About AWB

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does AWB only use the NADA protocol in many situations? In disaster relief situations we recommend using only the NADA protocol for a variety of reasons:

  • when treating large numbers of people it may be the only feasible option;
  • it makes record-keeping much simpler in a complicated field situation;
  • we find it extremely effective for groups that have experienced trauma.
  • When a person experiences traumatic events, his/her nervous system (and everything else) often becomes dis-regulated. The NADA protocol acupuncture treatment specifically helps restore regulation and nervous system coherence.

When are other body treatments provided? On our World Healing Exchange trips, depending on the situation, we may encourage people to do treatments from their own traditions. When treating large groups we will use the NADA protocol for the reasons mentioned above. In the Military Stress Recovery Project clinics, most volunteers use the NADA protocol because they find that it is the best method when treating groups in a once/week setting . When using other methods, there are issues about consent forms and records to be considered. These clinics find that even when they do only the NADA protocol for many years, participants still get great results. Method of treatment is, however, ultimately up to the clinic volunteers to determine.


How does AWB decide priorities of where to respond, including domestic vs. international disasters? Our mission is to served under-served communities, so that would be where we would place priority. When it comes to international responses, we ensure ahead of time that our relief effort would be welcomed by those experiencing the disaster. Our monthly Healing Community Trauma trainings provide the strongest support for helping proactively in case of disasters in North America and around the world. We are training acupuncturists to be able to respond to disasters independently. In many locations AWB-trained acupuncturists have created relief efforts, and the AWB office has supported them with mentoring, documentation, etc. Because most of our volunteers are still US-based, most of the disasters for which we support responses are in the US.


What steps do you take initially to get yourselves into an area where there are issues relating to accessibility (ie. in earthquake or flood zones) and to ensure your own safety? What liaison is there beforehand with NGOs or other agencies (already) working in the disaster area?  AWB always partners with local organizations and individuals prior to starting a relief effort. We do a lot of work beforehand to make connections with those on the ground, both NGO’s and local community groups, and we only arrive on the scene when there has been a request for our services. There are often issues about accessibility and safety and those must be addressed before starting a relief effort.


What is the NADA protocol?  AWB works to reduce post-traumatic stress by offering simple, yet powerful, ear acupuncture treatments to people who have experienced physical, psychological and emotional trauma. The treatment is called the NADA protocol, originally developed by Michael Smith who then started the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. The treatment protocol has been used in millions of treatments worldwide for decades to treat addiction. It is also very powerful for helping to heal trauma and stress. Treatments are done in a group setting with clients fully clothed, sitting in chairs. 5 small sterile acupuncture needles are inserted in each ear and retained for 30-45 minutes. Almost always, people feel a deep sense of well-being after the treatments, which help re-regulate the nervous system to a more balanced state. These treatments help people sleep, feel less anxiety, anger and depression, and enable the system to better process stress. Clients have found the treatments to be an essential part of becoming more resilient, which has enabled them to move forward in their new lives. Please refer to the NADA website for all other questions regarding the protocol: https://www.acudetox.com/about-nada/faq


How you select volunteers in the areas you go into? How long is the training you give them? AWB volunteers are generally practitioners (acupuncturists and other health care practitioners) who have taken our 2-day Healing Community Trauma training. All volunteers must follow the legal requirements wherever we are working regarding licensure, certification, etc. We have a screening process for anyone coming on an international mission with us. We recommend that volunteers who want to start international programs of their own, with the support of AWB, also attend our 4-day Global Leadership training, which focuses on global leadership with acupuncture and natural medicine.


How are language challenges dealt with? We use translators when necessary in countries where volunteers don’t speak the language. The beauty of the treatment itself is that language is not needed, after clients receive an introduction.


What support do volunteers receive who themselves might feel overwhelmed by feelings from being involved in trauma relief work, as they may witness extreme suffering and really troubling events? At AWB’s Healing Community Trauma 2-day training, we discuss the emotional issues that can arise doing this volunteer work, including the dangers and warnings about secondary trauma. We teach about the importance of self-care, how teams can support each other, and some important issues to take into consideration upon return from a deployment.


What is AWB’s overhead and how much pay do staff receive? For the amount of work that AWB does in the world, our budget is very small. The reason our budget is as small as it is at about $400,000, given the large number of programs, reaching tens of thousands of people each year with healing treatments and transformational medicine, is because we have very few paid staff. We rely on a super cost-effective and lean organizational model. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers who carry out most of the global work that we do. That means all that work does not show up in the budget. If we were to truly account for all the professional volunteer hours that are done – in refugee camps, veterans clinics, disaster sites, etc. – our budget would probably come to close to a million dollars. And that is with the equivalent of about 4 staff people running the organization. 88% of our funding goes to programs, 12% to overhead. This ratio can be found on our 990 IRS tax form. Our staff salaries are on the low side (about $17-$20/hour for admin staff) and between $30-$37/ hour for several highly credentialed senior level staff. Many of our staff work beyond their paid hours. We keep a lean overhead given the available funding. AWB squeezes every drop out of every day worked. Here is a testimonial that a funder, Laura Loescher (who ran a fund called Aepoch), wrote for us a few years ago. Laura and the Executive Director spent a long time together with her going over all the details of how we were running our organization. Laura told the Executive Director that she was using AWB’s model of volunteerism, low overhead, and spreading the dollars far and wide, as an example for when she spoke with organizations about organization models that are effective: “As the former CEO of a funding organization, I was impressed with the model that Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) implemented to get critical work done as efficiently as possible. I began to discuss this model with other nonprofits and used it as a template, as I felt it was so important.  We channeled our funds to organizations that were designed to be flexible and effective, even in the face of external challenges. Acupuncturists Without Borders, with its broad volunteer base, low overhead costs, and capacity to generate program income, has the qualities that will allow it to be resilient and thrive in times of economic uncertainty. I also felt that AWB was unique (among only a handful of nonprofits) in its integration of social justice and community empowerment work along with deeper healing of trauma, which is so critical to the sustainability, empowerment and  success of individuals and communities (and often neglected in the nonprofit and global social justice worlds).” Laura Loescher