There are a few things in life I react to rather impulsively and intuitively: usually it has something to do with the plight of poor people that touches my heart.
Therefore when one of my students wrote that HWB was looking for some volunteers to offer homeopathic treatment to the tsunami victims, I responded instinctively.
The good thing was that a small miracle had created a three week time slot for me in my busy teaching schedule, which enabled me to follow my youth dreams of offering help to those who need it the most. Surely, I don't want to miss any opportunity to show the "magic of the minimum dose."
While I was unable to join a three man team early in February, I found myself on an airplane on March 3. I should say, "airplanes," as I had to travel from Albuquerque to NY (JFK), to Dubai to finally land in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka at 5 a.m. after a two days plane trip. I was joined at the last moment by George Strom, a student of mine, and later in the week, we were to met up with a S. African homeopath, Ivy Dieltiens. The first night we spent in Colombo , in the company of Joe de Livera, the HWB contact in Sri Lanka . He turned out to be a great host and help of our team, always checking with us per phone and supplying us with a cell phone, indispensable for our mission.
The next day, his son Johan, drove us three hours southwards towards Hikkaduwa and Galle , the area that was most hit on the West coast. Although the East coast has been destroyed far more extensively, flattening the numerous fisher villages along the coast, that area was often the one receiving the least help. This is due to the ongoing conflict between the government and the Tiger Tamils who strive for their independence. This area was therefore off limit for us and most of the international organizations as it was far too dangerous to explore. We were roomed in the Reef hotel in Hikkaduwa, a hotel that was also hit and damaged by the tsunami event. Their first floor rooms were still under repair and unusable two months after the December 26 tragedy.
There are two major difficulties for any organization offering help to Sri Lanka: transportation and translation. Most of the NGOs, provided by enough funds had their daily bus waiting for them. But for us, only funded by the good grace of our donors, the price was rather steep.
Tragedies like this bring the good and bad out in people. I was confronted by its ugliness immediately upon my arrival. The tour driver, who had helped almost pro bono the previous homeopaths, was thinking this time about "big business."
Yes he had lost a daughter in the tragedy, and with his continuous pleading had even received"sponsor" money from the previous homeopaths, but apparently this only had turned him into a money hungry individual who took advantage of his country's and personal tragedy. He already had made a "deal" with his friend to charge us $30 a day for the transport, a steep price for Sri Lanka . When I told him we were not here as tourists (which he knew) but offering our free help and time for his people, he showed immediately his true colors, shouting, "I don't care, this is business." I decided there and then that I rather would pay the money to a more decent person and dismissed him.
The translation is THE major problem. I speak five languages but none of them were usable in Sri Lanka . The average person, far away from Colombo , only speaks Singalese, and I can assure you, it is difficult to learn. As homeopaths we certainly depend on a correct presentation of the symptoms to prescribe our simillimum.
While these translators had no difficulty having a simple conversation in English, it was a far cry from having a translation of our intricate homeopathic language.
Even a simple question, "When did this problem begin," was answered first with "three weeks," only to change on the next visit with "three years." It was therefore a small divine intervention, that my team was joined on the second day by a young man, Sumudu Fernando. He was born in England from two Sri Lankan parents and spoke English and the native Sri Lankan language fluently. He studied to become a lawyer (this increased my validation for lawyers a great deal) and offered his free help on his early vacation to Sri Lanka . It certainly made communication much easier with our patients, and coming from a family of physicians (father and brother), he was exposed to daily miracles of homeopathy which made a deep impression on him.
It certainly was with great sadness I saw him leaving after ten days, having to rely again on less capable translators. The only sad thing was, that we got no help whatsoever from the Sri Lankan homeopaths. This tragedy was a unique opportunity for them to demonstrate the effectiveness of homeopathy, and therefore to convince the Sri Lankan government of its efficacy. None of them however was interested in helping there, which would have been a solution to our translation and transportation problems. But they only wanted a free lecture from me which I politely declined.
All this did not stop my enthusiasm in meeting the "real" people of Sri Lanka . The next day we decided to explore first the places of the previous homeopaths. The first place was Kosgoda, a village that lost about 300 people in the tsunami, an hour's drive north of Hikkaduwa (if you think this name is difficult, you should have seen the names of people and other cities). Its location was directly at the shore and therefore vulnerable to the giant waves of the tsunami. They told me two kind of waves formed on that fateful day: one that came crashing directly over the road, pulverizing some of the houses to the ground, destroying others to leave one wall left and miraculously saved others from any damage at all. The second kind was the formation of a wall in the sea itself before it proceeded to the beach, even destroying more homes. The size of these waves was 25 feet and fifty feet.
The drive to Kosgoda, or anywhere else here in Sri Lanka , is hazardous. The main road holds barely place for two cars but big busses, three wheelers (the famous tuk tuks), bicycles, cars and pedestrians all compete on a road where we would only have "one direction." There is no way any foreigner can drive his car here without getting in an accident in the first five minutes. I just relaxed as our taxi driver was driving his car like he was chasing a bull (I suspect he had first consulted with my wife that my life insurance was active). The three wheelers were the most hazardous as they were bent to prove to their colleagues that they were the "king of the road." Our office in Kosgoda was a destroyed hotel.
The good thing was we had plenty of "fresh" air as there were no windows in our room and one wall went missing. Nothing better than good "air conditioning" in stifling heat of 92F and 95% humidity, which made me think of my glory days in New Jersey . The children were happy to see us and adults lined up for treatment. Some of their problems were still tsunami related as they were still complaining of pain resulting from falls while they tried outrunning the giant waves. But then there were acute infections in children, stories of chronic headaches related to death of relatives before the tsunami and one interesting case of sleeplessness and fatigue for years which happened to be related to imprisonment in Lebanon when she worked there without a visa. It was a miracle to see how fast Ignatia worked in this case.
The children seemed to be very happy and smiling, even when they had lost relatives. This is not due to suppressing of their feelings but rather to their Buddhist nature. I think, we foreigners should learn first the habits of the people of the country we are trying to help. As one said to me: "We eat the sea and the sea eats us." I only had one case of a 13 year old boy whose mother told me that since the tsunami he refused to come back and lived now away from her with family. And she had no money to visit him for al these months. I decided to spend the inheritance of my children and give her $50. I have never seen so much gratefulness and so many tears in anyone's eyes and on my subsequent visit, she told me she had visited him and spend the rest of the money on her 4 children's clothing. I made a point of returning every three days to the place I was before, to enable me to follow up our patients.
Here I must mention the great advantage of the 5th edition Organon split method. While the previous homeopathic team struggled with having enough of their remedies (being followers of the dry dose of the 4th edition), I could never run out of remedies as I only needed one pellet which I let the patient put in a bottle of 8 oz. of water. In spite of doubts expressed by Mr. de Livera, that I would not find any bottles, everyone in the villages I visited had bottles. This meant that an 8 oz bottle was enough for at least one month supply and with succussing the bottle and putting the remedy in water, its action, as advocated by Hahnemann, was much more rapid and gentle.
It is a must for every homeopath to adhere to this split method, especially in these poor third world countries. I had done the same thing previously in poor villages in Kenya . I had one kit 1M of 100 remedies and one kit 6C 100 remedies. This allowed me to treat any condition, acute and chronic.
The second consultation place was Wallemada, in between Kosgoda and Hikkaduwa. Unfortunately, the previous homeopath's translator, Wicki, had fallen ill immediately upon their return with prostate cancer. He was operated on, and stayed for 4 days in hospital without drinking and eating (except for one pint blood transfusion). By the time I saw him, 14 days later, he still had not eaten or drunk and yes you can guess it, was on the brink of dehydration. Here China 1M split dose, proved to be miraculous as he could drink and eat for the first time 15' later. The office in Wallemeda was only the remnants of yet another destroyed home right along the road. But I managed to move it to a Buddhist temple close by in the second week. Cases due to poverty and exhaustion were often presenting to us, together with the daily ration of back pains, open wounds and headaches.
The third place was an orphanage in Gintota near Galle. One of the previous homeopaths had been there but I found the place lacking of patients for us. There was a doctor's team from Tsechoslowakia in place and although open to homeopathic treatment, I saw that none of the previous homeopath's treatment was administered. As usual, most of the allopathic treatments I saw in Sri Lanka were aimed at fighting infections with antibiotics, bandaging people, and "observation," whatever that meant. To be fair, in this orphanage were plenty of hereditary heart defects. As it was impossible to provide a continuous treatment to most of these patients I decided to look for other treatment places. Not of course without treating those we could and leaving behind in the hands of the most caring and trusted nurse their"bottles" with remedies.
Another place suggested by our friend Joe de Livera was Galle , very devastated in the South. Even their cricket stadium, the favorite Sri Lankan national sport, was destroyed by the tsunami. The house was called "Sambodhi," but known as the "House of the Incurables." I thought that was rather an unusual name for people to live in and I could make up plenty of more pleasant names, which would sound more inviting to patients to join. But going there with our team, we found the house partially full with mental handicapped children (often mongoloid in nature) and adults. This place again was destroyed and 40 of its inhabitants had died in the second wave of the tsunami.
There was an English nurse for 14 days who did admirable work in a very lovely way. She had very little at her disposition so we were welcomed to do what we could. I found there the biggest bedsore I have ever seen, a crater a fist big and so deep that the femur head could be seen. This case was finally transferred to the hospital. Other bed sores were seen, hydrocoele, cases of epilepsy, a case in a young boy who had three days of diarrhea every time he ate, gushing out, with bloating.
Aloe was indicated and proved to be very effective. But there was no lack of love in this place as it was lead by a young man Terence who grew up in this place. This was a new place for us to come twice a week. On the way back we also created another treatment facility in a huge tent camp where sporadically an Italian doctor's team came. During the day, people in these tents left for cooler air so consultations had to be done early in the morning or late in the evening.
The last new place established offered also the greatest future opportunity for homeopathy to shine. This was in a place, called Seenigama, where a Sri Lankan philanthropist already had run a beautiful program for six years of computer and schooling for poor children. This was now destroyed by the tsunami also, so he changed his goals as a clinic was established and a place where they were producing building stones for all the destroyed homes in the neighborhood. While I was there they just had donated a new house to a widow with four children, replacing one of the wooden temporary small homes put up by Danish, German and Dutch people.
The children had their elementary school high up in the Buddhist temple as they still were in fear of tsunami events. In fact while we were there, the water came over the road again, starting a panic among the population who was fleeing to higher grounds. It was a simple normal event, but certainly it showed how much traumatized this people were. We worked there together with an excellent German orthopedist on several cases and decided to be in this clinic for 2 days in a week. One of the cases moved me deeply. A 80 year old grandmother came walking 90' from a village with a broken arm. No X rays were taken, and it was badly set and swollen. As my German friend put a cast around her arm and had to move her arm, this woman in spite of being in pain, did not utter as much as a small cry. I gave her a half cup of Bryonia 1M and gave her a bottle along. As we were finished, she smiled and knelt in front of each of us, touching our feet with her head. And then she told her 10 year old granddaughter who had accompanied her to do the same. It was a very touching moment for all of us, at least proving to us we were there not in vain.
I may not forget of course the patients we had at the Reef hotel. It all started with a German tourist lady who had extensive second degree burns (blister formation) on her both hands. She came to me as she was told we were homeopaths. I promptly gave her a Causticum 1M in split dose telling her to take a dose every two hours and show it to me the next day. To her surprise (but not mine), everything was gone without a scar. Would allopathy still call this a placebo? After curing the chef "de cuisine" of his ailment, the proud manger came for his ailment (turned out to be a simple Sulphur case as he said that he would have severe burning stomach anytime he did not eat around 11 a.m., Sulphur also matching beautifully matching his constitution). After that several other people continued to ask for our services.
The interesting and peculiar thing here in Sri Lanka is that no matter how much help is needed, and no matter how many volunteers are present here, many of them actually have a lack of work. This goes not only for doctors (I heard of a place where two allopathic clinics with many beds were made and they had NO patients), but also for social workers, psychotherapists, even builders. A team of excellent builders was turned away before they found a reception in the Seenigama village.
Why? I can't tell. I do not claim to understand Sri Lankan's mind set after 14 days.
Even for us, after two weeks, I decided that there was not enough work and enough places were now established to keep busy one homeopath so I decided to return home with George after these two weeks. This way, the funds of HWB can be used for subsequent homeopaths and our homeopath, Ivy, in place. While there are many organizations offering great help, as usual some have their own agenda. I read in the local newspaper how a "group of experts" who were counseling the tsunami children for one month. At the end, they tried getting the"victims" to express their tsunami experience in art form but the children simply did not have the patience to sit and draw a picture. The frustrated expert group drew pictures on their own and recorded them on video camera.
The sad fact is that much of the money pledged by the international community for the relief and rehabilitation work is not getting into the hands of the people who need it. Instead it is used to pay their experts' consultation fees and salaries while the displaced people are cramped in tents, schools and storage places. Even as I left, governments were holding a meeting as how to distribute the money (two months after the events) while other organizations employ 50 to 80% of the donated funds for operation costs. Poor people were demonstrating on the streets against their government and as the monsoon season soon will set in (May till September), its relentless rains will surely make a new disaster for people living in tents.
But I prefer to remember the beautiful smiles of the children, the grateful "Ayubowans" (the unique Sri Lankan greeting spoken with the palms placed together, meaning, "May you live long." Indeed, HWB was and will not be here in vain. I urge my readers to send their check for further homeopathic support to HWB, POB 150, Basalt , CO 81621.
May we remember everyday, how lucky we are to have each other and live in the luxury we enjoy. May all of us to the extent we can, relieve the suffering from people everywhere. And I am already thinking of my next goal: bringing homeopathy in China !