belt but once we sort people out and get them better, that’s all that matters.”
The team will start treatments at 8am and work until about 5.30pm and Fiona says not only will it be “challenging physically but obviously we will be confronted with some conditions that we wouldn’t see here.”
She’s confident they’ll be received well: “You have to remember, the people we will be treating are living in poverty. If they can’t work they don’t eat and most have families that depend on them. Our treatments may be the difference between their family eating that week or going hungry. Faced with that, I’m sure the offer of help, in any form, will be welcomed.”
Regardless of where people live or their circumstances, acupuncture is something people should be open to, she says.
“Unfortunately, we live in an era of the ‘quick fix’. People are very quick to pop a pill if it will ‘just take the pain away’. We don’t have time to be sick so we totally ignore what our body is trying to tell us. Medication, for the most part, is just a band-aid, it is treating the symptom, and doing nothing to treat the cause. So usually the problem rears its head again or returns as a more serious issue.
“Obviously, I am not talking about life-saving medicines here but drugs such as anti-inflammatories and certain anti-depressants when they are prescribed long-term. But we are over-reliant on medication.
“Most of us would be perfectly healthy if we looked after our gut, ate a healthy diet of fresh foods, exercised moderately and consistently, got enough sleep, drank enough water, dealt with our emotions instead of burying them, and ditched the technology as much as possible.”
Her husband Niall and daughter Lena (almost 14) and son Adam (10) are very supportive and proud of what’s she’s embarking on.
They are helping fund-raise for the trip Fiona is also appealing for sponsorship: “It’s going to cost about €6,500 each. This may seem a lot but when you factor in setting up the clinic, all the materials we will need, flights, translators and all the other peripheral costs then you can see how it adds up.
“We basically have to supply everything ourselves. It would be fantastic to get some sponsorship from local companies. I’m hoping that this article might generate some interest and inspire people to get on board.
“I’ve also set up a ‘gofundme’ page where people can donate online. You can find it under ‘Volunteering for Vietnam’ or check out my social media pages under ‘fionabarryacupuncturist’. It doesn’t matter how big or small the donation is, every bit counts.”
Her details are: 085-1216217, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.comharacupuncture.ie
Find Fiona's Go Fund