By Jamila Campwala

In 2018, Doctors Without Walls began partnering with a local non-profit organization, Healing Opportunities. The organization has been dedicated to not only assisting non-profits, like DWW, but also to helping first responders, healthcare providers, and community members through the use of acupuncture. 

The acupuncture program has been implemented at DWW’s Women’s Free Health Clinic and has been nothing short of a success. The WFHC strives to offer a safe place for the houseless women of Santa Barbara. Some of the most basic needs for these women are addressed on a weekly basis including meals, showers, laundry, medical attention, and more. The great work being done by Healing Opportunities aligns with the mission of the WFHC. This quickly became evident to me after speaking with several of the ladies who use their service regularly. 

The first woman I spoke with about her experience explained how much regular acupuncture treatments had helped her to overcome pain she had been experiencing after an injury to her foot.

Another woman added her own experience with the program, saying that she had been making use of the acupuncture services since they had first started and that she had seen immense improvements on her health from it.

“Before acupuncture started being offered, I was on pain medications for my back. I had to worry about taking them all the time. I started getting acupuncture done every chance I could get, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve needed to take anything for my back.” 

Many of the conversations I had about acupuncture mirrored these statements. 

Additionally, several women added that the acupuncture experience not only helped them with their pain and injuries, but also helped them to relax and gave them an escape from their everyday realities. The houseless community of women in the Santa Barbara area are among the most vulnerable of underserved groups. They remain in a state of constant vigilance, and the opportunity to step away and be provided with a space to focus on other things, and internally heal has been wonderful for these women. 

One of the regular acupuncturists from Healing Opportunities added to this idea saying, “Humans all need to have moments to let their guard down and receive tenderness; it is what supports our sense of peace and humanity. Our acupuncture program offers a space for humanity in these lovely women and we are so grateful to DWW for their generosity in giving us this chance to make a difference.”