Tag Archives: Timor Leste

Last team to TL

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!

Cowboy and Snake Ride Again

andy and gordon in prisonTeam 4 returned home last Saturday following an intensely busy 10 days in and around Railaco. It has been a while since Drs Andy Moran (Snake) and Gordon Saggers (Cowboy) have been to TL, so they really noticed the improvements in infrastructure, particularly in the quality of the main roads and the availability of electricity; as well as improvements in public health, especially the reduction in betel-nut usage which has been attributed to a public health campaign.

Andy and Gordon were charged with taking over the pressure cooker steriliser that the TLDP has just purchased from India. The fabulous Rotary Coordinator, Daryl Mills, provided us with a spare gas bottle and the boys bought a gas cooker from a supermarket in Dili and now the new clinic in Railaco has a steriliser that can sterilise a load of dirty instruments in 15 minutes!

The pair had a smallish set of dramas unique to working in this beautiful place – on finding that they had the wrong set of handpieces for the dental cart, they had to endure the 4 hour return trip from Railaco to Maubara to make an exchange. They wrestled with a recalcitrant generator, stemmed the flood from a leaky scaler and negotiated the goat tracks, otherwise known as secondary and tertiary roads with audaciousness and resolve. The roads to Tarasu and Leorema are particularly BAD.

andy, gordon and pt

Team 4 was kept extremely busy by the redoubtable Father Bong, treating patients in Railaco, Nasuta, Leorema, Railaco Leten, Gleno Jail, Daicerlaco, Tocoluli, Cocoa and Tarasu. Super-organised Father Bong had patients lined up and ready to go so the boys had very little downtime. He also organised two excellent support staff; a driver and interpreter, Victor, a Timorese who been a soldier in the Portugese army and had worked in Sydney as a cleaner in St Vincent’s Hospital and as a garbage truck driver in Liverpool; and Natalia, an ex-nun who was their nurse and interpreter.

In total, the team saw 335 patients; did 20 cleans, filled 353 teeth and extracted 425 teeth. As Andy puts it, “Not bad for a couple of old blokes”.

Many thanks to Henry Schein Halas who again stepped up to the plate and donated some much needed local anaesthetic to us, to Father Bong and Daryl, whose hospitality and efficiency we could not do without, and to Cowboy and Snake, for their sheer hard work. Fantastic job!

The Charming Quirks of working in Timor

John Whyte, Sally, Sam and John Moran
John Whyte, Sally, Sam & John Moran

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.

Sam hands out pressies
Sam hands out pressies

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!

John Whyte and the 'extraction chair'
John Whyte and the ‘extraction chair’

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.

Great work from a brilliant team!

TEAM 1 FLOATS HOME

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.

Dental equipment reaches Railaco

As promised, Father Bong and his merry band picked up the equipment for the Timor Leste Dental Program on Sunday and hauled it to Railaco. The heavy weight and unwieldiness of the items proved no obstacle to team’s determination and cooperative efforts to move them into the clinic. Thank you to Father Bong and his team and to Daryl Mills and his team, without whom these dental materials and equipment would still be sitting on the dock in Dili.Jan container 2

Container Arrives Unscathed

Our amazing friend Daryl Mills, the hardworking Rotary Liaison in Timor Leste, has informed us that the container carrying our precious equipment and materials has arrived unscathed! Our partners in Railaco, Father Bong and his team, will be taking it all to Railaco for our first team to sort when they arrive. Just in the nick of time! Team 1 hits Timor Leste’s sunny shores on the 20th April, in just over a week.

As we are creating a new fixed dental clinic in Railaco, to be used by the team when in the area, the refurbished dental chair, drill unit and suction unit will be installed there permanently – Team 1’s Keith Mentiplay’s first job! The remainder of the materials and equipment will be taken by the team back to Maubara.

Equipment in TL must be hardy – it must be able to cope with the humidity, the heat, the dusty conditions and uncertain electrical currents. But its first challenge is to withstand Timor’s roads.

IMG_8738

DENTAL SUPPLIES HEAD TO TL

Last Thursday, vital supplies for the Timor Leste Dental Program  were delivered to Rotary’s Donation in Kind warehouse in West Footscray, Victoria, where in two weeks, they will be placed in a shipping container bound for TL (via Hong Kong!!?) – an unwieldy way to get goods across to a country that remains without a postal system. Many, many thanks go to Ben Sheen, who drove the supplies from Sydney to Melbourne.

Blanche with a generous donation from Henry Schein Halas
Blanche with a generous donation from Henry Schein Halas

Amongst these supplies  are an electric dental chair, bound for Railaco, a portable suction unit, a dental drills cart and lots of consumables!  Many thanks to the amazing Keith Mentiplay for checking out the chair, to fabulous John O’Connor for overhauling the dental cart, to Dr Gordon Howe for donating the suction unit and to Dentsply for the consumables. Special thanks to Henry Schein Halas for the 15 cartons of gloves, bibs, and masks  etc- the Henry Schein Cares team really came through for us at short notice. Thank you Jessica and Kira! I know that our dental teams will truly appreciate NOT having to carry all this stuff to TL this year!

Our gear should arrive in Dili by March 22, where it will be taken in hand by our hardworking Rotary Liaison Officer, Daryl Mills, who seems to effortlessly, and tirelessly, juggle all the needs of all the Rotary Programs in Timor Leste. Daryl will distribute the gear – just in time for the first team which arrives in April! Thanks Daryl!

Like all volunteer programs, the Timor Leste Dental Program exists because of the efforts of a multitude of dedicated, generous, caring people. We are grateful for you all.

 

The lucky team returns!

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!

Hans, Yvonne, Sr FilomenaThat 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.

hans team 2014In 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!

hotspringDespite 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!

Team 2 report summary

Team 2’s visit in June was littered with challenges. An erupting volcano threw travel plans into disarray, a missed turn in the road meant an unplanned trip into Railaco, and  broken compressors and dodgy repairs limited both the work done in the first week as well as the team’s movements. Unfazed, the team – John, Tony and bilingual Sam, with our Timorese partners, Sr Filomena and Aida, the Timorese dental therapist – were able to visit the school in Dair and Liquiça Hospital, as well working in the Maubara Clinic. In total they carried out 829 treatments! Well done team!

Tony Hunt and child in Dair

TEAM 3 to test drive NEW TROOPIE!

Our new Troopie
Our new Troopie

The program has had a stroke of luck – we have managed to procure a 2011 Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier which is already in TL!! Previously owned by another NGO, Seeds of Life, the ‘new’ troopie (T2) has been paid for (thanks to a loan from our Lions partners), registered and insured – a process which has taken 2 months – just in the nick of time for Team 3 to test drive it when they arrive next week! A massive thankyou to Daryl Mills, RAWCS’s man on the ground, ROMAC coordinator and great mate, for doing all the grunt work and making T2 a reality. Without him we wouldn’t have even known a vehicle was coming up for sale!  Thanks Daryl!! (For those unfamiliar with the acronyms, RAWCS = Rotary Australia World Community Service, and ROMAC = Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children. GO to http://www.rawcs.com.au and http://www.romac.org.au for more info on these worthy organisations)

Team 3 consists of Dr Blanche Tsetong, who is in the process of moving back to the madness of Sydney from the glorious Sunshine Coast, and newcomer, Dr Linda Velosky, who has a practice in Redfern. This very small team will be heading to the hills in their second week in TL – to the town of Maubisse, much loved by the colonial Portuguese in the hot, dry months. While it basks in the sun in the morning, Maubisse is usually shrouded in thick cloud by midday, becoming a town of shadow and mist. Cold. V cold. Bring your Ugg boots girls!