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.