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!!!
Team 3 returned to Australia last week following a productive fortnight. This was team leader Blanche Tsetong’s tenth trip to TL, so for her, this trip had a celebratory glow from the outset!
The team also comprised Dr Wayne Pearson – on his 8th trip – and Sally Stephens – already on her 3rd trip in one year! The team was joined by Aida in the first week and together they treated patients in Maubara Clinic, Pauirobo Primary School and Loes High School. Blanche and Aida tag-teamed a chair, while Sally and Wayne made a dynamic duo. The team were particularly impressed with the kids’ teeth at Loes. This school had last been visited by one of our dental teams in 2010, however, it was also one of those schools targeted by a oral health education workshop run in 2008 by Sandra Meihubers and Timorese dental therapist, Elisabeth, as well as a toothbrushing program run by Sr Filomena. The team was pleased that the fillings that the dentists had placed were still there – good quality work – but they were even more impressed that the oral hygiene and decay rate had dropped significantly – evidence of the importance of education. Plans are afoot for Aida, Blanche and Sr Filomena to do a refresher workshop next year and will involve not only school teachers, but also local doctors and nurses.
Aida’s skills in diagnosis have improved dramatically and she is now a dab hand at extractions (although she says that her confidence diminishes without the team’s ‘safety net’). We are now working on increasing her experience with fillings in the front teeth. She is a great clinician and the team thoroughly enjoyed their week with her.
The first week was plagued by team erosion – Sr Filomena is now the Big Boss at Maubara and so she had to attend several meetings over the week; Sally was struck by a lurgy which took her out of active service for a day (although she spent that day doing more stocktaking than resting!), nevertheless, the team still managed to finish treating all the students in Loes, in part due to exceptional teacher management.
The end of the first week marked the 25th anniversary of Sr Filomena’s entry into the Carmelite order. This extraordinary woman has been serving the Timorese people for a quarter of a century and she remains humble, joyous and full of love and energy. All who have participated in the program feel truly privileged to have spent time with her. Congratulations Sr Filomena! Felicidades! Parabéns!
Week 2 was spent in Letefoho subdistrict, where the team worked again in their room-with-a-view under the imposing Letefoho church, and visited the nearby villages of Lakau and Lauana. It was a busy, tiring, amazing week. The team arrived in Letefoho just in time to witness the celebration of the Bishop’s inaugural visit – they spent half a day immersed in the spectacle of the crowds, the traditional music and dancing, soaking up the fervour. Once mass was over, the crowds progressed to the dental clinic – the team worked late that night.
For the rest of the week, the team was joined by the ebullient Sr Bernadette, who undertook the tasks of patient registration, catering, drug, sticker and toothbrush dispensing, and crowd control – the team was Organised! Her happy company lifted our hearts the entire week.
The visits to Lakau (8.6km) and Lauana (17.8km) were each an hour’s worth of 4WD adventures away from Letefoho. Lakau was extremely windy, perched on the side of a mountain and the team worked in a little bamboo building with a metal roof that threatened to take off with each gust. Lauana, at a little lower altitude, was surrounded by towering Madre de Cacao trees; the church at the top of its steep streets commanding beautiful views over the valley.
The team was in for yet another happy surprise that week. Tino (the Timorese dental therapist we support in Gleno), who had been unable to accompany us due to illness, showed up on Wednesday with Armando, the Timorese therapist we support in Maubisse, who had also brought Ricardo Mendonça, the new dental therapist working with him! Tino was still sick, but was needed as a guide for the Maubisse boys.
Armando felt that he urgently needed more tuition in extractions and reasoned that the 3 hours they spent with the team was worth the 8 hour round trip from Maubisse. It is such dedication that inspires and motivates us in the TLDP. It was a fabulous treat for the team to reconnect with all our Timorese dental therapists in one trip, as well as to meet a new one!
The team had a great time in Letefoho. Despite the bracingly cold showers in 12 degree temps (the Fathers are hardcore!), our host, Father Elio, was great company and the hospitality of his crew was second-to-none. Now that he has built a new guesthouse, larger teams will also be able to experience this beautiful area with it’s friendly people.
As always there were the equipment issues particular to working in TL – leaking foot pedals, out-of-control algal growths, the mysterious and inexplicable disappearance of an oil cap after leaving it aside for 60 seconds – but the team took it all in their stride. It was a successful trip – Team 3 treated 516 people, did 370 examinations, 393 extractions, 186 fillings and 169 preventive treatments. Well done team! Thank you to the Maubara crew – Sr Cecilia, Sr Filomena and Idalina; the Letefoho crew – Fr Elio, Fr Ino, Fr Eduardo, Fr Alberto, Mana Lulu and Sr Bernadette; and our Dili crew – Daryl – for making this trip so memorable.
The TLDP sends another team to TL’s fair shores this week. Close buddies, Wayne Pearson and Blanche Tsetong, first met in TL many years ago while serving in a dental team headed by program founder, Sandra Meihubers. With one exception, the pair have formed the core of a team every year since. This year, the pair was to be joined by newbies Beth Bowen and Mary Tuituinnik, however, both gals have had family issues and have had to bow out, leaving the redoubtable Sally Stephens to fill the breach. Sally continues to amaze us all with her dedication and enthusiasm and I am sure this team will have a ball in her company. As this team is tiny, it gets to got to Letefoho! Scenic, airy and peaceful, with Ramelau within spitting distance, Letefoho is one of the most stunning places the teams have had the privilege to visit. The region also has some of the worst roads and, as a result, is very isolated. Lots of work. Lucky Team 3! Wayne leaves his cattle in Grafton, and Blanche, her renovations in the Sunshine Coast, to fly to Darwin this Friday and onward to TL Saturday morning.
The second team to Timor for 2015 returned home 2 weeks ago after another successful trip delivering dental care to the people of Liquiça, Bazatete and Maubara subdistricts. The team consisted of newcomers, Dr John Whyte and dental assistant, Laura Laycock, veteran Team Leader Dr John Moran and his talented daughter, Sam Moran. Dili-based dental assistant extraordinaire, Sally Stephens – helping out for the second time this year – joined the team part-way through their trip. The team was beset by challenges almost from the moment they set foot on TL soil. Despite carrying a letter from Sr Filomena, they were unable to convince airport customs officials that the dental materials in their luggage were not for commercial use. The team was detained at the airport for 3 hours until The Boss (Sr Filomena) was able to verbally verify their story. In the meantime, the Timorese representative charged with meeting the team with Troopie 2 had made an independent assessment that the team had missed the plane and so had returned home, leaving them stranded. After many hours and several emails and phone calls, along with a couple of wrong turns, the Team managed to reach Maubara late at night.
The team worked in Bazatete for the first 3 days. Sr Filomena had planned for the team to stay in Bazatete but the accommodation proved to be a little inadequate – with only 2 beds for 5 people and no provision for mozzie nets to keep the team safe from the denizens of the night, the team made the sensible decision to drive back and forth from the village daily. This also had an impact on the clinical supervision of Aida, who was reluctant to make several return trips and so decided to stay in Liquiça to work during this time. Nevertheless, the team was able to treat well over 100 patients in their first 3 days.
Clinical time was further disrupted by a day for the religious observance of Corpus Christi, and an additional public holiday for the funeral of the Minister for Education. I am pretty sure that the team made good use of that time as they headed in to the bright lights of Dili for those 2 days.
Luckily, there were almost no equipment issues for this team – there was the mysterious absence of a particular nut and screw in one of the portable dental chairs, which are essential to adjust the chair’s height. The team had to strap the chair to keep it together – in an upright position – and so it was useful (barely) for extractions only. The screw and nut went missing in the two weeks between Team 1’s departure and Team 2’s arrival! Also the lid of the portable autoclave had been mistakenly ‘taken home’ to ‘repair’ by one of the members of Team 1, so Team 2 was reduced to using the electric, slower, autoclave only. Working in TL just would not be the same without these little equipment issues which encourages ingenuity, adaptability and a good working sense of humour.
The team spent the last 4 days in the Maubara and Liquiça Primary Schools and in the clinic in Maubara, days which I believe were largely uneventful. Although the day’s records from Maubara Primary are missing, the preliminary stats from the trip record that over the rest of the trip the team examined 259 patients, carried out 192 extractions, 129 fillings and 200 preventative treatments. Well done team!
Many thanks to our very generous donors who provide us with the funds to keep this program moving – we bought $1500 worth of local anaesthetic with your help this trip! Many, many thanks especially to our donors of equipment and materials – namely Henry Schein Halas, which donated a stack of consumables this trip, and have supported us so generously over the year, John Moran, who raided his own stores for local anaesthetic and other consumables, SDI, which keeps us stocked in Silver Fluoride/Potassium Iodide (RIVA STAR), DMS, which provided the team with triplex tips, and Blanche’s anonymous donor, who donated a number of slow speed handpieces, mirrors and probes.
As 2014 draws to a close, one naturally reflects upon the year which has passed so rapidly. It has been an exceedingly busy and exciting year for all of us in the Timor Leste Dental Program. We have welcomed a whole bunch of new volunteers and said our sad goodbyes to those who have called it a day. It has been a year of outrageously intense fundraising and thanks to all our supporters, we managed to not only achieve our goal of buying a new Troopie – T2 – but we have been able to raise money that will carry us forward for the next few years. Your generosity and support has been overwhelming and we are grateful not only for your financial support, but also for your ideas and advice.
As this goes to press, we are preparing to transport a second hand dental chair (donated by Dr David Sheen) to our new partners, the Jesuit Mission in Railaco. This chair will be useful when our teams are in Railaco and we are hoping it will also be useful for Father Bong, a medical GP, for procedural work. With the chair goes a second portable suction unit, donated by Dr Gordon Howe of Manly, and a portable dental unit as well. We are also hoping to sneak in 119 boxes of gloves with the ‘package’ so the teams don’t have to lug around so much luggage next year. Fingers crossed! The ‘package’ will be sent to Melbourne by courier, to be placed on the next shipping container to Dili.
We have had an unprecedented number of volunteers putting up their hand for 2015, and I am happy to report that our increased profile has allowed us to send 5 teams in 2015 – we may even have a 6th! Our volunteer year kicks off in late April with Team 1 being lead by David Sheen, who will be accompanied by the super enthusiastic Peter Shakes and equipment guru Keith Mentiplay. Team 2, lead by John Moran and his talented daughter, Sam, will head out in early June. Newcomers, Dr Mary Tiutuinnik and Beth Bowen will join Team 3 in late July, with Blanche Tsetong and jack-of-all-trades Wayne Pearson. Team 4, lead by super chilled David Digges, with dental legend, Geoff Knight, will leave late August. Team 5, consisting of Andy Moran (Snake), Gordon Saggers (Cowboy) and Alan Christie (Agatha) will head to TL in mid- September and will be the first of our teams to work in Railaco only. For advice on those nicknames – I am reliably told it is secret Railaco business – apply to Father Bong.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, our long-suffering families, our friends and supporters for everything you have given to the program this year. We wish you all a safe, very happy Christmas and a super new year! See you all in 2015!
On behalf of all us who volunteer for the Timor Leste Dental Program I would like to offer a sincere thanks to the Chatswood Rotary Club for throwing us that marvellous bash earlier this year. Drs David Digges, David Sheen and Blanche Tsetong were invited to one of the club’s meetings at the start of this month. After giving a presentation to the attendees, they were handed a cheque for $53 000 – a significant amount of money that will help keep us going for the next few years. This is in addition to the generous donations we have received, and are continuing to receive, from our fabulous supporters.
So what are we planning on doing with the dough? We at TLDP central are planning on buying a new compressor, a new portable dental cart, paying off our loan for Troopie 2 and generally getting on with the job at hand. Thank you for your support! We could not do it without you!
A few fun facts about the program.
We sent 7 dental teams from Feb 2013 – Sept 2014
We treated 2895 Timorese people.
We extracted 2071 teeth, placed 1189 fillings and performed 1490 preventive treatments.
A conservative estimate of the cost of this treatment is $848 260.
We are in the midst of planning 2015, which is shaping up to be another exciting year! We have a whole new line-up of eager volunteers, thanks to our raised profile, and are planning additional trips!! Keep you posted!
(Picture from left: Club President, Dr Tony Basten, Dr Peter Kindred, Dr Dick Abbott, Dr David Sheen, Dr Blanche Tsetong, Mrs Coleen O’Neill, Mr Michael McQuillon, Dr David Digges)
Those of us who attended last night’s function are still stunned by the sheer grandeur of the event. The huge attendance, the generous support from donors, and the fabulous MC, all contributed to making last night’s event a huge success. A MASSIVE THANK YOU to Chatswood Rotary Club, for putting in the hard yards for this program. Thank you also to David Sheen and David Digges for their hard work in putting together their tightly woven speeches, and to Sam Moran for a video that cemented into the minds of the viewers an idea of what it is we do over in Timor Leste. We are extremely grateful to the Prime Minister, The Hon Tony Abbott for sparing us some time out of his busy schedule to join us last night and also to the Hon Joe Hockey MP, and other dignitaries, for their support and goodwill. A heartfelt thank you to the Consul General of Timor Leste, Armandina Gusmão Santos and her admin officer, Ligia Ximenes for their grace and friendship. They were wonderful company last night.
It is too early for the final figures to be finalised, but rest assured, dear friends and supporters, the fabulous, super efficient folks from Chatwood Rotary have thrown us an event that has raised us more funds than we originally anticipated! A BIG thank you to all of you who attended last night, who spent up big on those auctions and raffles, and to those of you who continue to support us from afar.
(Picture from Left: Dr David Sheen, Dr Blanche Tsetong, Timor Leste Consul General, Sra. Armandina Gusmao Santos, Prime Minister The Honourable Tony Abbott, & Dr David Digges)
The tiny team of Linda Veloskey and Blanche Tsetong touched down on Australian soil on Saturday, after a massive delay caused by cranky computers and lack of a fax machine in Dili Airport.
As you all know, Team 3 had the excitement of test driving the ‘new’ car and we can report that with the exception of an errant horn, lack of a jack, mismatched noisy tyres, a sticky back door and the unwise use of dodgy fuel, Troopie 2 was a dream ride!
Work locations: Maubara Clinic, Liquiça Hospital, Vatuvou School, Maubisse Hospital.
The team worked again in Liquiça with Aida, who is fast becoming a tooth extractor
extraordinaire and is now working on her filling techniques. The best bit about the Maubara/Liquiça area, is its proximity to the ocean – an arvo swim is the best balm to a 8 hours standing in 30 degree heat.
Our second week was spent in the cold mountain town of Maubisse, which despite its lack of beach had a number of advantages – a lower mozzie count, cooler temps to work in, and Armando Da Costa Martins, the new Timorese dental therapist at the hospital – like Tino and Aida, he is super keen to learn!!! Like the others, he also missing a stack of basic dental equipment and materials.
Drill bits (he also has a new chair), suction tips, local anaesthesia and filling materials were only a few of the materials we brought him to get him going! This visit we concentrated on local anaesthetic techniques and infection control, but with a bare 3 days of contact, the learning curve was steep. Nevertheless, Armando took it all in his stride, always smiling and laughing when the going got tough!
In total, the team treated 209 patients, carrying out 134 exams, 210 extractions, 97 fillings, and 20 preventative services. Thank you to Henry Schein Halas for their continued support this trip – we used all that free stuff!!!!