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!
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 September2016 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
Team 5, headed by Dr David Digges, arrived home on the weekend, safe and sound. We await their report with much anticipation, however, it may be awhile – we received an unusual call from our lovely Sr Filomena on the day that the team left. The team worked very hard, she reported, and were very tired. What dedication! Well done team and welcome home!!
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.
Super-slick operators Team 1 have returned home after a hugely successful trip. As previously mentioned, the team consisted of Dr Peter Shakes, returning for the second time; equipment guru, Keith Mentiplay, on his 4th trip to TL; newcomers Patrick Fitzgerald and Sally Stephens, and their team leader, the ever-cool Dr David Sheen.
This team had the additional responsibility of sifting through the equipment and materials that we sent over earlier this year, determining which equipment was to stay in Railaco and transporting the rest to Maubara. After accomplishing this task on Day 1, the team spent week 1 in the Maubara and Loes districts with our indefatigable boss, Sr Filomena. They treated patients in the villages of Fau Lara, Trans and Guiço, as well as seeing the kids from Maubara Orphanage at the fixed clinic.
As usual, the team was confronted by equipment issues – a flat battery in T2, misbehaving generators and a troublesome compressor. Luckily for this team, they had a not-so-secret weapon – Keith – who spent all hours day and night fixing and upgrading our equipment, as well as installing the new chair and compressor in Railaco and fixing equipment issues in our Lions partner’s Klinik Pas. He did a lot of travelling – Keith had a hectic 6 days before leaving TL at the end of Week 1. He probably needed a holiday! Thanks Keith!
The following week, Sr Filomena handed the team over to the Jesuit crew in the Railaco. Lucky Team 1 had the opportunity to enjoy the unparalleled hospitality of the enthusiastic Fathers Bong, Bert and Phuong, Sr Rita, and the company of a chorus of others, including the high school principal, Michael, and a visiting Aussie nurse, Jenny. The team treated patients in Railaco Leten, Railaco vila, Cocoa vila and Gleno. This area has beautiful scenery and the temperate weather is a welcome relief from the sweltering coast. They were fortunate to have the help of friendly English-speaking locals, Victor and Noberto, who provided assistance with communication.
To the team’s disappointment, both Aida and Tino – the Timorese dental therapists whom we mentor – both had to attend a Dept of Health inservice for almost the entire time the team was in TL. Fortuitously, Tino (who is stationed at Ermera) returned to base on the team’s penultimate day and everyone had the opportunity to work together. We first met Tino in Liquiça and is great to hear that he is still as dedicated and enthusiastic in helping his community as ever.
According to reports, this team never lacked for enthusiasm or the will to do some hard graft. Patrick, a builder by trade, proved he was a truly multi-talented individual, becoming an excellent dental assistant, sterilisation expert and roadie overnight, while entertaining the team with his Irish humour. Sally proved to be one of those dental assistants that we dentists refer to as Supernurses – able to handle anything and everything with good humour and ease. She kindly made her car available for the team’s use during the trip. Thanks Sally! Also,she is so enthusiastic that she has already volunteered to work with the next couple of teams as well as to do their inventories and sort out the clinic once they depart. We may have to decline or be spoilt forever. Peter Shakes (the quiet achiever and smooth operator, who gets the job done) and Sally were the ‘Dream team’, doing the bulk of the clinical work.
All up, the team saw over 356 patients. They extracted 305 teeth, and despite the breakdown of our remaining slow speed handpieces, restored 127 teeth and carried out 47 preventative treatments. Thanks to David, Peter, Sally, Keith and Patrick for all your hard work and adaptability. Your humble and helpful natures contribute to the building of peace and trust in TL. Thanks also to Sr Filomena, Father Bong, Tino and all the other Jesuits and Carmelites whose dedication and patience continues to make this program possible. Lastly, thankyou to Henry Schein Halas for continuing to support our program with much needed materials and equipment, which allows us to continue to help the East Timorese people.
This Sunday our first team for 2015 heads to Timor Leste’s sunny shores. The team, led by Dr David Sheen, has the important tasks of touching base with our network in TL, as well as the installation of the dental chair in Railaco, on top of the usual tasks of treating the East Timorese and mentoring Timorese Dental Therapists that are our everyday challenges. David is joined by new volunteer, Patrick Fitzgerald, and by Keith Mentiplay and Dr Peter Shakes. We are also very lucky to have Sally Stephens join the team for the first time. She is an Aussie dental nurse who currently resides in Dili.
We wish them a safe and productive trip and hope that their interactions with everyday East Timorese continues to build peace, understanding and resilience within this still very young nation.
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!
Our last team for 2014 returned from Timor Leste a couple of weeks ago, tired but triumphant. The team was exceedingly busy both weeks. In the first week our intrepid team, comprising Dr Hans Raets (Team leader), Dr Yvonne Huijser Von Reenen and Ms Breanna Martin, made the first dental visit to the village of Lebuletta, a 90 min 4WD into the hills above Maubara. We are not sure they will be invited back – by hooking up to the village’s brand new electricity supply, they blew all the fuses!
That same week, the team also visited the nearby villages of Paurobo and Kaikasa where they were dismayed by the high levels of decay. They were also plagued by equipment failures – herniated air lines, seizing of high speed and slow speed handpieces and malfunctioning valves on the steriliser. Luckily the team had Breanna – a secret expert in battling recalcitrant equipment. She singlehandedly fixed both the air line and the valves.
In the second week, the team was joined by Dr Geoff Knight and his daughter, Anneli Knight, as well as Aida, the Timorese Dental Therapist that the program mentors, who works in Liquiça and Maubara.
The team took off to Bobonaro, a 5 hour rough journey with spectacular scenery. They made a stop in the infamous town of Balibo, where Rotary is building a guesthouse and clinic (apparently the rooms and food are 1st class! We have already volunteered to test them out). A lucky team, they were fortunate to be just in time to see the Tour de Timor cyclists cross the Stage 2 finish line!
In Bobonaro the team was swamped by work, which was dealt with most effectively by using a special treatment protocol which Geoff has helped develop. With Geoff’s tutelage, Aida, in particular, has become extremely proficient in treating decay quickly with basic equipment. A return visit next year is on the cards to assess the 344 teeth treated in this way.
Catastrophe struck on the ‘lucky’ team’s second last day. The compressor kicked the bucket at the worst time – when they were treating Sr Fatinha, our Timorese coordinator in Bobonaro. A 5 min job became a 2 hour job. Well done Geoff!
Despite equipment failures and the bells and the dogs of Bobonaro, the team managed to maintain their remarkable spirit and goodwill throughout the trip. Could it be because of Anneli’s sterilisation efficiency keeping them amply supplied with cold steel? Or was it super-dental assistant Breanna, with her continual rendition of AFL songs? Perhaps it was the pilgrimage with Sr Mendes to the hotsprings at nearby Marobo? No matter what the reason, they were a great team!
Another successful trip despite many trials. The team treated a total of 578 patients. They extracted 321 teeth, filled 226 teeth and performed 438 preventive operations. Well done Hans, Yvonne, Breanna, Geoff, Anneli, Aida, Sr Filomena and Sr Fatinha!