HMS assignment in Gambia February / March 2015

Beatrice Tillmann

On the evening of 25 March 2015 I land in Banjul on time. The weather is pleasantly warm, the customs procedure as always chaotic and exhausting. Bernd and Isha from our local partner, welcome me warmly, I am spoiled with a fine dinner and will soon be in bed. It is as if I hadn’t been away for so long, almost like coming home.

The next day it starts already. It’s Consultation Day in Sanyang, a village about 15 minutes drive from our little school. The three trained homeopaths go there every Thursday to treat the inhabitants of the village homeopathically. When we arrive at 10 o’clock, about thirty people are already sitting in front of the treatment room waiting.

First the whole room and every piece of furniture is cleaned and disinfected. The students of the current course are involved in the Consultation Days. They first record the names of the patients and search for the patient files, which is not so easy because many have the same name. They also sit next to the treating homeopath to listen, to bring in their own ideas, to search for categories, to gather experiences.

Everyone works very professionally and responsibly. For me there is not much to do here except to give you some tips for the classification of the patient files.

The school days are entertaining and exciting. The six students have changed a lot since last year when I last saw them. They ask a lot of questions, don’t feel like they’re losing face anymore, can laugh about their mistakes and stand by them and are really motivated. They discuss a lot.

Our topic in the first week is the medicine Colocynthis and the “case admission”. In the explanation of the “full symptom” questioning, there is a big discussion about whether an accompanying symptom might not also be the main complaint and how to find out.

At the end of the week I do a little test to see how far they understood the subject. I found it difficult to teach them what the difference is between general and local symptoms. The understanding of these levels is different for the locals than ours. But in order to find the right rubrics in the repertory, they need to learn our understanding. That’s a sticking point where I bite my teeth out to teach them. The cultural difference is clear on this subject. The second week focuses on China officinalis and “Theory of repertorization”. We work through the structure and the different chapters of the Kent Repertorium and do repertorization exercises. You can repertorize very quickly, faster than we can with the computer. As already mentioned, however, it is difficult for them to bring the symptoms to the right level.

Students are also taught anatomy, physiology, pathology and herbal medicine. Both subjects are taught by Mr. Colley, a young native herbalist who studied medicine in Moscow. The class and I go on an excursion to the bush with him. He shows us various medicinal plants, mostly bushes and trees. Almost every plant is used for something, mainly the roots and the bark. It is fascinating to see Mr. Colley in the middle of nowhere predicting which medicinal plant we would explore next and then purposefully go ahead to lead us to that plant. I would have been lost there…

In the time when I am not busy with lessons, there are all kinds of things to do. The three trained homeopaths treat patients in Batokunku every day. The number of patient files takes on an extent that needs to be well organized. We create Excel tables to record the data, initial anamnesis, follow-ups etc.. The homeopaths get a little training how to work with these Excel tables, save them and save them on a stick, send them as an attachment via email to the project leader Gabrielle Barben etc…

I am also trying to find out where we could regularly find disinfectants in a reasonably accessible shop. It’s quite time consuming for what came out of it. The whole country seems to be sold out, or it just doesn’t exist. In a supermarket in the tourist zone of Senegambia I find three bottles. That’s all…

The stay is drawing to a close. On Tuesday I will do a test on the “theory of repertorisation” and go through the two remedies again. On Wednesday 18.3.15 in the morning I will discuss the test, explain topics they did not understand, pack and fly home. Once again it was very enriching in all respects. To immerse oneself for three weeks in the theories of homeopathy, to think about it, to see it in a new light and to discuss it in English was a welcome refreshment that will certainly have an effect on my everyday practice. The encounter with the Gambian population as students, patients or the people I otherwise meet in everyday life is always exciting.

By living with Isha Fofana and Bernd, I get to know locals from different backgrounds. From the gardeners on the neighbouring property to artists of the country to craftsmen, mayors and embassy representatives, from the common people to the high representatives of this country. Their way of life and the circumstances they have to deal with are very impressive and I can only profit from them.