Acupuncturists Without Borders to hold trauma-relief clinic for asylum-seekers and volunteers

On any given day, detention centers in the Rio Grande Valley release between 300 to 400 people a day, say grassroots groups working to support migrants and asylum seekers at the border. Upon release, many families are left with nowhere to go while they wait for their asylum cases to be adjudicated. Before they can even set foot in the United States and wage an asylum claim, they are forced to wait–sometimes weeks, sometimes months; during that time, many are forced to sleep on the international bridge that connects Brownsville, TX to Matamoros, Mexico.

Angry and upset that nothing was being done, in June 2018 a group of women decided to assist asylum seekers with food, water, clothes, toiletries, and legal aid resource information. Today, the group calls itself Angry Tías y Abuelas of the RGV. Alongside other local groups like Team Brownsville and the Catholic Charities of McAllen, the Angry Tias y Abuelas have continued not just opened their hearts to asylum seekers, they’ve opened up their homes too.

When I first heard the group’s name, I knew I had to learn more.

I’m a graduate student at the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine in Houston, Texas. Recently, I completed a training with a volunteer group called Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB), which provides disaster relief, recovery, and resiliency building support to communities affected by disasters, human conflict, environmental devastation, poverty and social injustice. Similar to Angry Tías y Abuelas, as I learned more about what was unfolding at the border, I grew frustrated. It was hard not to.

I’m the product of refugee parents who fled the American war in Viet Nam in 1975. The only difference I can see between those arriving at our southern border now and my own parents is that they arrived to this country during a time where the national policy and patriotic sentiment openly embraced them. That’s not to say my parents and their generation were not discriminated against, but we also benefited from the “model minority” myth, which said that immigrants of Asian descent were more desirable than Black and brown immigrants. I think constantly about all the oceans my parents crossed to ensure a better future for me and what may have happened if they got stuck between borders, like the families now trapped between Texas and Mexico.

My frustration, however, was rooted in more than my family history. Like the Angry Tias y Abuelas, it was also rooted in the knowledge that I knew there was more I could do right now. At the Acupuncturists Without Borders training, I learned that there is a wider community of acupuncturists that feels the same, and that’s why we’re coming to the community of the RGV.

Acupuncturists Without Borders offers NADA Acudetox treatment, a simple protocol of 5 points in each ear which can help alleviate stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, addiction, and Post Traumatic Stress symptoms. This treatment protocol was born in 1970 out of The New York Lincoln Detox Center: The People’s Drug Program, when a group of Young Lords, Black Panthers, members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement, and the Lincoln Collective literally walked in and took over the Lincoln Hospital and refused to leave. They too, were tired of waiting for public and government entities to provide effective services and solutions for the community. Under the leadership of licensed acupuncturist, Dr. Mutulu Shakur (Tu Pac’s stepfather and a current political prisoner), the Lincoln Detox program was recognized as the largest and most effective of its kind by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Acupuncture Research Society, and World Academic Society of Acupuncture. They didn’t just focus on drug addiction recovery, they made high-quality, low-cost healthcare available to everyone in the area.

Courtesy of Acupuncturists Without Borders

Cindy Candia, an Angry Tía, comes from migrant parents and sees the asylum seekers camped out on the bridge as her own brothers and sisters, as family. “Where I come from, we always help our family.”

When I told Cindy about the benefits of acupuncture, I felt her eyes light up over the phone. “Can we receive this treatment?” RGV volunteers have been working around the clock nonstop since the summer. As a result, some have been falling ill or experiencing Secondary Trauma symptoms, the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another.

As you are reading this, AWB volunteers are in California where the wildfires have devastated homes and mass shootings have traumatized children. They’re focusing on first responders like firefighters and emergency medical technicians, as well as the community directly affected. In my eyes, volunteer groups like the Angry Tías y Abuelas are also first responders, community-led first responders who decided to take action by transforming their frustration into love in the face of policies that promote hate.

At the Acupuncturists Without Borders training, I met many others who were also inspired by the ways border communities have stepped up to make a difference. From that training, a small group of volunteers from Houston, Georgia and as far as Massachusetts have come together with the explicit goal to set up the first Acupuncture Trauma-Relief Clinic in the RGV from January 4-6, 2019.

Our goals are to serve migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and community first responder volunteer groups. We need help from local RGV folks like you to help us spread the word to families taking refuge on the bridge and in other public places, as well as to all the volunteers who have given their time and energy toward welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers. Everyone is welcome to experience free acupuncture! Children (and those who don’t want needles) can receive ear seed treatment.

Acupuncturists Without Borders will be offering (4) FREE acupuncture clinics:

FRI Jan. 4th:
6-9pm Gateway International Bridge for asylum seekers

SAT Jan. 5th:
10am-12pm Good Neighbor Settlement House (1254 E. Tyler St. Brownsville, TX 78520) for volunteers

6-9pm Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge for asylum seekers

SUN Jan. 6th:
9am-1pm Palmer Pavilion & Charles E. Curtis Park (301 E Hackberry Ave. McAllen, TX 78501) for asylum seekers and volunteers

This event is made possible entirely by volunteer efforts and donations. If you would like to make a tax deductible contribution towards this clinic and future ones, please click here. All proceeds will go to Acupuncturists Without Borders. If you would like to be notified of future clinic dates, please email