Darjeeling Project Website Page
In 2007, Dr. Louie
made connections with Father Abraham, a Jesuit priest from Canada, who has
worked with the poor in northern India for over 50 years. He introduced her to
several organizations in the Darjeeling region that provided services to PLHIV
(people living with HIV and AIDS) and many expressed an interest in the
From that introduction in 2009, the
Darjeeling Project officially started in hills of northeastern India to help
young men with heroin addiction. This first project was a joint HARM reduction
project for the prevention of HIV with the Indian Red Cross Society in
Kurseong, India by focusing on substance abuse in the region. Please see newsletter 15 for more information on this project.
Photo Left: We had a lovely surprise when we stepped in the training room with this poster on the wall. The Red Cross also had a wonderful opening ceremony for us which included a journalist from the local newspaper. We had an article on our training in the newspaper the next day.
By 2011, the Laura
Louie Hope Projects started a new acupuncture training program at the Adarsha
Nursing Home in Kalimpong, India. This rural town is in Darjeeling district, in
the northeast of India at the base of the Himalayas. Located on the ancient
caravan trails from Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal, Kalimpong is the centre of trading
for these areas. Due to its sensitive political-military location, tourists
have only been able to spend time here in the last 15 years. Before that they were only allowed 2-day visits.
We set two primary
goals of the acupuncture training program in Kalimpong. One goal was to provide
complementary treatment for pain since the only treatment in this rural town
have been medications which do not always work or which carry significant or
undesirable side effects. There has been little physical therapy or therapeutic
massage offered and no occupational therapy or chiropractic medicine.
The other goal was to
provide training for some of the hospital nurses who were young women from very
poor village families. Having such a skill would provide these young women with
a source of potential income in the future since when they get married, the
custom is to move in with their husband’s family and generally quit working at
the hospital. By having a skill like acupuncture, these nurses would be able to
provide a much needed way to treat pain in their village as well as provide
some income to help with food and their children’s education.
Photo (Above): Here I am with the trainees. From left to right – Sunita,
Karuna, me, Ramit and Ashmita. You may have noticed that I have squatted down a little otherwise I would be at least a foot above everyone!!
Photo (Above ): Here we are in our ‘classroom’ learning about traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. From left to right – Dr. Gylamit, Karuna, Sunita, Ashmita, Ramit. Dr. Gylamit is the medical director of the hospital and was instrumental in helping us set up the acupuncture training program at the Adarsha Nursing Home. Here she is listening in on our first day of the training.
Photo (right): Here are Ramit (left) and Karuna (right) practicing how to insert an acupuncture needle on me.
Photo (above): Here is the acupuncture room set up for our first patients. You can see that there are two sets of beds divided by the middle table and chairs. One side is for women and one side is for men.
Photo (above): Here are Ramit (left) and Sunita (right) preparing to see their first acupuncture patients. Don’t they look great in their nurses uniforms?
Photo (Left): Here is Karuna treating her first acupuncture patient.
The Laura Louie Hope
Projects did a second training in acupuncture, massage and nutrition at the
Adarsha Nursing Home in February/ March 2012 and a third training in September
2012. The nurses did extremely well and learned the medical protocol treatments
successfully. As well, all patients who have come to the clinic have reported
great improvements in their symptoms and quality of life. Both the Foundation
and the nurses were all overjoyed at the excellent results!
Photo (Left): Left to right: Norden, myself, Dr. Gyalmit, Ashmita, Ramit, Mandira, Karuna and Sunita.
Our last day of clinic followed by a wonderful ceremony. The nurses are all in their beautiful saris. We didn’t realize the skill and time involved in wearing a sari until we were waiting about 1.5 hours for the nurses to change from their uniforms!! Norden is the person who went above and beyond in helping us start and maintain this training program. He has been an incredible gift!
In September 2012, the
Laura Louie Hope Projects sponsored a workshop on Community-Based Responses to
People Living with HIV and AIDS in Darjeeling, India in conjunction with the
Shanker Foundation. We were surprised to find out that this is the first time
an international organization had ever hosted a workshop on this topic in this
The need for this
workshop came to the Foundation’s attention four years ago when they saw the
huge stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS as well as the
misunderstanding of the condition itself and the impact on the communities. In
2002 the first case of HIV was identified in the Darjeeling district; five
years later the number of people infected had reached 141. Today it is
estimated there are 3000 people living with HIV and AIDS. With this rate of
increase you can only imagine what the numbers could be like in another five
The workshop focused
on the fact that it has been almost four decades since HIV was identified and
certainly no country has been spared. Everybody is at risk of infection and no
sector of the community is left unaffected. HIV not only leads to AIDS but it
can also lead to serious emotional, social and economic problems which can have
a devastating impact on personal, family, community well-being and national
development. Preventing further spread of the virus and mitigating the
suffering and the ensuing impacts requires the help and support of every sector
of the community. No one person or organization can solve the problem alone.
Everybody must join hands and work together to manage this problem.
This workshop was for
community leaders and was given by Mr. Laurie Maund, of the Sangha Metta
Project. The workshop was unique in that it was participatory with many group
activities. These helped solidify the learning and showed how participants
could help their communities. For example, in one activity there were large
pieces of paper on which were written different professions such as teacher,
doctor, housewife, military man, policeman, prostitute, truck driver, etc. The
participants were asked to work together to rank these professions in order of
the highest risk group to the lowest risk group. Interestingly in this
community, the highest risk group for men was injection drug users and the
highest risk group for women was housewives--not what many would have
Photo left: Several participants were given a profession and then they were asked to line up from highest to lower risk of contracting HIV – actor, dancer, farmer, vendor, housewife, singer, doctor, etc.
Photo left: This was a great activity and was lots of fun. Everyone was broken into groups and given a large piece of paper. One person was blindfolded and the others had to direct them on how to draw an item, e.g., a mountain, a river below the mountain, a big tree beside the river, etc. This activity shows the participants that if you have the help of your friends you can complete the activity. Just like if you are going to set up a project in the community, you need the help of your friends. You can’t do it alone. You need to work together, listen to your friends, follow directions correctly and then you are able to finish the project successfully. When you start a project you are like a blind man but with the support and help of your friends you can complete the project brilliantly.
On the last day of the
workshop Mr. Maund took the participants through an action plan. Each group was
given a problem and had to identify the causes of the problem, set goals and
objectives, develop strategies, establish a time frame and find resource
persons, develop a budget, develop indicators and provide an evaluation. Once
done each group presented its problem/solution strategy and a group discussion
ensued. Such action plans proved interesting and educational for all. At the
end of the workshop, participants were extremely motivated to go back to their
small communities and start doing workshops. The Foundation was thrilled!
Photo left: This is another group activity where Laurie was teaching them that you need to solve a problem by looking at the cause. If you don’t eliminate the cause of the problem, it comes back.
Photo left: Here I am with Esther one of the members of the Shanker Foundation. She is getting her course certificate and is such an inspiration! Behind us is Hari, the president of the Shanker Foundation, who is incredible and was instrumental in making this workshop happen.
The Shanker Foundation was started in 2005 and is the only organization run by people living with HIV and AIDS in the Darjeeling district of India. The Shanker Foundation helps people living with HIV and AIDS to give them a more productive life with self confidence and dignity as well as helping them with their health care needs and quality of life. Their activities include educating the public regarding HIV and AIDS and helping with the struggle against stigma and discrimination
The Laura Louie Hope
Projects is poised to continue its non-profit initiatives in India by
establishing locally run, sustainable programs in the Darjeeling district of
northeastern India. We are focused on an extensive, proactive, medical and
educational program similar to the Mae On Project in Thailand; however, the
Darjeeling Project will have a more regional focus on essential sustainability.
The Darjeeling Project
- Using acupuncture techniques to provide complementary health care to the poor; address substance abuse, improve the symptoms of chronic HIV infection, and reduce the side effects of ART;
- Offering nutritional counselling to patients;
- Providing a culturally sensitive educational component, including workshops and counselling to help people better understand HIV and its stigma, along with gender equality issues;
- Delivering workshops on energy efficient/smokeless stoves;
- Offering educational scholarships for underprivileged children;
- Providing improved housing.
intention is to train local staff to run the Darjeeling Project programs so
that eventually our involvement will be minimal or altogether unnecessary,
achieving the goal of sustainability.