Travel Reports

First Trip After the Civil War 

May 2010

It is our first trip to Sri Lanka after the Civil War forced a mandatory break of 3 ½ years. But now we - Anne Christopher, Erdmute Erben and Matthias Strelow – are at the airport in Colombo. Our schedule is full. Meetings are planned with Sri Lankan representatives of homeopathy, with Mr. Dias Udeni of Sewalanka Foundation and with the Minister of Indigenous Medicine. Above all, we want to see our colleagues, our former translators and some of our former patients on the East coast. In short, we would like to get an idea of what  lasting effects our work brought since the tsunami.

From our first conversation partner, Dr. Mass, coordinator of the NAHA (National Association of Homeopathy), we learn a lot about the background of the difficult political landscape around homeopathy in Sri Lanka. In addition to frequent ministerial changes with their constantly changing requirements, it was in particular the competition and corruption in the Homeopathic Council itself, which have brought Sri Lankan homeopathy to the brink of ruin. Currently, Dr. Perera, until recently chairman of the council, has to face charges in court of illegal large scale selling of licenses for homeopathic practice. Therefore, it is expected that an unknown number of approved "homeopathic doctors" can now be found in Sri Lanka, whose medical and homeopathic knowledge is often  limited to the fact of having provided Dr. Perera with some financial support.

The next day we meet with Mr. Udeni Dias and employees in the principal office of Sewalanka Foundation, Colombo. The work of Sewalanka impressed us deeply, competently and with the help of dedicated employees Sewalanka and their agencies are working on a diverse program to improve the situation of the population. The work includes projects for construction, health education, trauma care, advice on company formation, micro-loans, and much more. The society is structured all the way down to the individual village communities- multipliers, trained at the district level, take the training content further into the villages.
We arrange a further meeting after our tour, to discuss our future cooperation.


Evaluating 5 Years Since the Start of the Project

On the east coast, we meet the first five homeopaths for collegial exchange. Their complaints are familiar to us in Germany: the acceptance of homeopathy is low overall, and little money is spent for homeopathic treatment. We are forced to realize, though, that their level of homeopathic knowledge could be higher. We emphasize the importance of a good education and regular education and specifically invite all to join our planned seminar in Peraliya.

Then we meet four of our former translators. They unanimously reported that both they and the patients had been very much impressed with the respect that we had shown toward the patients. The patients  initially visited us out of curiosity, but news about our good treatment results must have spread quickly, otherwise the amount of visiting patients would have surely subsided over time. Even today -  3 ½ years later- people were already outside the door, hoping that we would be treating again.

Our translators unanimously agreed that they had felt quite stressed in mediating between the patients and us. As is the custom, the patients initially took much time explaining their family backround, who their family members were, which jobs they had, etc. Then the patients would enquire the same information about the translators- information important to the patient. Only then the patients felt ready for the medical history taking and treatment by us. We on the other hand wanted to find out the chief physical complaint more quickly. More accustomed to European time, we grew impatient with our patients, especially in the light of the large number of patients wanting to see us. Our unfortunate translators felt stuck between the patients’ expectations and our own.

At our request, one of our translators went to find some of our former patients. We thereby had the opportunity to follow-up on the patients and were very satisfied with the results. We also visited two of the children's homes, where we had been treating children after the tsunami. Some of the children I treated back then are still living there today. 3 girls tell us how they have fared after the treatment and we are happily shown around the home.

A Special Seminar

Departing from Kalmunai feels difficult. Over rough roads we travel back south in order to give our seminar on second prescribing at the Peraliya Health Center. Matthias Strelow edited courses of treatment according to the scheme from Vithoulkas and brought them as a working basis. Together with Dr. DeZoysa, director of the Peraliya Health Centers, we are planning the last details. We are very excited to see how the Tamil and Sinhala colleagues will meet each other and how the level of interest and knowledge of our colleagues will be.

The atmosphere of the seminar is friendly, everyone is happy and interested. The level of homeopathic knowledge is, as expected, very diverse. It ranges from very little training to a few very experienced Sinhalese colleagues who had studied in India and have 30-40 years of practical experience. Luckily, Matthias Strelow prooves to be a very flexible lecturer in this situation.

According to Dr. DeZoysas, the  colleagues from the east coast are in need of a basic and thorough education.  He is willing to regularly travel to the east and to undertake this training, but would not start his first trip without our support. Travel expenses  of our colleagues from the East Coast to the seminar was paid for by HOG. This will be the final financial support for the Tamil colleagues by HOG as they have largely recovered from the economic consequences of the tsunami and civil war.

On our way to Colombo, we spend some time with Dr Latiff, who currently is commissionary head of the Homeopathic Council, until the allegations of corruption against Dr. Perera have been settled. Dr. Latiff points out that we are not allowed to treat, nor sell,  give or prescribe any medicines. Without the permission of the council there may not be installed any homeopathic teaching curriculum in Sri Lanka. We confirm to him that we are neither treating nor pursuing any such plans, but that we have met some colleagues in order to understand the situation in Sri Lanka and we have offered them our assistance.

Once in Colombo, we join Mr. Dias of Sewalanka for dinner and discuss with him the importance of absolutely precise, controlled production of the homeopathic remedies and good homeopathic training.

Last Discussions with Sewalanka and the Minister of Indigenous Medicine

The next day we meet as scheduled with two directors of Sewalanka. We report on the results and impressions of our trip and suggest to them to utilize the state's own resources as well as the expertise of their own qualified homeopaths. Mrs. Navaratne agrees to contact Dr. DeZoysa within in the next weeks to discuss the future possibilities. Another proposal concerns the homeopathic medical care of the refugee camps or villages in the north; lay training in medical and homeopathic acute care may be a perspective.

After this meeting Mr. Dias brings us, as agreed, to an audience with Mr. Piyasena Gamage, Minister of Indigenous Medicine. The minister is familiar with the situation surrounding homeopathy in Sri Lanka and the Homeopathic Council. With him too, we talk about our ideas of how local qualified homeopaths could work in education and training. Due to their advanced age, time is pressing: most of them are between 60 and 70 years old.
The Minister expressed great interest in importing homeopathic medicine, which he would like to conduct through Germany, independently from India. He also seems very interested in our mentioning that the knowledge of remedy production could be brought to Sri Lanka as well. Bearing in mind Dr. Latiffs words, we ask Mr. Gamage permission for possible treatments in the north of Sri Lanka. The minister promises to think about this with his advisors.

The conversation is so lively that our scheduled 20 minutes turn into 45 minutes and we, unfortunately, have on our part call it to an end so that we will not be late to the airport.
We reach our hotel at 5:00 pm in spite of heavy traffic. The driver picks us up at 5:30 o’clock and we are at the airport at 6:00. 

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