The Akha Clinic : Mobile Again
Perhaps our most significant ministry to the Akha is the Akha Clinic. In Thailand, many of the Akha are not given Thai citizenship, even if they are born in Thailand. This is due largely to the fact that they are recently (within the last 3 or 4 generations) from Burma.
Unfortunately, this also means a lack of medical care.
The Thai government is trying to improve this situation, giving non-citizens the chance to go to clinics where they can then be referred to the government hospitals in serious cases. However, even these clinics are expensive when the daily wages of field workers are taken into account (there is also no enforced minimum wage in the rural areas of Thailand).
Beyond the issues of finance and privilege, most of the Akha do not speak much Thai, causing miscommunication and distrust between doctors and patients.
All of these issues facing the Akha have combined in the formation of the Akha Clinic. Although we have no formal medical training, we have run these clinics with Doctors and Dentists from the US and have learned much from them. We have a shop in Chiang Rai where we can purchase medicine and supplies cheaply and in bulk, and we have developed a fairly comprehensive clinic that can be packed in the back of our truck and serve in any Akha village that we are invited into.
We always have this medicine and supplies with us, and are often caring for emergency cases while in villages, but our goal is to take the Akha (mobile) Clinic on one formal village day-long trip each month, eventually incorporating community health education into the clinic days as we receive further training on the subject.
Thus far we have been unable to maintain our once-a-month goal, however, now that Abi is settling in we are refocusing our clinic ministry. Last month, inspired by Dr. Luce, who brought a dental team from Colorado to perform free dental care in an Akha village, we were able to treat nearly 100 patients from an Akha Village near Wiangpapao with medicine, care and listening ears.
Take a look below at some of the snapshots of the clinic-preparation day:
Also here is some footage from the clinic day - it's pretty raw and not very entertaining (no music, translation or special effects), but there is a little bit of footage of Dr. Luce's Dental team and also a shot at the very end of Abi in her Akha hat that is just priceless: