Shelby here, an enthusiastic punkling at POCA Tech and membership circle volunteer, knee deep in the membership drive.
In preparation for the membership drive, I had the honor of interviewing and collecting posts from folks in POCA so that y'all could read, enjoy and be inspired by what they said. Today's post comes from Pam Chang, a membership circle POCA volunteer and punk at Sarana Community Acupuncture out of Albany, California.
On becoming entangled in POCA by Pam Chang
I fell into acupuncture by frustration with professionalism. After a 20-year career as an architect/civil engineer, I realized that we're all so busy learning how to be specialists that we've lost sight of the big picture. I knew about building codes, how to achieve one-hour fire walls, and how to calculate bending strength of a 2×4, but I deferred to other professionals to make decisions for me about my health, or actual construction, or local (and broader) education and social welfare policies. In a society of specialists, we're trained to be good consumers, but we're not very good at self-sufficiency. On the basis of little information and a hunch, I took the leap into alternative medicine. I was looking for do-it-yourself-ers, people who wanted to take responsibility for their own lives, despite the professionals.
Upon finishing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) school, I didn't know what I'd do. I had become a newly-minted TCM expert, expected to tell people –who surely knew more about living with themselves than I did– how to live 'right'. I didn't think I was going to have an acupuncture career until I heard about Community Acupuncture. I've been entangled ever since.
Community Acupuncture gives people acupuncture, a quiet space to sit in, a place to hang out among other people without the effort of socializing, a place to address or escape from everyday stress and pain, and it's a repeatable experience that can be easily self-prescribed. In the 9.5 years since Tatyana Ryevzina and I opened Sarana Community Acupuncture in Albany, CA, we've given some 10,000 acupuncture treatments annually to several thousand individuals. Some people come in once and never again — rarely, I might hear that one treatment cured their back pain, or that they're now going to another community clinic. Some become intermittent regulars, people I'll see whenever they start catching a cold. Others become core regulars, people I've seen weekly or monthly or seasonally for years. A stellar few are our rock-star ambassadors, the ones whose unrelenting pain or eczema became first manageable, and then mostly gone, after they committed to months of near-daily acupuncture. And then there are our core of volunteers, 20-30 people at any given time, who help us with plant-watering, housekeeping, and reception. These are the people who hang out in our waiting room exchanging stories and feeling at home.
This isn't what I anticipated when began my acu career. In fact, the one thing I was sure of in TCM school was that I didn't want to open my own business. I didn't want the risk, the loneliness, or the responsibility of being a business owner. What I didn't know was that acupuncture practice didn't have to be one-on-one consultations, that being an entrepreneur would allow me to shape a community-based small business, or how much small businesses can impact people's lives. In 2015, 7 years after opening Sarana, we converted ourselves to a 501c3 nonprofit corporation with a collaborative management structure. We see Sarana as a community resource in our 1-square-mile city. Incorporation means that Sarana might outlast us while staying true to POCA values. We want Sarana to be a model of a business that builds self-sufficiency: for clients who learn to heal, for volunteers who shape a place where they like to hang out, and for employees who feed the clinic so that the clinic feeds us. It's a tangled web that's connected me to my community far more than I ever expected.
In acknowledgement of Halloween, I've been asked to mention my favorite supernatural phenomenon to think about. Today, it's “Group Qi”, that odd but common occurrence when the treatment room is really crowded: people arrive together; they fall into deep torpor almost before they're needled; deep snoring comes from different corners; then suddenly, everyone's awake together, refreshed and wanting to be unpinned. It's a form of interpersonal psychic entanglement, I think. POCA brings that Group Qi to a level beyond the treatment room, where whole clinics access the Group Qi to help each other build self-sufficiency. This is why I support POCA — because, while Sarana makes me feel that I am influencing my neighborhood, POCA makes me believe that acupuncture is changing the world.
I hope you all were as warmed by that ask was.
If you didn't get a chance to see the other two interviews they can be found right here:
Right now, membership drive is underway and we are about halfway through. Some clinics are doing super strong in signing up members but unfortunately we are a little low compared to last October. At our current rate we will reach about 300 new and returning members, and our goal was 400. Reaching 400 is helpful for a number of reasons because right now POCA is taking on some important projects.
One being tackling legislation that creates barriers to acupuncture licensure (because it should be easier to become a punk, not harder, because….we need more punks, duh!) Another reason being that more members means more support and ability to start more clinics. It's beyond a bummer that so many are still going without adequate access to safe, effective medicine and as a result are isolated, in pain, frustrated, and scared. We need more clinics that are supported by a community and offer treatments to a wide number of people, not just the well off and a few “charity cases”. People are facing so many challenges and injustices today and we need clinics that support people in whatever they are going through day in and day out. Membership drive and POCA entanglement is about creating more of these safe, restorative spaces- spaces that don't cost an arm or a leg and only ask that you give what you can so the space can sustain itself.
To me, membership drive is about increasing our ability to support ourselves as patients, punks, admins, students, and volunteers, so that we can keep going and to extend the safety net that community acupuncture provides to more and more people.
POCA has multiple circles, one being Clinic Success circle which exists so you can be a stronger net, so you can feel more secure and be more, well, successful, in serving your community and sustaining yourself and your family. At membership circle, we focus more on extending the net of clinics and members, so this week you might get a call from one of us asking how we can support you in the membership drive this month.