Roughing it in Railaco

team 2 core

According to their report, the only thing ‘rough’ about Team 2’s trip were the roads. Uber-efficient operators, Drs  John Moran and John Whyte, with dental assistant Bella Miller, worked their way through the Railaco district, leaving a trail of happier and healthier villagers in their wake. (Pic: Bella, John M and John W at Black Rock Restaurant, Caimeo Beach Resort)

On landing in TL, the team were met by one of the local Rotary coordinators, Judite, who delivered our vehicle, T2, and helped the team with the shopping for local supplies. The team then headed for Maubara where, with the lovely Sr Filomena’s assistance, they loaded T2 up to the gunwales with equipment and materials, before moseying to the nearby Caimeo Beach Resort, in Liquiça, for a night of glamping. The team highly recommend this experience! (

85 (2)During their stay in Railaco, the team stayed in the Jesuit Mission with irrepressible Father Bong and his team – Father Joseph, his assistant; trainee priests, Arow, Michael, Luis and Gilbert (Gil); and the hospitality crew, Anna, Christina and Leonora. They were dined and entertained  in true Railaco fashion, and included the added treat of dinner at the Order of St Paul of Chartres Convent down the road, where they were given a choral welcome by the lovely sisters.

88 (2)The team’s days were no less entertaining than their nights. Father Bong knows how to organise a work tour! Over the week, the team worked together with a myriad of local people. Victor (pic), a part- owner of a local egg farm and a non-active member of the Portuguese army, assisted with chair-side suctioning and translating. His life-story fascinated the team and mirrors so many of the Timorese population. His parents ‘disappeared’ in the 1975 Indonesian invasion. During the occupation he initially hid in the hills with other students from his school, before escaping as a refugee to Australia. He lived in Sydney for many years and spent some time in Portugal. He never married due to the agreement with the Portuguese army, but lives in Railaco with his dog and 6 young puppies. The team had a tour around Victor’s egg farm and John, in true paddock-to-plate style, attempted to eat one of its non-productive chicken – unsuccessfully – too tough!

24Arow and Gilbert, the trainee priests, also acted as translators and dental nurses; and the infamous Tino also joined the team for a number of days. Tino is the most dedicated of dental therapists that we mentor and luckily, his area of responsibility is Ermera. He very happily helped out with translation and assisting and even more happily received some valuable training in filling front teeth from John. (Pic: Tino in training with John)

19After a day in Railaco proper, the team was sent to 5 remote villages in the hills of Ermera. They visited Cocoa, where they worked in the family home of Esterlita da Costa, who fed the team a delicious local dish of pumpkin leaf and red bean.  The following day’s journey to Railaco Leten was a 9km, 70 minute four-wheel-driver’s dream straight up the mountain, where the team were met by Brother Frank, who helped them set up a clinic in an old wooden chapel. (Pic: Railaco Leten). The team were disappointed that there were fewer patients that day, but the Timorese are often a little reluctant to see us – a dental visit is scary, especially when you have never seen (or heard) a dental clinic before!

40The next day, and an additional 6km, brought the team to Samalete, where they set up a clinic in the market place. In Tocoluli, the lucky team set up their clinic in an outdoor meeting place with million dollar views of Mt Ramelau and Gleno. No one was put off by the torrential rain that day and they were blessed by large numbers of patients, the meeting of local dignitaries,  and a rainbow spanning the entire valley that afternoon! 107 (2).jpgThis was an especially long day for Bella, who worked well into the night sterilising the instruments from a busy clinical day. (Pic: Bella’s steri-station). 20 (2)The last village visited was Nasuta, at the top of another 4WD track up the side of a mountain. And again – an open-air clinic with stunning views – this time to Maubara, Dili and Bazatete. Father Bong joined the team on their last day and he was given more training in pulling super loose teeth, which he hopes to do in emergency situations when neither Tino, nor a team, is in town (Father Bong is a doctor and he has had some experience extracting teeth with David Digges’ team last year). 36 (2)The team had a fabulous time in Railaco – as they always d0 – an extra thankyou to Anna for catering for Bella’s vegan diet with nary a batted eyelash. We are glad that Bella didn’t whittle away to nothing while she was out there!

The team headed back to Maubara, where they were met by Bony, our new translator, for a day of patients and tidying up. Maubara has not had the services of Aida, the local dental therapist, for over 6 months. In its ‘wisdom’, the health department has pulled all staff (and that means everybody in the hospitals and the health clinics out in the districts) from their normal jobs and put them to census-taking. The team were able to take up the slack a little in their day in Maubara, and add in a little bit more glamping before heading back to Dili and home.

Overall, the team had a surprisingly trouble-free trip; aside from a dodgy foot pedal on our oldest dental cart, which we had JUST got fixed in Oz (thankfully we are replacing it this July), and an autoclave with a mind of its own, the equipment held its own! Yaay! And this brilliant team managed to carry out 164 examinatons and 226 extractions, place 136 fillings and 296 fissure sealants, as well as 19 other miscellaneous treatments.

Well done team! Many thanks for all your hard work!

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