Chi Wilburn, MAcOM 2009, recently returned from Bali, where she studied and practiced Shonishin (Japanese pediatric acupuncture) under Soma Glick. Since her return, she has incorporated her knowledge into her practice, and plans to open amonthly pediatric clinic to offer the medicine to more children.
How did you get involved in the the trip to Bali?
I met the teacher, Soma Glick, at a one day pediatric shonishin workshop several years ago and had been interested in the program in Bali ever since. It was one of the only opportunities of its kind. When I found out that this was the last intensive course that Soma would be offering in Bali, I knew that I had to find a way to make it happen.
How did you get support for the trip?
I chose to use Indigogo online fundraising, after being encouraged by so many to do so. I was amazed at how much support I received for my proposal, Benevolence to Bali. In fact, I exceeded my fundraising goal! It was wonderful to feel that I was able to successfully transmit my vision to others. I am so grateful.
What was the trip’s focus and goal?
The trip's focus was two parts: We were there as students and practitioners. The course and clinic ran for 10 days. During the first half of the day, we had lecture focused on obstetrics/gynecology or pediatrics. We discussed treatment technique and strategies, specific point application, as well as herbal and homeopathic treatments. The latter half of the day, we held a free clinic for the local villagers.
The goal was also two parts: We were there to study with Soma, who has an amazing wealth of information on the chosen topics and we were there to offer treatment to the people living in a rural and very underserved area of Bali. Thus, we gained immediate experience with our newly learned therapeutic techniques.
Personally, I yearned to advance my skills as a practitioner of shonishin. For those of you unfamiliar with this practice, it is a non-insertive technique that uses handmade tools to tap, rub and brush along areas of the body to affect change. The fear of needles is eliminated. I also wanted to witness a pediatric group clinic and advance my own skills in this particular technique in preparation for opening a pediatric shonishin group clinic at my practice, Benevolence Healing Arts, located in the Portland Natural Health building in Southeast Portland.
What did you experience there?
Bali is an incredible place full of spirit and beauty, rich with art and culture. However, economically, Bali is a developing country with a lack of adequate health care for many of the rural people who live there. The Balinese do have their own traditional medicine and herbal therapies (jamu) that are not as commonly practiced as they once were. Many of the children that we treated were given antibiotics every time they visited the doctor, whether for a virus or otherwise. Because of this, it seemed that many patients suffered from "lingering pathogen" disorders. Parasites were also a common complaint. We had a child come to the clinic that was severely disabled from a fever he had as a baby. He responded beautifully to shonishin treatment.
Many of the women who came to the clinic sought help with fertility and premenstrual symptoms. We treated women with pregnancy complaints and women who suffered the loss of children as well as women experiencing multiple miscarriages. We saw women with TB and woman with severely swollen joints from years of working in the rice fields. It was raw and beautiful to be in service to them. It made me think of how fortunate we are to have access to many medical options in the Western world. It was an incredibly intimate way to experience another culture for the first time.
How was the medicine received?
Our medicine was well received by the Balinese. They were eager to attend and be treated in our clinic and openly grateful for what we were there to offer. Some people traveled from other areas of the island, and we had a group that even travelled from Java to receive treatment! Many of the people and children came every time we held our clinic and thus were able to receive many treatments over the time that we were there. It was satisfying to see the effects of treatment when it is performed more frequently than in our common western clinical model.
At the last day of our clinic we were taken to a special temple where we were given a blessing for the success of our practices. We were then treated to a traditional Balinese meal and entertained with traditional Balinese music and dance by the local children, some of whom we had treated in our clinic. The event was a wonderful way to be shown the gratitude of the villagers.
How have you used your knowledge now that you're back home?
I have a focus on pediatrics and women's health in my practice, so I am able to immediately incorporate what I learned into treatments. The benefit of my pediatric treatment has been the most pronounced as I have altered my treatment style and feel that it has improved my success and has boosted my confidence in working with children. I am preparing to open a free monthly pediatric clinic where I will be able offer this medicine more broadly and really put my new skills to the test!
How could your fellow alumni learn more about this program or other programs supporting positive health care change in Indonesia?
Although Soma is no longer hosting this course in Bali, she does offer other courses in the U.S. and abroad. You can find out more about her offerings on her website.
At the end of our clinic, all of our remaining acupuncture supplies and herbs were donated to the Bumi Sehat birthing center in Ubud. Bumi Sehat is an international nonprofit organization. Their mission is to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality and to support the health and wise development of communities. They offer general health services, emergency care, prenatal, postpartum, birth services, and breastfeeding support; in addition to youth education and environmental and disaster relief programs. Supporting this organization is another way you can support positive health care change in Indonesia.
What advice would you have for a practitioner looking to travel abroad to practice?
Do it! I found my educational experience and opportunity to offer our medicine to people in need to be incredibly rewarding. It is a poignant way to further your practice and gain insight into yourself as well as gain a new perspective on why you practice this artful and effective medicine in the world.