It’s a new year and with it comes new opportunities, new directions and new friendships. Our year started in Hollywood-fashion, with Sr Filomena (Timorese Coordinator), Bony (intrepid translator and natural showman) and Tino (dental therapist extraordinaire) taking a turn in front of the cameras to showcase our program in a 360° Virtual Reality documentary. Thanks to our mate, Daryl Mills, who, even when he is not living in TL, is still thinking of us!
An serendipitous start to what promises to be an exciting year. This year we are teaming up with the Bendigo Maubisse Friendship Group to improve dental services to the community in the subdistrict of Maubisse, which lies to the south of Dili in the mountains. Up to now, our program has only managed to visit Maubisse once a year; we are hoping that this partnership will significantly increase our capacity to deliver treatment and to better mentor and support the two dental therapists who currently work in the hospital, Armando and Ricardo.
We have 5 teams this year and apart from Maubisse, we will be heading out to Atauro (Dr Wayne loves those huts at Barry’s), Oecusse and Railaco, with the rest of the itinerary to be unveiled by The Boss (Sr Filomena) as the year unfolds. First team kicks off in April. Watch this space!
Very, very, very sadly, the Timor Leste Dental Program farewells a dear friend from TL, Daryl Mills, who has been the Rotary Liaison Officer, ROMAC coordinator and general fixer for all Rotary projects in Timor Leste since time immemorial. Daryl has met teams at airports, organised accommodation, arranged emergency medical care, sorted out repairs for equipment, sourced us a new car and facilitated its purchase, paid our bills, been our TL banker, shown us all the good spots to eat, unloaded our stuff from shipping containers and ferried it to wherever it had to go, smoothed our way through customs, helped us with visa issues and generally been an irreplaceable, good-natured, super-helpful mate who we loved to hang out with. We also enjoyed the company of Daryl’s wife, the lovely, kind-hearted Widya, who worked at the Australian embassy, and has always had a finger on the pulse of TL life and a big sense of humour; and we have watched their son, Adji, grow into a very mischievous 7 year old. We will miss them all!
The family is planning on eventually heading to the WW1 &2 battlefields of France to start a tour business there – Daryl knows more about WW1 and WW2 battlefields than I could have ever imagined! For now – they are in Indonesia, dealing with the congestion and bureaucracy of Indonesian life. Our deepest thanks to you Daryl, for your help, good-humour and friendship. We wish you, Widya and Adji all the best and hope to visit you in France soon!
If it is true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the six members of Team 4 must be exceedingly fortified after their stint in TL. Headed by frequent flyer, Dr David Digges, the team consisted of first-timer, Dr Ashley Freeman, our translator, Mr Bonifacio Cardoso Martins (Bony), and tag-teamers, Mrs Liz Eberl, Ms Aisling Digges (both on their 2nd trip) and Dr Geoff Knight (on his 4th trip).
The team spent the first week in Maliana, which is a 5 hour scenic drive west from our base in Maubara. On their way, they stopped at the historic village of Balibo, where they had lunch at the restored Balibo Fort and visited the newly opened dental clinic, managed by the Balibo House Trust. They are also looking for volunteer dentists and the accommodation is 4-star!
Bony and Tino had organised the team’s accommodation and program in Maliana well in advance. The team were met by the welcome party of Bony’s family, who live in Maliana, and stayed in a lovely guesthouse surrounded by mountains, with sweeping views over rice paddies. They spent the first 2.5 days working at the hospital, where they were able to spend some time upskilling Jose, the resident dental therapist. Jose used to work with Australian-trained dentist Dr Amelia Barreto, but like many professionals, she quite rapidly shed her clinical position, moving to Dili to work in the Health Ministry.
The work became a battle when the team moved to the largest conjoined primary and secondary school in Maliana – 1500 children. This is Bony’s alma mater and three of his siblings still attend school there. Team 4 was treated to their first full Bony experience – given a microphone, Bony launched into his usual routine – an encouraging speech, oral hygiene demonstration and the ‘Brushing Song’. No one can withstand his natural charm and enthusiasm!
Notwithstanding the fun atmosphere, the team was in for a gruelling 2.5 days. They treated so many children that the days passed in a blur! Surprisingly, all the equipment held up under the stress, with only one thing marring the otherwise seamless week – Someone locked the keys in the car. This necessitated the convening of a village think-tank and a search through the underbelly of Maliana for one with the necessary skills to retrieve the keys.
The middle weekend is important to the teams. It is the changeover weekend – of people, equipment and locations. It gives us at least a day to recharge ourselves, to effect any urgent maintenance and repairs, and restock our depleted supplies for the following week. Team 4’s weekend was filled with visits to the Maubara orphanage, to the ‘head office’ convent at Fatuhada, showers and internet in Dili (aaaahhhh!!), and lunch with our mate, Mimi Chungue (who found Bony for us – thank you Mimi!). They farewelled Liz and picked up Aisling and Geoff, then headed into Week 2 on the flawless 3 year old road to Railaco.
The teams who have worked with Geoff Knight have always commented on how much they learn from him, especially with regards to using Silver Fluoride/Potassium Iodide to save teeth from the bucket. With continuing donations from SDI, which markets AgF/KI as Riva Star, our teams have enthusiastically added this product, and the treatment protocol developed by Geoff, to our dental ‘toolkit’, both in TL and at home. We are deeply grateful to both Geoff and SDI for their support.
Hence, while the Team sorely missed the presence of Tino, whose baby was hospitalised at the time, they continued to benefit from Geoff’s expertise – Geoff even treated David’s mortally wounded finger with AgF – preventing amputation or worse!
The team shifted a lot this week. The first 3 days they were hosted by the indefatigable Father Bong, who organised the team to work on someone’s balcony in Nasutu the first morning, then spend that afternoon and the following day in Railaco Clinic. The third day the team worked on the back deck of the church in Railaco Leten, which is reached by a very steep, very windy road with stunning views to be enjoyed by everyone except the white-knuckled driver.
The last 2 days the team was sent back down the hill to Kasait, which is near the shipyards on the way to Maubara. The Jesuits have been busy building a clinic and a school there. The team was coddled by Sr Eliza, who is also a registered nurse, and were wined and dined by the Jesuits up above, in Montserrat, a monastery that, like the original, has stunning views over the coast. The team treated both community members and school children, and was ably assisted by a young Jesuit intern, Brother Francisco from Portugal. Again, their seemed to be no problems with equipment this week. Yet again, only one thing marred the seamless nature of the operation – Someone (and I think it was the same ‘someone’) was a tad lackadaisical in the packing of T2, which resulted in the totally preventable breaking of the Bundy bottles and an obscene wastage of good rum!
The team worked their fingers to the bone. Their massive effort saw 973 examined, 427 extractions, 353 teeth filled, 18 cleans and 227 preventive treatments. Well done Team 4! Luckily, they seemed to have also had a fabulous time, hence, they are in no danger of becoming dull anytime soon.
Thank you again to SDI and also to Henry Schein Halas, who also give us huge amounts of materials throughout the year – we would quickly grind to a halt without you. Thank you to all our supporters and to Sr Filomena and Father Bong for organising us while in TL. Our last thank you goes to Bony – whose enthusiasm, good humour and sheer hard work has helped each and every team do their job more effectively this year.
David Digges and his crew returned to Oz last week, safe and sound and, as usual, very tired, after an extremely productive last trip to TL for this year. Welcome home Team and well done! We wait with bated breath for this team’s report.
Yet again it is Dr David Digges’s team closing our volunteering year for us! The team leaves this Saturday 24 September and is another tag-team – the first week it consists of David, second-timer, Liz Erberl (a registered nurse and David’s sister), and newcomer, Dr Ashley Freeman, who hails from Darwin; the second weeks farewells Liz, and welcomes Aisling Digges and Dr Geoff Knight to the fray. The Plan (much-revised) is for the team to head to Maliana the first week (the Sisters in Bobonaro are renovating, so no Bobonaro this year) and then to Railaco the second week. Bony and Tino have spent a lot of time organising the accommodation and the program in Maliana, and it’s always fun in Railaco, thanks to the ebuliient Father Bong, so the team should have a rip-roaring time! As the last team for the year, Team 4 has the responsibility of doing the end-of-year maintenance, making sure that the equipment will be ship-shape for the next year. Good luck Team 4!
It all started with a bag. A bag large enough and tough enough to hold a metal and leather portable dental chair weighing 10-15kg, all angles and points and unwieldy as hell. Our second dental chair first hit TL’s shores in an old boogie board bag. For years we slowly watched it fall apart stitch by stitch. Last year we put some serious money (USD 60) into getting a new one made in Dili. A rather arduous process ensued with an average end-product, which started to fall apart within 6 months of service. During Team 3’s trip, the zip finally broke, so Blanche decided to get one made back home. She roped her Dad into service – he makes school uniforms – but after much collaboration and creative brainstorming between the two, he bowed out of the process, leaving Blanche with 50m of Velcro and a verbal shrug.
Owner of an almost virginal sewing machine and with a concomitant level of sewing experience, Blanche carried on (how hard could it be?) with vital advice from the staff at Maroochydore Lincraft and her patients, and a warning from Dad that her machine might not be up to the task of sewing vinyl. Advice gratefully taken, warning summarily ignored. While the sewing would not win any prizes for aesthetics or straight lines, the job was going swimmingly (even the hubbie was impressed!) right up until the virginal machine went into hysterics. Mom stepped into the breach. She was enlisted to take the machine in for repair, but with the deadline nearing, a tiny bit of worry set in. She stopped at Lincraft for advice, and there a kind stranger offered the use of her own machine, which was accepted with much relief.
In sweatshop-like conditions, the 120cm x 55cm x 35cm, extremely unwieldy bag, complete with Velcro closures was completed by Blanche, her Mom and the tough old machine in 2 nights, and the bag was shipped by express post to Darwin for the next team. In the end Mom had taken over the sewing (she could sew in straight lines and a lot faster). We would like to thank Blanche’s Dad for his design ideas, Blanche’s Mom for the sewing advice and the inevitable sewing coup, and most of all, the lovely Jocelyn, who without a second thought, generously lent us her wonderful sewing machine, without which we would never have got the job done! THANKYOU!
As it is with all things, we exist solely by the grace of having so many fabulous supporters. As we march towards the end of our volunteering year, we would like to like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who support us financially and physically. Thank you to our donors – without your help, this program would not be so well equipped and we would be unable to provide our current standard of service to the Timorese people. Thank you to our Rotary Program Manager, Morph, whose service to the program is an expression of love and care. Thank you to Belinda Griffen who, as National Administrator of RAWCS, ensures that our money goes in the proper directions. A BIG thankyou to the outgoing Rotary Liaison Officer in TL, Daryl Mills – he has done so much to smooth our way and to solve problems as they arise. Thank you to his team, Judite and Mario, who have taken over the running of the office in TL – they are immensely approachable and helpful. Thank you to the team from the Donations in Kind Rotary Warehouse – Ricardo Krauskopf, David Dippie and their mates – thankyou for shipping our materials over to TL and for personally delivering our stuff after it went astray. (Pic: Ricardo, Robyn, David, Roger and Blanche)
Thankyou to Terry Bracks from the Balibo House Trust, for sharing the Victoria Health technicians who had just set up the Balibo Dental clinic; thankyou Anthony Drago and his team for servicing some of our equipment! Thank you to Ligia Ximenes for helping with the translations for this year’s dental workshop. It made our life so much easier! A massive thank you to Keith Mentiplay for his ongoing support for the program – we would literally grind to a halt without you. Thank you for all the hard work that was put into our newest dental cart – it is a thing of beauty! Functional, easy to use and simple to maintain – just what is needed in TL!
Another BIG thank you to the team at Henry Schein Halas. Kelly Wood and Jessica Chasen help us out with donations and discounted materials and equipment wherever they can and it makes a massive difference to the sustainability of a small program like ours. Thank you also to SDI, who also helps us out with donations of consumables, which we go through like the wind! (Pic: Goulolo girls with Henry Schein Halas balloons)
Thank you to the fabulous Sr Filomena da Costa and Idalina da Silva, for making the Maubara Clinic a home away from home. Thank you to Sr Filomena da Cruz and Sr Maria Baro, for taking Wayne and Mana Eva in from the cold and thoroughly spoiling them in Letefoho. Thank you to Father Bong and his band of merry men for always showing the teams a good time. Thank you to all the Sisters and Fathers who have hosted our teams over the years. We have always fared well under your care. (Pic: Sr Maria and Sr Filomena da Cruz and some of the kindergarten kids in their care)
Last, but not least, thank you to all our volunteers and their very patient, supportive loved ones, for putting in the hard yards. The gig is not easy, but you all do it with such panache.