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THANKYOU AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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.

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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!

Penultimate Team Returns

Team 4 returned from TL earlier this week. This team consisted of Dr Peter Shakes and Malita McCabe, who hail from South Australia, Dr David Digges, from New South Wales, and Dr Mengzhu Wang, who is fortunate to live in the beautiful Sunny Coast in Queensland. From initial reports, the team had a very successful, trouble-free-ish trip. Watch this space for updates. WELCOME HOME TEAM! Our last team for 2017 heads out on September 24 – they are busily gearing up for it now.

That which does not kill us…..

Team 3 has returned from a difficult trip to Timor Leste this month. The team leader, Dr Wayne Pearson, says that he found it difficult to write a positive report; hence, the tardiness of this update. In addition to Wayne, the Australian contingent of Team 3 consisted of Dr Karen Sloan, Sally Stephens and newbies, Dr Marius Mocke and Abbey Notley. The Timorese component of the team consisted of Nico Pires (our in-residence dental therapist, Bony Cardoso Martins (friend, translator, fixer) and the redoubtable Sr Filomena.

The team ran into their first problems with the airline, Airnorth before even leaving Australian soil. Airnorth’s system refused to recognise the TLDP’s current NGO status and so there were issues with the materials and equipment heading over. The team eventually sorted that out – money will fix almost anything. They arrived in Dili and were met by Judite and Mario, the Rotary Liaison team who handles much of the minutiae for many of the Rotary programs in TL. They liaise with customs to ensure that our dental gear gets through, pay bills for us, and deliver our car to the airport for us, which they keep safe when we were not in town. They are indispensable.

The team then met with Bony, who advised them of the new registration required for foreign dentists volunteering in TL. As mentioned in the previous report, this involved a great deal of documentation – two statutory declarations in Tetum and Portuguese, a copy of the passport, two passport photos, a copy of the dental registration, a copy of the degree certificate, a curriculum vitae in Tetum and, of course, a fee of USD 25. This was to be presented in person to the Ministry of Health and then there would be a wait of two weeks for it to be processed, after which the dentist could carry out their volunteer duties. Logistical difficulties were immediately apparent to the team – our teams are only in TL for two weeks! Having arrived earlier in the week, Sally had already bought the team’s general supplies and they finally got to Maubara in time for dinner with Sr Filomena.IMG_3204

(Pic: TL from afar – seemingly peaceful and pristine)
The next day, instead of starting work, the whole team, plus Sr Filomena and Bony, trooped back to Dili for an interview with the Ministry of Health (MoH). As the team were already in TL and had their AHPRHA registration, Dr Jaõa Manuel, who is in charge of professional registration, gave the team a once-off permission to work in TL. However, the following teams would have to comply with the new rules. As a concession to our short visits, he said that documents could be sent over in advance, but Wayne pointed out that this would be difficult when there is no postal service to TL; in addition, having to translate the documents into 2 different languages might prove to be a big deterrent to volunteers. Dr Manuel agreed, but this was the will of the political arm of the MoH, so it must be complied with. It was decided that the documents would be sent over to Bony by Blanche via email; Bony would do the necessary translations and then deliver the documents to the MoH. The team seemed to have arrived at a workable solution that the MoH was happy with. Disaster averted, the team had a well-earned lunch at Black Rock in Cameo Beach, Liquiça.

[Since then, the Ministry of Health has changed its mind. It wants originals of the CV, in a particular format, and originals of the statutory declarations, not scans. It has now added that it wants a criminal check as well. The TLDP is still trying to work out how we are going to do this in advance of our teams’ arrivals] (Pic: A fuzzy of most of the team: From Left bottom, Bony, Abbey, Sally, Karen and Marius)crew esplanada

The remainder of the week was taken up by a clinic in Guiço, and a couple of days in Klinik Maubara. Karen, Marius and Abbey spent a lot of time with Nico, honing his diagnostic skills; this is of prime importance, as most of the time he has no one else to seek advice. Sally spent a great deal of time sorting out the stores – the MoH has also developed stricter protocols on materials. On top of his clinical tasks, Wayne attended to maintenance, reconstructing the suction unit with the reconditioned motor which Blanche dismantled earlier this year. Wayne and Sr Filomena were summoned to the MoH again, this time to meet with the official who’s jurisdiction includes Atauro. This official told Wayne that he needed to provide her with an official letter so she could inform the people that they were coming. Despite assurance that, in fact, our visit had been planned a year ago with the local Atauro health authority, that Sr Filomena had been in close communication with the Director of the Hospital in Atauro, and that the people already knew the team was coming, a letter was demanded by close of business the next day. This necessitated a return to Maubara, where Sr Filomena produced a very official letter, with lots of stamps and signatures, and a quick return to Dili by motorcycle by Nico by 1pm on Friday.

The week was rounded off by dinner at the orphanage where, like so many of us before, the team was charmed and entertained by the Sisters’ young charges. All of us are no stranger to the upwelling of maternal feelings during these visits, but apparently, Abbey was particularly affected by the experience.IMG_3003

(Pic: The Nakroma – unloading at the Atauro end)

Saturday saw the team off to Atauro. In true Timorese fashion, boarding the vessel was colourful chaos. Although passenger tickets are available the day before, vehicle tickets are only purchasable on the day of departure – and even with a ticket, there is no guarantee of getting on board. The team had to hustle to fit both vehicles with all the gear onto the boat – Sister’s car was the second last car on! At least one other vehicle was turned away. The trip over was otherwise uneventful and the team arrived, unscathed, at Barry’s Place which, as always, was simultaneously a hive of activity and an oasis of peace. This time they were hosting a TEDX talk in the dining area! After meeting the local administrator, Mr Lucas, and hammering out a few details, the team was then free to soak off the frustrations of the previous week over the remainder of the weekend.IMG_3082

The team set up in the Vila hospital for the first 3 days and they were kept busy as usual. They had few problems with the equipment – only a dicky chair with a threaded screw, which they jury-rigged with a  strap. They even had lights and a fan from Day 2 after paying for some fuel for the hospital generator on Day 1. The final two days they went up the hill to Biquelli for 2 days. Here there was a lot more work, as these people have never had a dental service. They were ably assisted by Mr Lucas and a young German volunteer, Fransiska, who both helped with translation and reassuring patients. Timor is amazing in that way – one gets random help from everywhere.Franciska and Mr Lucas

In total, the team  treated 213 patients, extracting 371 teeth, placing 162 fillings, cleaned 21 people’s teeth and placed 17 fissure sealants. They were disappointed that their trip was not more productive. However, judging their trip by figures undervalues the peace building and diplomatic work that they carried out, which cannot be measured by numbers. In meeting with the MoH, working with Sr Filomena, Bony and Nico, and continuing Nico’s training, the team’s efforts were not only valuable, but vital for the continued growth and evolution of the program. On a personal level, dealing with difficult situations and difficult people inevitably delivers insight into oneself and encourages personal growth. As far as the TLDP is concerned this trip was not only a success, but a big win for all involved. Well done Team 3!! (Pic: Mr Lucas and Fransiska)

THANKYOU. An especially BIG thank you to Bony for his continued trips to above and beyond for this program. We would be a dead duck in the water if not for him. Thank you to Nico for his excellent work ethic and his willingness to learn from us and to take on the responsibility of the clinic. Thank you to Karen and Sal for the hard slog in the storeroom and to Karen for taking Nico under her wing. Thank you to Marius and Abbey for throwing your effort into the team – it’s a hard place to work. Thank you to Barry for his organisational skills and support for our teams in Atauro. Last, but not least, thank you to Henry Schein Halas for continuing to support out work with much needed materials. We appreciate it. No pics at the moment, folks – its slow going!

Team 3 safely home

(Pic: Bony, Karen, Abbey, Marius, Sally, Wayne – on arrival)

The last members of Team 3 have landed safely in Oz last week, after their 2 weeks in the heat, dust and humidity of TL. According to brief reports, this trip had was a tad more challenging than a ‘run-of-the-mill’ Timor trip; the Ministry of Health in Timor Leste has just introduced a new regulation for volunteer dentists – they must provide a bunch of documentation, two statutory declarations in Tetum and Portuguese, passport photos and a fee of USD25 for the privilege of volunteering their services in Timor Leste. Unknowing Team 3 had none of the above, resulting in a number of trips to the Ministry of Health in Dili, and a lot of talking to officials. This frittered away some of the team’s precious treatment time, but their skills in compassion, patience and diplomacy were well-exercised! Glad you are home, Team 3; we look forward to your full report.

 

GO TEAM 3!

This Monday marks the arrival of our third team in TL this year. The team comprises team leader, Dr Wayne Pearson, boomerang volunteers – Dr Karen Sloan and the hardcore supernurse, Mrs Sally Stephens; as well as new blood, Dr Marius Mocke and Ms Abbey Notley; the eastern states of Australia are well-represented here – Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland! Along with Nico, it’s a BIG team! They will be spending their outreach week in the offshore island of Atauro – and braving the big boat – the ‘Nakroma’ – which we have previously used to get to/from Oecusse. The team will be taking 2 vehicles over to Atauro, and the Nakroma is the only boat big enough to carry them. We are a little apprehensive – the last time we put a car onto THAT boat, it nearly fell into the sea! Have fun Team 3! Hope you have red skies at night…..