All posts by tsetongb

Together we are an Ocean

Team 1 arrived home a week ago, tired – and some of us sick – but triumphant. This trip was difficult to organise and challenging on the ground due to the conglomeration of different organisations during the first week- The Timor Leste Dental Program had been joined by Solar Smiles Dental Charity (SSDC), the Bendigo Maubisse Friendship Committee (BMFC), and the Maubisse Referral Hospital (MRH). We all had  different ideas and agendas for this first week, but we shared a common goal – to improve the dental health of Maubisse Subdistrict; this made us a highly effective team.

Week one saw us in Maubisse Subdistrict. The TLDP consisted of overall team leader, Dr Blanche Tsetong, the TLDP’s Timorese dental therapist, Mr Nico Tolentino Faria,  and translator (as well as sterilisation nurse and dental assistant), Miss Isabel Noronha Pereira de Lima Maia. SSDC was represented by founder, dental recruiter and former dental assistant, Mrs Kim Groizard. Standing with a foot in both camps was Dr Phil Hill, who was volunteering for the TLDP, but was also a member of the SSDC. Dr George Waters represented the BMFC and the MRH brought into the mix Dr Inda Zulmira Dias, dental therapists, Mr Armando Da Costa Martins and Mr Ricardo Mendonça, and assistants, Carlotta and Imelda.

The TLDP and MRC spent the first couple of days in Turiscai treating the community and the school. Turiscai is and isolated village 1 1/2 hours from Maubisse town along the type rough, dirt ridge track that TL is famous for. The scenery is spectacular. We were very busy – the community rarely gets dental services – but our plans for a community oral health workshop were stymied by the campaigning for the upcoming election. (Pic: Phil, Nico & Ota)

The next 3 days the TLDP and MRC visited Rimori School, in a village fringed by sharp mountains, Samoro School, in a valley accessed by a skinny dirt track running beneath towering Madre de Cacao trees and coffee bushes, and the Carmelite Sisters’ Health Clinic back in Maubisse town. Kim Groizard lent a hand at both Rimori and Samoro Schools , enabling her to see a functional outreach clinic in TL in action. As we all know, working in TL has its unique challenges and peculiarities! (Pic: Phil, Isa & Kim)

Week 1 was peppered with meetings, but the most crucial was that with the Chiefs of all the Sucos (akin to shires) in the Maubisse Subdistrict. Phil, Nico and the rest of the gang remained slogging at Samoro, while Blanche, Kim and Inda attended this meeting with George in tow (SSDC will function under the BMFC umbrella). At what Kim described as a “horse auction”, the chiefs sought to get more services for their Sucos. In the end, we came out with a working plan of cooperation between the Chiefs, the Carmelite Sisters, the MRH, the TLDP and the SSDC. Success! (Pic: The view from Rimori)

The weekend, as always, brought the changeover and we said goodbye to the cool hills of Maubisse, the Maubisse crew, and to Kim and George. We were now a solely TLDP team. Blanche, Phil, Nico and Isabel happily welcomed Dr Mary Tuituinnik; less welcome was  the oppressive heat and humidity of the coast .

Week 2 had a different flavour to it – the climate introduces an additional layer of difficulty to our job. Also, by that time, both Nico and Blanche were ill; nevertheless, the team carried on – they spent 2 days in the slightly cooler climes of Vatuvou School, in the foothills behind Maubara, and a day in each of the airless, dusty, piping hot schools of Ediri and Vatunau, with one fan, a tin roof and a generator. What made the week flow easily was Phil’s can-do, ever-optimistic attitude, Mary’s gentle humour, Isa’s graceful, caring nature, Nico’s dogged work ethic, and the non-stop gentle pitter patter of Phil and Mary’s chatter – those two can talk underwater!

One of the days we spent assessing and mentoring a dental therapist, Savio, who the SSDC hopes to employ. Like most of the dental therapists we come across in TL, his skills are woefully lacking; however, with the right attitude towards learning, and with lots of support, we know that he could become an excellent clinician. Many of the dental therapists we mentor are now excellent clinicians. (Pic: Savio, Isa & Mary)

Week 2 also had its share of meetings as the TLDP worked with Phil (with his SSDC hat on) to establish more connections in TL. There were many trips back and forth on the Dili Road – meetings with Judite and Mario from the Rotary Liaison in Dili, the Rotary Club Lafaek in Dili, and the Rotary Club Dili at the Klibur Domin Tuberculosis Clinic in Tibar, with a fortuitous meeting with another new dental NGO in Tibar, which works within Kilbur Domin, under the Ryder-Cheshire banner. Developing links is important, especially in this setting, as it allows us to support each other and to share resources – TL is an impossible place to work in solo.

Blanche had meetings with Sr Inacia about the Sister Delfina who the TLDP hopes to support in her dental studies in Indonesia. The TLDP believes that local ownership is the only way for a program to be sustainable. Although Nico is hardworking and committed, he is a “mere” dental therapist and so lacks the clout that being a dentist would give him. He also has family ties that may force him to leave the program one day. Hence – in supporting Sister Delfina to become a dentist we hope to safeguard the program for the future. However, the TLDP was originally led to believe that the degree would cost approx USD 9000 for the first year of study. Instead, it is closer to USD 29000 – a big difference! Nevertheless, we are determined to support her – I see some fundraising in our future!

Team 1 luckily had few equipment issues –  3  broken triplexes, a non-functioning generator, malfunctioning head torches, a dental unit water leak, a total loss of water supply in the accommodation in Maubisse and, at the end, a broken air-conditioning fan belt in the SIsters’ car. Most they managed to fix during the 2 weeks! (Pic: Isabel, Blanche & an iPhone)

Team 1 saw a total of  415 patients, extracted 363 teeth, restored 245  teeth and carried out   39 treatments. With the TLDPs support, the MHR and Nico had screened, given oral health education and carried out a selected treatment to 1439 children prior to the Team’s arrival.  A fine example of what cooperation can accomplish!

Thank you to the entire team – you make this program. Thank you to Bony Cardoso Martins, who continues to help us with our Timorese dental registration, which is an exercise in tedium. Thank you especially to Henry Schein Halas, who continues to support our program with stacks of consumables and equipment team after team, year after year. Your generous donations allow us to give more to the Timorese people. Thank you also to SDI who has also helped us with donated materials over several years. Thank you to our partners, the Carmelite Sisters who, with their grace and good company, make it a joy to work in TL.  (Pic: Phil, Sr Joaninha, Blanche, Sr Isabel, Mary)


Team 1 heads to TL next Saturday

A new volunteering year begins on Saturday 21, with something new. Team 1 is taking along some friends. At least for the first week, the Timor Leste Dental Program team will be joined by representatives from the Bendigo Maubisse Friendship Association (BMFA) and Solar Smiles (SS), who hope to assist with improving the dental services in Maubisse. Retired anaesthetist, Dr George Waters, from the BMFA, and the founder of SS, Mrs Kim Groizard, will be journeying for the 2nd and 1st time respectively to TL – a recon trip for the both. Dr Phil Hill, who volunteered with the TLDP last year, has the unusual distinction of being a member of all 3 NGOs and the TLDP will be working him hard! The last two Australian members of this merry band are  team leader, Dr Blanche Tsetong, and returnee, Dr Mary Tiutiunnik. They will be joined in TL by dental therapist, Mr Nico Pires and translator, Miss Isabel Noronha Pereira De Lima Maia (Isa).

Week 1 will be spent in Maubisse subdistrict; clinical work in the community and the schools will be intermixed with meetings with heads of villages, the main hospital, and health posts, as well as meetings with other NGOs.

Once Kim and George return home, the TLDP will spend a more typical TLDP 2nd week of hard slog in the Maubara/Liquiça/Loes subdistricts. Full steam ahead!



bending the arc

BENDING THE ARC – Film Screening Fundraiser for the TLDP


Amazing things happen out of the blue. For the TLDP, it came in the form of an email.

This email was from two Melbourne dentists. Given our core business, one might think that this is quite a pedestrian occurrence. But THESE dentists were asking if the Timor Leste Dental Program would be willing to be the recipient of the proceeds of a fundraiser they were organising?

YES! As all of our constant supporters and untiring volunteers have come to realise over the 15 years that this program has been running – dentistry is an expensive business.

Their event is a screening of the award-winning documentary, Bending the Arc , which is about a team of young people—Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, Ophelia Dahl—whose charitable medical work 30 years ago ignited a global health movement. Their goal was  to make high quality health care available to everyone, even in the world’s poorest countries.


Many years ago, Dr Brandeis McBratney-Owen and Dr Paul McBratney-Owen were inspired by the work of Dr Farmer and his friends. Hence, this exclusive Australian screening event is sponsored by their holistic dental practice, Melbourne Dental Wellbeing.

They plan to donate all ticket proceedings to the Timor Leste Dental Program (thank you very much!). If you are in Melbourne, we hope that you take the opportunity to experience this inspiring story, and to show your support for the ideal of universal health care (and the TLDP!). Hope to see you there!

Sunday 29 April 2018

Cinema Nova
380 Lygon Street, Carlton , VIC 3053

And so it begins…gearing up for 2018

It seems like we’ve just stopped to draw breath from the helter-skelter of 2017, yet here we are – 6% of 2018 already done. So the TLDP year begins with an admin and planning trip. This is especially needed this year, as we lost our beautiful Timorese coordinator, Sr Filomena, to the Oe-cusse Carmelite Community at the end of 2017. Armed with calendars, forms, and loads of blank paper, Dr Blanche Tsetong is set to head to TL for 3 intense days of meetings and brainstorming. Of course, she’ll be taking some much needed supplies – we can’t let that valuable luggage-space go to waste!

Blanche will be meeting with Sr Inacia, one of the heads of the Carmelite order in TL and, at the same time, she hopes to meet the young Sr Anna, whose dental studies we hope to support in Indonesia. Whilst in Dili, she will also be meeting with the Ministry of Health to discuss the ongoing saga of dental registration. Then a big planning session is in the works with Bony, Nico and Sr Joaninha in Maubara. With Sr Filomena gone, the coordinator role will be shifted onto Nico, the dental therapist, who will be aided by the redoubtable Bony. As the only dental clinician within several districts, Nico has a big job ahead of him.

The Ermera and Maubisse contingent will be met back in Dili – Blanche is looking forward to a big gathering of some of our long-standing, dedicated Timorese clinicians – Tino from Gleno, Dr Inda from Maubisse, Ana Paula from Balibo, and Ana Tilman from the Kose Nehan Program in Aileu. These people are a joy to be with. There is much work to do, especially now that the TLDP bas been joined by two NGOs, the Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Association and Solar Smiles. We all want to help, but it takes effort not to get in each other’s way. We will be looking to our Timorese friends for guidance!!!

And fingers crossed – at the end…..we’ll have a plan for 2018!!!! Wish us luck!


It seems that the years fly by faster and faster as we get older. Here we are again at the end of the year, with the silly season looming. At this time, I reflect upon everything that has happened during the year – good and bad – all our achievements, all our losses, and how we have handled it all.

This year has been tumultuous for the Timor Leste Dental Program; we hired a new dental therapist, Nico Pires, at the beginning of the year, in a bid to increase the local ownership for the program. He has proved to be a true asset – a hardworking and competent clinician, who is unafraid to take charge even in the presence of some extremely authoritative (bossy) Aussie dentists. We simultaneously entered into a partnership with the Maubisse-Bendigo Friendship Association, which has increased the support for the Maubisse District, but has also had the effect of increasing (temporarily, we hope!) our workload, as we bring these newcomers up to speed. Maubisse Hospital acquired a new dentist – Dr Inda Zulmira Días –  who has already shown her skill in organising the Maubisse sectors for Teams 1 and 5, as well as an ability to connect with the community though our dental workshops. Everyone who got to work with her this year fell in love with her charm and enthusiasm.

Overshadowing everything was a great deal of frustration dealing with the moving goal posts of the new Timorese dental registration process – delays, lengthy meetings with government officials, multiple trips to Dili, mountains of paperwork, and emails, and submission and resubmission of documents…this is still ongoing. All the teams felt the absence of our translator, and friend, Bony, who was in his final year at university. Although he couldn’t work with the teams, he still set aside time to help the TLDP with the registration, as well as sorting out many other details for our teams. Thank you Bony!

The TLDP sent over 5 teams this year. We had a host of new volunteers – Dr Mary Tuituinnik, Dr Marius Mocke, Mrs Yvette Young, Ms Abbey Notley, Ms Liz Thompson, Dr Mengzhu Wang, Ms Malita McCabe, Dr Andrew Frame, Dr Phil Hill and Dr Christine Underhill. It was wonderful to see the way these new volunteers took the Timorese people into their hearts. We also saw the return of our regulars – Dr John Moran, Dr David Digges, Dr Wayne Pearson, Dr Karen Sloan, Dr Geoff Knight, Dr David Sheen, Dr Blanche Tsetong, Ms Bella Miller, Dr John Whyte, Dr Ashley Freeman and Dr Peter Shakes. The people who return, year after year, is what keeps this program running. They are gold.

Sadly, two of our team leaders, Wayne Pearson and David Sheen, claimed that this was their so-called ‘last’ trip to Timor; however, it is hard to resist Timor’s siren song – we think that Timor hasn’t seen the back of them yet! However, by far the biggest blow to the program this year, was the loss of Sr Filomena da Costa – our Timorese Program Coordinator. The Carmelite exec ruled that she had to move to Oecusse to head the community over there; as a relatively young community, they need someone with her 26 years of experience. In one fall swoop we have lost our boss, the best chef in Timor, our spiritual advisor, local folklorist and a quirky, mischievous friend. No prizes for guessing that everyone will be vying for the Oecusse spot from now on! Nico and Sr Joaninha have big shoes to fill.

This year the TLDP treated over 2330 people; we extracted over 1851 teeth, placed over 937 fillings, and carried out 411 preventive treatments. This treatment is worth about $977,650. We facilitated one dental workshop and mentored 6 Timorese dental clinicians over a period of 10 weeks.

We would like to wholeheartedly thank all our fabulous volunteers, who never stint on giving their time and effort to the Timorese people. We would also like to thank their families and friends who support them – they would not be able to do what they do without you. Thank you to all our Timorese workers, partners and helpers. There are always a multitude of local people, often unsung and unseen, who help keep the program running while we are over there – they are teachers, drivers, groundsmen, elders, nurses, passersby – they give because they can, and we are awed by them.  A massive thank you to Henry Schein Halas and SDI for their extremely generous donations to our program this year – we would not be able to function without your donations of vital dental materials and equipment. Last, but not least, thank you to our donors – 97% of your valuable contributions go directly towards helping the Timorese people. We are more than grateful for your support. Your contributions pay for equipment and vehicle maintenance, for material and equipment purchases and for the salaries of Nico and other Timorese translators and fixers. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

From all of us at the Timor Leste Dental Program, we wish all our volunteers, our supporters, our donors, our partners and their families, a happy Christmas. We wish you all the best for the new year. Keep safe and well and we will see you in 2018.

The Permanence of Change

The very last team to Timor Leste for 2017 has returned from what the team leader, Dr David Sheen, describes as “the most exhausting trip I’ve ever had”. No surprise there – not only did Team 5 consist of 2 completely separate teams, who did a tag-team swap at the airport midway through the fortnight, but as the TLDP’s last team for the year, they had a lengthy list of objectives, including touching base with the Carmelite leadership, the now-standard meeting with the Ministry of Health and getting things at Maubara base squared away for the end of the year. (Main Pic: Beautiful Sr Filomena, Dr David Sheen, Dr Ashley Freeman, Nico Tolentino Pires)

Week 1’s team consisted of Dr David Sheen (team leader), Ms Liz Thompson, and newcomers Dr Andrew Frame, and Dr Phil Hill. In a culmination of much collaboration between the TLDP and the Bendigo Maubisse Friendship Association, Phil joined Team 5 as the dental representative for the BMFA. So along, with our usual aims of providing treatment to the local people, and mentoring Timorese dental clinicians (in Maubisse, this is Dr Inda Zulmira Dias, Mr Ricardo Mendonça and Mr Armando Da Costa Martins), Phil was there to check out how we organise our outreach clinics, to meet the hospital director and the Maubisse oral health team, and to figure out how the BMFA will contribute to augmenting Maubisse’s oral health services.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 2.37.00 pm.pngThe team arrived in TL, did the necessary shopping and headed out to Maubara to sort out the gear in torrential rain – this is the reason why our volunteering year runs from April to October. They spent one night in Maubara with our beautiful Sr Filomena, who dropped a bombshell on the team (and our program) – the Carmelite leadership was moving her to Oe-cusse in 5 days time. In one fall swoop, the program has lost its Timorese Program Coordinator, master chef, spiritual adviser, chief entertainer, and good friend. Spending time with this wonderful woman has been one of the great attractions to volunteering with the TLDP and we will deeply mourn her absence. We are immensely grateful for the privilege of 15 years of friendship, company and guidance. Nevertheless, even though getting to Oe-cusse is a chore, I am sure that many of will be beating a path to her door, with or without the TLDP.

So – what will the TLDP do without Sr Filomena? Well, it’s a good thing that we employed Nico this year – with the help of Sr Joaninha and the redoubtable Bony, this hardworking dental therapist is to take up the reins of the program coordinator. We are sure he will have it shipshape in no time!

Before leaving for Maubisse, the team had to replace a part in one of the portable dental chairs – this part was essentially a fancy screw, which has to be specially ordered – this was done by Team 3 on their return, so has taken 2 months to get to us!! A couple of stops in Dili for supplies, a meeting with the Minister of Health, and a 3 hour trip up the mountain was in order before the team finally arrived in Maubisse for their meeting with Dr Inda and Dr Pereira. (Pic: Phil Hill, Liz Thompson, Andrew Frame, Dr Gabriela, David Sheen, Dr Inda and Carlota)

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Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 2.20.50 pm.pngThe first 2 days were spent treating children at the Maubisse Primary School. Dr Inda had already screened the entire school, so that distilled the team’s list down to those children that required treatment. Andrew and Nico, and Phil and Inda were paired up for mentoring, while Liz was in charge of infection control and David performed the hell-for-leather dentist role. Andrew soon discovered that Nico was extremely competent at extracting teeth, and so set about expanding Nico’s filling techniques. Inda and Phil got along like a house on fire – Inda is an excellent clinician, but is a young dentist, and so she will benefit from having a long-term mentor. (Pics: Above: Phil and Inda. Below: Andrew gives Nico a thumbs up)

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 2.02.03 pm The final 2 days were spent in Turiscai, about 1 1/2 hours from Maubisse, where the team worked in the Health Centre. Nico continued to wow everyone with his rapid setting up of the clinic – He has done it with 5 teams now….I’d say he’s an expert at it.
There were only a couple of hiccups in the Maubisse visit- Firstly, the team was unable to stay with the Sisters for the first 2 days (we had been beaten to the post by a nursing team!), and had to cope with mosquito-ridden, smelly, dirty accommodation. Luckily, this horrible experience was offset somewhat by the Guesthouse in Turiscai, which also had good food! Secondly, Inda had brought along a couple of Timorese non-practising dental technicians,Mel and Ota, who work as nurse’s aides at the Sisters’ Clinic in Maubisse. David put them to record-keeping, only to discover – much, much, much later – that they had no idea that there were differences between fillings and fissure sealants. You know that they say about assumptions….Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 2.30.38 pm.png

A night in Dili was followed by the team changeover. Team 5 Mark 2 – Dr Geoff Knight, Dr Ashley Freeman and Dr Christine Underhill joined David (Geoff minus is bag, which had decided that it would rather go to Bali instead) from the morning flight and after a visit to Toyota to address car problems and more supply pick ups in Dili, they headed to Black Rock (Team 2’s pied-a-terre) at Cameo Beach for the night. (Pic: Liz- sterliser-in-chief)

Sunday was a day of a much needed pause to take stock. Geoff headed to Dili for his bag which didn’t arrive. Isabel Noronha Pereira de Lima Maia arrived. She is Bony’s cousin and was joining the team as translator for the week. Otherwise the only event was Sister Filomena’s “Last Supper”. We will miss that woman!

The five days in Maubara were spent in Maubara clinic, Liquiça High School (30 min, good road from Maubara, east), Vatunao Primary School (15 min, good road, east) and Fila Delfia High School in Lisadila (2 hours, very bad road, west, several river crossings). The 4 locations highlighted the continuing issue of electricity in TL. Maubara and Liquiça are connected to electricity, but supply is often unreliable. The team had to use a generator in all locations except for Maubara. Liquiça’s electricity was only on for half the day; Vatunao, between Maubara and Liquiça wasn’t connected; Fila Delfia had solar power.

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(Pic: Geoff gives Nico some theory) The team powered through the work. Isabel was an excellent interpreter (rivalling Bony!). In the last couple of days, she was joined by Ana Paula dos Santos Tavares Salgado, whom the TLDP and the Hatubulico Friendship group helped to study dental prosthetics in Brisbane. She is currently working in the Balibo Dental Clinic. Geoff, a natural teacher, took on the mentoring of Nico, while Ashley and David plugged through the patients. Christine, who is an orthodontist, and was actually in Timor to join a cleft palate team the following week, helped the team with infection control and sterilisation – it must have been a breathe of fresh air for her!

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 2.33.51 pm.pngIt was a hectic 2 weeks – for the team leader, with so many balls in the air. The only real problems that plagued the team were run-of-the-mill for TL – the issues with the Sisters’ car, Geoff’s missing luggage (and supplies!) which did surface eventually, and the malfunctioning of Generator 2. (Pic: Geoff and Christine with teachers in Liquiça)

Team 5 together treated 805 patients, extracted 615 teeth, restored more than 305 teeth and did more than 18 preventive treatments ( the last two are underreported due to the screwy record keeping in Maubisse). A brilliant effort by the team. Add to that the meetings with the Carmelite leadership, the Maubisse Hospital leadership, the Maubara Clinic leadership and the Ministry of Health – well done David!

We are fortunate to have so many people to help us out behind the scenes. Mario and Judite from the Rotary Liaison Office in Dili have taken up the reins after our mate, Daryl left last year and they have been doing a great job. They deliver and pick up our car from the airport, liaise with customs for us, sort out car registrations and servicing and do a thousand necessary admin tasks that keep us going. Bony, who worked as an interpreter with us last year, continues to function as out ‘fixer’. He helps us out with interpretation, liaises with the Ministry of Health for us, sorting out the documentation and filling out forms, acts as a messenger between us and the sisters, who often don’t respond to calls or texts, and with Nico, who’s English is uncertain at the moment, and books ferry places and accomodation. These three people are invaluable. We are so grateful to have them!

Living it LARGE in TL


Team 4 has returned from an immensely productive, fun-filled trip to TL. The team had Dr Peter Shakes (team leader) and Malita McCabe for the entire fortnight, with the addition of Dr David Digges for the first week, and Dr Mengzhu Wang for the second week.

Unfortunately the team had to endure a similar registration rigmarole to Team 3; however, as the TLDP has done some  scrambling to adjust to the new regulations, this team didn’t have to spend entire days in Dili cooling their heals. Instead they had a mere wait of 4 hours on the day of arrival for the Ministry of Health to advise them that they were unable to be seen that day, followed by a relatively succinct meeting with the Director of Health and Quality Assurance a week later. Progress!

After an overnight pitstop in Maubara to check in with fabulous Sr Filomena, gather the gear and collect Nico (our hardworking dental therapist), the team headed off to Maliana district for its first week. Lunch was taken enroute in the infamous town of Balibo, which now has an Australian-funded dental clinic of its own, and is staffed periodically by Timorese auxiliary staff  and Australian volunteer dentists.  On arrival into Maliana, the team was met by Isabella – Bony’s cousin – who had the job of fixer and translator for the week. Isabella quickly became an indispensable member of the team – the team has dubbed her “The Terrific Iza”. (Pic: Malita, David & Terrific Iza)Malita, David & Iza

The first 2 1/2 days  were spent working in Maliana Hospital. At first, both Peter and David were not running on all cylinders (Peter had a lingering respiratory illness and David was recovering from a recent operation) but they still plugged through the work with dedication. I’m sure that their ‘soldiering on’ was aided significantly by the distinctly unusual, über-plush working environment of Maliana. Not only did the hospital have air-conditioning, electricity, a fully-functional sterilisation room with sterilisation nurses, and hospital staff eager to assist our team; but the team were also housed in brand-new accomodation, which also had air-conditioning, electricity AND hot showers!! With lunch delivered everyday by Alberto, the Über Eats of Maliana, they were set!

Bony and Iza had organised the program in Maliana well in advance; this ensured a steady stream of patients, and the team had to work at pace to keep up with the numbers as well as provide quality clinical supervision and training for both Nico and the resident dental therapist, José, who was simply happy to have local anaesthetic to work with.

In the afternoon of the Day 3, the team packed up and headed up the hill to Bobonaro – a 10km, 1 hour drive. The TLDP has yet to see any improvement in this road since we started coming here over a decade ago.

The team had the usual warm welcome  by the Carmelite sisters and Malita was finally able to have the unique experience that accompanies all our trips – living with servants of God. In Bobonaro, the accomodation is simple and clean, the company is fabulous, the food plentiful and the cool mountain air delightful. The team set up in the Sisters’ clinic, a short walk away from the convent and church. The following 2 days were spent treating the local community, with the first morning dedicated to treating children. Now in a more typical Timorese clinical situation – no running water, no electricity – and with instruction from Nico, Malita was soon a dab hand at sterilising outreach style – with a pressure cooker on a gas ring. Malita is a qualified dental hygienist – so she was an exceedingly busy member of the team; she was sterilising instruments, assisting the 3 other clinicians, AND cleaning the teeth of her own patients. What a woman! Nico wowed the Aussies with his extraction skills – he has come a long way since we first employed him in April this year.

Before the long commute back to Maubara, the female members of the team (plus Nico) lightened their wallets at the local markets and they all had a lounge in the Bobonaro Hotsprings. Sheer luxury! (Pic: Bobonaro Hot Springs)Bobonaro Hot Springs

Sunday, always a slower day in a Catholic country, was spent in Dili – David and Meng did a tag team swap at the airport, and the team had the all important meeting with the MoH before heading back to Maubara ready for the second innings.

Week 2 was a week of movement for the team. The first two days were spent at Maubara High School and Maubara Primary School, where Meng was rapidly inducted into the cut and thrust of dentistry in TL. This was swiftly followed by a day in Paurubu Primary School, a day in Kaikaça Primary School and a final stint at our base clinic in Maubara. Phew!

There are stark differences between villages in Timor, the most obvious arising from differentials in the availability of water, electricity and food; they are often noticed most by newcomers to TL. Meng and Malita, this team’s rookies, were struck by the differences between Paurubu and Kaikaça , which are only 5km apart. The well-being of the children in Kaikaça, which has had a significant amount of help from NGOs, was significantly better than that of Paurubu’s kids, who lack running water, adequate food, and sanitation.

Governed by school hours, the team generally finished earlier than usual. The additional time was spent carrying out necessary maintenance and inventory tasks, washing the cars (probably the first team EVER to do so – these people were keen!), having a dip in the ocean, and “getting their shop on” at the Maubara women’s cooperative where, according to reports, Meng alone bought half the village’s merchandise .

The team had relatively few problems with equipment – a dodgy power cord was ‘repaired’ by Nico, they coped with the ongoing problems with one of our portable dental chairs (the new part was ordered after Team 3 and will be coming up to TL with Team 5), and were unfazed by a dodgy water spray and hand piece.

Altogether, the team examined 490 people; they extracted 409 teeth, placed 63 fillings, and cleaned 41 people’s teeth. A fabulous effort from a well-oiled team!

Well done Team 4!