Nepal mission teaches acupuncture, life lessons

Rob Karwath | January 27, 2016

Acupuncture student Lanna Schwab spent two life-changing weeks in Nepal providing care for earthquake survivors.

Lanna Schwab 448 x 252

A part of Lanna Schwab’s education will forever be the two weeks she spent helping victims of the devastating earthquakes in Nepal.

When Schwab heard about the massive earthquake and its aftershocks in late April, she immediately began working to find a way to get to Nepal. The acupuncture student at Northwestern Health Sciences University knew she had help and healing to offer. So she sold canned goods to supplement her own out-of-pocket spending, got on a plane to Nepal and joined Acupuncturists Without Borders on a relief mission.

In November, she flew directly to the south-central Asian country, which was still reeling from the effects of the massive earthquake and powerful aftershocks. She spent two weeks working with Acupuncturists Without Borders in locations ranging from remote villages to poor neighborhoods of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital and largest city. Her team provided acupuncture that helped with physical healing as well as emotional relief for the people they treated.

“I learned a lot of leadership skills and improvisational kinds of abilities,” Schwab says. “Every day we would have no idea what we would be walking into.”

With a year left in her schooling and not yet licensed as an acupuncturist, Schwab assisted other licensed professionals in providing care. But she felt her impact.

“I was touched by the people of Nepal—the joy and gratitude they had for us,” she says. “Our primary treatment was a five-needle procedure that is mostly known as a detox protocol and is also really good for helping people who have experienced trauma. Each point essentially has to do with resetting the brain.”

Schwab also provided an alternative treatment involving beads taped to the ear for three days that had a similar stress-relieving effect.

“After the earthquake, the Red Cross was there to give people food and blankets. But the acupuncture we provided gave the people the emotional release they needed,” she says. “You don’t often think of the internal and emotional trauma that comes from a natural disaster. But these people had experienced earthquakes and landslides and lost nearly everything. Their villages were full of rubble.”

In addition to working in remote areas directly affected by the earthquake, Schwab and her team filled in for local professionals at urban clinics that help battered women and trafficked girls.

In late January, Schwab gave a presentation on her experience in Nepal to Northwestern faculty and students. She showed photos of her work and explained why she was so motivated to help.

“I was bound and determined to do this,” she says. “I was in the Peace Corps before, and this kind of work is my calling. I learned how my skills can help in the real world. It’s what I’d like to do when I graduate—go to less-developed areas and just help.”

Back to Top