Tag Archives: Peter Shakes

The Delightful Frustrations of Being Back.

Deep in our hearts we knew that the first trip to TL in almost three years was always going to be an unknown quantity. A change in government with the accompanying change in administration meant that we had to renegotiate to be able to continue to provide the same services that we have provided for the past 20 years. And after over 6 fruitless months of texts/emails/calls to seemingly every official person in TL, we decided upon a new strategy:

Wing it.

So we sent in Team 1. The Australian contingent consisted of a single sacrificial victim – Dr Peter Shakes – who was to brave the sea of endless red tape for the rest of us. Luckily, he had the support of a hefty, indefatigable Timorese contingent, consisting of TLDP veteran dental therapists, Nico Pires and Ana Tilman, who have continued to run the Maubara clinic throughout the pandemic; our very able first mentee, and now head dental therapist in Gleno Hospital, Tino Morais, and new graduate, Ana Martins, who the TLDP supported through her studies. (Title image: From Left Nico Pires, Tino Morais, Ana Tilman. Image below: Ana Martins assists Tino Morais)

The trip was the typical mixture of trial and tribulation. After much paper shuffling prior to arrival, and expert shepherding by super-reliable Rotary Liaison Officer, Mario Jesus, Peter glided through customs. However, even Mario was unable to ensure that those pre-arranged meetings (that Peter had arrived early for) with the Departments of Registration, Pharmacy and Cooperation went ahead. The meetings were rescheduled for Monday and Team 1 lost a clinical day.

The weekend was spent prepping equipment for the week ahead and the boss of Maubara Clinic, Sister Fatima, ensured Peter received the full Carmelite spoiling. Peter and Mario returned to Dili on Monday morning for the big meetings – described by Peter as, “impacted third molar extraction without local anaesthetic would have been quicker, more productive and much more enjoyable”. 

While the dealings with the government were unsurprisingly less-than-useful, the team’s woes continued, with the outreach plan being thrown into disarray by a mix-up with accommodation. There was no room for all of them in Maubara, so the team upped sticks and headed to west to Kasait.

Kasait was a treat for the team. The clinic staff were very helpful and the working conditions and digs were positively luxurious – three rooms with running water, power AND lights! The team worked in Kasait until the Saturday lunchtime, reluctantly declining another week’s hospitality.

Saturday afternoon saw a first in TLDP history.

The team made their way to an open flat area where Peter bravely conducted the Inaugural TLDP Driving Course. All Timorese members ‘had a go’ and all went well. Peter only had to employ the (emergency) handbrake once and although they only made it into second gear, considerable progress was made. Yet another step towards self-sufficiency! Well done Nico, Ana, Tino and Ana!

The second week was spent in Railaco, in the tender and efficient care of the redoubtable Father Bong. The team conducted clinics in Railaco Vila as well as Railaco Leten. As expected, Railaco was extremely busy and the team worked long hours. Luckily, with the exception of Ana Martins, everyone in Team 1 was a well-seasoned TLDP worker – Peter found that it was easier to just get out of the way of that well-honed team when there was any packing/unpacking/setting up/breaking down of the mountains of gear that we carry around. Indeed, the Timorese team members were at great pains to take good care of Dr Peter, affectionately calling him”Katuas” i.e. old Grandfather.

What was patently obvious to Peter this trip was that the TLDP’s Timorese mentee clinicians can now consistently provide high standard restorative treatment as well as competent extractions. They have highly-developed standards of professional competence, motivation and conduct – a testament to their efforts and those of the volunteers who have contributed to the TLDP.

Tino farewelled the team after the week at Railaco. The TLDP started mentoring him in 2011 and it is truly wonderful that he continues to take leave to help out the TLDP teams. He returned to his clinic in Gleno Hospital with the team’s excess local anaesthetic – a treasure in a place where supply is extremely limited. Meanwhile the rest of the team headed back to Maubara and thence to Dili and Oz.

The work with the government is ongoing. Team 2 is now in the zone.

Farewell Team 4

Team 4 will farewell Australian shores next Saturday. Team Leader, Dr Peter Shakes will be joined by Dr Ashley Freeman and Dr Andrew Frame in the first week, who will then be replaced by the redoubtable Dr Mary Tuituinnik in Week 2.  The Timorese team members include Nico Pires, TLDP’s hard-working dental therapist and new Dad, and  Ana Paula Dos Santos Tavares Salgado, the team’s translator and dental assistant. Team 4 has already been plagued by misdirected supplies, team members dropping out, and confusion with scheduling;. Hopefully, all the wrinkles have been ironed out now and this team will have some smooth sailing once they get to TL. They are heading to Atsabe and Maubara. Good luck and have fun Team!


Keith, Patrick, Sally and Peter
Keith, Patrick, Sally and Peter

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.

Sr Filomena doing a toothbrushing demo
Sr Filomena doing a toothbrushing demo

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.

Keith works his magic
Keith works his magic

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!

Father Bong with Patrick and Peter
Father Bong with Patrick and Peter

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.

Tino and Victor at Cocoa Vila
Tino and Victor at Cocoa Vila

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.

Superslick Team 1 in operation
Superslick Team 1 in operation

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.

Thanks HSH!
David, Sally and Peter with kids say, “Thanks HSH! “

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.

Sr teachingAs 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.

church bellWe 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!