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…..
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!
Pure luck. Being in the right place at the right time. Knowing the right people. Where you were born. Who your family is. Where you grew up. From this, comes opportunity. All of us who volunteer for the TLDP are lucky. We have had the opportunities to thrive in our own communities and we have been given the opportunity to help other communities. We count ourselves blessed.
Team 3 returned from a 3 week stint in TL late last Friday. They had already lost one dentist, Yvonne, to health issues a month ago, so they were left with a team of 3 – Blanche, Wayne and Eve. The team lugged in 90kg of supplies to TL, including the new Forrest dental cart and the repaired ultrasonic scaler unit, and sailed through customs, thanks to our soon-to-be departing Rotary Liaison Officer, Daryl Mills. The team bought a mobile phone for the use of the teams’ in-country – only USD 10!!! (Pic: Sr Filomena, Bony, Afonso and the big truck)
Once at Maubara, the team got the gear prepped for the first week in the subdistrict of Letefoho. They left later than expected on Sunday, as they had to wait for Bony, our translator, who was coming from Maliana, where he had just attended his uncle’s funeral. They also had to execute some unforseen repairs on the old and new Forrest units, with help via phone from guru, Keith Mentiplay, in Australia. But soon they were on their way, with Afonso (One of the Sisters’ drivers who has been on many of our trips before) and Bony, in a borrowed yellow tip-truck, carrying all our less-sensitive gear, and Wayne, Eve and Blanche in T2. The trip took 5 hours; the roads were a quagmire due to unseasonal rain.
Week 1 was a mixed bag – there were some inauspicious moments – discovering that they had left the needles back in Maubara, continual problems with the electrical supply, the splitting of the team at night for 2 days due to the unsuitability of their first accommodation option (think rats and fetid bathrooms); but there were also multitudinous incidences of care and kindness, joy and thankfulness. The first 2 days were spent in beautiful Lakau. There had been a lot of activity since the team visited this tiny village last year – there is a new Garden of Peace, complete with fishponds and gazebos, a covered community meeting place, and they are in the process of building a grand new church. The villagers were wonderful hosts – Eve’s diet did not get off to a good start. The needle issue arose on Day 1 and was resolved, with amazing rapidity, by Tino bringing them some needles on a borrowed bike, from Gleno (a 4 hour return journey). Tino had just been released from hospital (which is why he wasn’t working with the team)- he is our hero. Bony was also heroic in coordinating the team’s salvation – the negotiation of Lakau’s telecommunication network involved a great deal of climbing atop rickety structures.
The last 2 days of Week 1 were a dream spent in Goulolo School; the teachers were super-organised and helpful and provided the team with lunch and morning tea; the team was also back together, staying at the well-known Bakhita Centre, a health clinic and guest house ‘down the hill’ from Letefoho, in a pretty valley. Bony came into his own when presented with a microphone at the school; out came tooth brushing instructions, diet advice, jokes and encouragement for the kids – he is a born showman! He is also a great networker, extremely sociable, very enthusiastic and takes great selfies- we reckon he’ll be President one day! The team’s highlight was the spontaneous eruption of song from the remaining children towards the end of the 2nd day – they boosted the team’s flagging energy! The joyous song of Goulolo kids
The first weekend had been earmarked for the workshop that Sr Filomena, Blanche, Tino and Aida had been planning since last July. Also heavily involved was Ligia Ximenes, an attaché to the Timorese Consul General, whom Blanche had met at our big fundraiser in 2014, and who generously gave up her time to do the initial translation of the workshop material – thank you Ligia!!!! Bony had been recruited in April and he had spent a lot of time with Tino and Blanche discussing the workshop. The plan was for all three to meet back at Maubara in the afternoon on Friday to go over the presentation and to set up for the next day, which was to start at 8am. The reality was vastly different. The borrowed overhead projector had no cords with it. Tino and Bony stayed in Dili until 8pm at first looking for a replacement, and then waiting for the cords to be delivered to them. They arrived in Maubara at 9pm, and the team stayed up into the wee hours going over the material. The next day the projector refused to work for 2 hours, but no one showed up until 10.30, so that was ok! The presentation went well – Tino’s delivery was excellent – and all the participants (local doctors, nurses and midwives) found the information enlightening. Success! Tino was especially happy to have been given the opportunity to present the workshop and is keen to do it again. Tino is the TLDP’s longest mentored dental therapist and he has now been given the opportunity to teach students of his own from the University of Timor Leste – he is a measure of our program’s success.
Week 2 was spent with 3 days in Maubara Clinic, a day at the community centre in Guiço, and 2 days in Atabae Hospital, where Bony’s brother is a doctor. Three very different locations – a small clinic; an open-air pavilion where the team was helped by the local health post director, Mr Paulino, who made all announcements to the patients via loud speaker; and the foyer of Atabae Hospital’s newly built administration building. In all three locations, electricity was sporadic.
Only in Maubara was there water on tap. Bony had lots of experience with sterilisation, with giving post-operative instructions, and with divining what the dentists were trying to say. (Pic: Mr Paulino in Guiço)Unfortunately, the dentists discovered that nodding and saying ‘yes’ was not truly indicative of our translator’s understanding. A pact was made with Bony – he would tell them what he thought they were trying to convey (before delivering it to the patient) and they would give him more context. Bony was an excellent member of the team. His light-hearted company and the insight into Timorese culture was priceless. The team, especially Mana Eva, sadly parted from him at his home in Dili, which is almost prophetically close to the Presidential Palace! (Pic: Mana Eva and Bony)
Week 3 saw a 2 hour lumbering boat ride bring the green-hued team to the beautiful, reef- encircled, mountainous island of Atauro, which sits between two of the deepest ocean trenches in the world – 3000 and 5000m apiece! In contrast to the rest of TL, the population is a largely protestant. The people live in scattering of villages, many only accessible by water or foot. On a short visit last year, Wayne and Blanche had been asked by some of the locals to provide a dental service for this remote area. Two expats, Kevin Austin, who runs boat transfers to the island, and Barry Hinton, who owns an eco-resort with his wife, Lina, offered to help the team get over to the island, and to house, feed and transport them. So lucky Team 3 found themselves dossing down in waterfront grass huts at Barry’s Place in Beloi. Quiet, relaxing, super-clean with great food – the team recommend this as a great place to get off the treadmill and de-tech. Click here to go to Barry’s Place. Barry, Lina and Kevin provide many employment opportunities and training for the local Timorese people and are heavily involved in improving health and well-being on the island. (Pic: Blanche’s hut)
The team set up shop in a corridor of the Vila Hospital, about 10 min drive from Barry’s. Vila hospital opens at 9am, closes at 3pm and has no running water or electricity. Barry had spent a week fixing a diesel generator for the team (thanks Barry!), but they had to carry water in. Already tired, the team slogged through 3 days of heat, diesel fumes and some of the longest, largest teeth and hardest bone they had come across in TL. Many of the patients had walked for hours, often starting in the dark, to attend the clinic. Due to the patient’s early morning habits, the team ran out of patients by about 3pm each day, and so there was time for a recuperative snorkel and restorative beer. Unfortunately, Barry’s own generator was on the blink and his fridges had to rely on town electricity – available from 6pm to 6am. This equated to warm beer…or warm coke in the case of Mana Eva – yuk. (Pic: One of Lina’s health initiatives for local women – Zumba! They will be entering a Zumba competition in Dili at the end of the month)
It was a productive trip. The team saw 387 patients, did 266 examinations, extracted 394 teeth, filled 185 teeth, did 108 preventive treatments, 27 cleans and 1 root canal treatment. They put a successful workshop under their belt and tested all the TLDP equipment. Mana Eva also went snorkelling for the first time, got on a small plane for the first time, and ate every strange vegetable that came her way! Good job Team 3! (Pic: Bony, Mana Eva, Blanche, Tino and Wayne)
Team 3 will converge on Brisbane Airport early tomorrow morning as they start the journey to TL. Consisting of Blanche Tsetong, Wayne Pearson and super-excited newbie, Eve Shepard, the team will be in Tl for 3 weeks in the Letefoho, Maubara subdistricts and the beautiful island of Atauro.
The team has finally taken delivery of our brand new Forrest Dental Cart which is intended to replace our ageing and increasingly unreliable ADEC unit. WE are very excited! They will also be taking over much needed donations of dental materials from Henry Schein Halas, Queensland and Northern Territory Health and from Fitzroy St Dental Practice in Grafton. THANKYOU to all our fabulous supporters.
Team 2 returned from another productive trip in TL 2 weeks ago – we have yet to hear the official ‘down low’ from them, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, it is rumoured that the ship that carries TLDP’s precious supplies (which were sent in February) has docked – finally – in Dili. Accidentally mixed in with the goods destined for the new Balibo Dental Clinic, another Rotary initiative, they will be then delivered to Balibo. Our good friend, Ricardo Krauskopf, who will be sorting out the mess at the Balibo end, has volunteered to personally deliver our supplies to Maubara – Yaaaay!
Team 3 has lost a team member, but is otherwise ready to head off in July. The usual crew of Dr’s Wayne Pearson and Blanche Tsetong will be joined by super-enthusiastic dental nurse, Eve Sheppard. Together with the redoubtable Sr Filomena, Aida, Tino, Bony and Blanche are presenting an Oral Health workshop to health workers and youth workers this visit. It has been an enjoyable challenge producing the Powerpoint presentation and handout for the workshop. Apart from the meetings with Sr Filomena, Aida, Tino and Bony in April to discuss content and translation, the air has been burning with the number of WhatsApp messages and emails crossing the atmosphere! A huge thank you to Ligia Ximenes, an aide to the Timorese Consul General in Sydney, who generously volunteered her time for the huge task of the initial translation. Thank you so much Ligia!!!
(Pic: The view out to Atauro from the Tibar-Railaco Road)
The WA (Western Australia) contingent which comprises TLDP’s second team for 2016 sets off this Saturday. This team consists of team leader, Dr John Moran, his trusty sidekick, Dr John Whyte, and newcomer, Bella Miller. Flying to Dili via Bali, they arrive Sunday afternoon, ready to tackle the onslaught of patients in Railaco, where they will be spending the majority of their time this trip. But never fear, there will be no dull boys and girls on their return home – the hospitality of Father Bong and his crew in Railaco is second-to-none – there will be lots of fun to be had! Hopefully, the team will also get to work with Tino, who is currently in Gleno. Fingers crossed! Good luck Team 2! Safe travels!
(Photo: Neil Langley, Macu, Sr Filomena, Bony, Denise Salvestro, David Sheen, Ben Sheen)
Team 1 has returned from a vastly entertaining, happy and successful trip to TL. They lost a team member before they had left the country – seemingly a very common occurrence for this program – Dr Mary Tuituinnik had to again bow out due to illness (we hope you feel better soon!); nevertheless, by all accounts, the team revelled in each other’s company and work proceeded it its normal chaotic fashion. In the first week, the team consisted of Dr David Sheen, Patrick Fitzgerald on his second trip, and Dr Neil Langley – he and his wife, Dr Denise Salvestr0, are both dentists in remote Northern Territory and long-time advocates for indigenous health. They were joined by Bonifacio Cardoso Martins (aka Bony), who was recommended to us by our friend, Mimi Chungue, as a translator. Bony is a student at the University of Timor Leste and is studying Linguistics. Bony kept the team’s spirits high with his cheerful, helpful nature. He was so enthusiastic that he ended up staying with the team for almost the entire trip! (Pic: Patrick and Co. at the Poussada)
Usually our two week program consists of the first week in the Maubara/Liquiça subdistricts followed by a week in a more remote community; however, Sr Filomena has decided to reverse this structure, thereby preventing the disorderly haste (and accompanying mess) when returning from afar and closing down the program. She’s not just a pretty face! Hence, Team 1 spent the first week in Maubisse, treating patients at the hospital clinic and in the health post of the more remote village of Maulau. Neil did the bulk of the slog, ably assisted by Patrick and Bony, while David got down to the nitty gritty of supervising Armando Martins and Ricardo Mendonça.
Week 2 saw the team back in Maubara clinic, as well as in the Loes area, where they spent 3 days in Tapamanolu School and a day in Guiço School. They spent the last morning visiting the kids at the orphanage in Maubara, where Bony added his own special flavour to toothbrushing instruction. The team especially enjoyed Bony’s company, his exuberance and work ethic, so we have asked him to join us; he will be working with all future teams, except those heading out to Railaco – Father Bong has translators aplenty. Welcome to the TLDP, Bony! (Pic: Guiço gals)
The team had surprisingly few problems with equipment this trip. The ultrasonic scaler refused to work, and one generator was on the blink, but everything else must have shared in the general mood of this team and just worked!
Overall the team saw 456 patients, extracted 306 teeth, placed 196 fillings, and carried out 223 preventive treatments. Good going Team! Thank you to you all for such wonderful work! (Pic: Bony demos toothbrushing)
The team, along with all of us at the TLDP would like to thank Sr Inacia, Sr Lourdes, Sr Rosa and Sr Eva in Maubisse for their hospitality and their delicious food – the team certainly did not starve over there. Thank you to Bony and Macu who helped the team tremendously not only with translation, but with a myriad of other tasks, which made their job much easier. Thank you to Sr Filomena who rules us with her heart of gold. It is always a privilege to spend time with her. Thank you to Daryl and Mario for keeping our car in top shape and making sure that our battery doesn’t die between trips. And a massive thank you to Henry Schein Halas, particularly Kelly Wood, for dealing with our latest disaster (the boat we sent with our supplies in February is seemingly on a worldwide cruise and we can expect to see our gear in July-ish). Thank you to everyone that makes our work possible.
For the past couple of years, the TLDP has had the privilege of helping two of our friends, Fran Saggers and John Tweedie (and their friends), support the studies of a fabulous young lady, Anna Paula Dos Santos Tavares Salgado, who hails from Same, several hours south of Dili. John first met Anna Paula at a Scout Jamboree in Victoria, and realised what the TLDP has since discovered upon meeting her – she is a force to be reckoned with – hardworking, engaging and determined. Anna Paula has now completed a Certificate III in Dental Assisting and is due to finish her Diploma of Dental Technology from Brisbane TAFE this July. Timor Leste currently has no qualified dental technicians – these are the people who make dentures (and crowns and mouthguards) – so the Timorese people will benefit greatly from her skills. Dentists and dental technicians work closely together to replace missing teeth, much needed in a country where emergency extractions are still the most common form of treatment. Anna Paula has not been home for 6 years, so she returns to TL in August to determine her next steps. Watch this space!
John is part of the very active Blue Mountains Friendship Group of Hato Builiko, a village near Mt Ramelau, TL’s highest peak. This group is holding a ‘Trek for Timor’ on Saturday 17th September 2016 in the beautiful World Heritage listed Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, to raise money for basic services in this remote village. The group has already built a school using money from last year’s trek. Get a team together, put your hiking shoes on and experience this stunning world heritage area AND support this fantastic group! Link to Trek for Timor
Hot on the heels of Cowboy and Snake, TLDP’s last team for 2015 leaves Sydney today. After overnighting in Darwin, they will hit TL’s shores on Saturday. The team is a conglomerate of first time volunteers and seasoned TLDP-ers. Carolyn and David Digges will be joined by yet another member of the intrepid Digges family, David’s sister, Elizabeth, as well as newcomer dentist, Charmaine White. Geoff Knight will also be adding his considerable experience to this team in the second week when this team heads out to Bobonaro. Have fun team!
Our next team is ready to hit the road this Friday. The dynamic duo, Dr Andy Moran and Dr Gordon Saggers, is our Railaco-specific team this year. They will spend their entire 2 weeks in the company of the fabulous Father Bong and his merry crew. They will be taking over a new pressure cooker autoclave that we have just purchased from India. This autoclave will live in Railaco, which will mean that Tino (the super-dedicated Timorese dental therapist we mentor), who lives in nearby Gleno, can run a regular outreach clinic there. Good luck and have fun Team 4!