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.
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.
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!
The last team of 2014 is now on-track to depart from Timor Leste in a couple of weeks. It has been a bit of a ride for this last team – administration problems, recalcitrant passports containing one too many numbers for online forms and scary health issues have all contributed to the stress of preparation for this team. Nevertheless, they are still going! You’ve got to admire the dedication!
The last team consists of returning clinicians Dr Hans Raets from Northern Territory and Dr Geoffrey Knight from South Australia, as well as three eager new volunteers – Dr Yvonne Huijser Van Reenen and Ms Breanna Martin, who also reside in the balmy NT, and Ms Anneli Knight, Geoff’s intrepid daughter. It is fabulous to see that this program has true national support, with dentists participating in the program hailing from all states (except Tassie – too far for them to travel, perhaps?).
The team will arrive in Dili on the 6th September. Their first job will be to fix the portable suction unit which was discovered to be leaking on the last day by the July team. Unfortunately, Team 3 possessed neither the tools nor the hand size for the job – thankfully Team 4 consists of taller people and has had the chance to head to Bunnings!
The team will, as usual, spend the first week in the Maubara/Liquiça subdistricts and then will be heading out the hills of Bobonaro for the second week. Lucky them! The area around Bobonaro is exceedingly beautiful and Sr Fatinha and her fellow sisters will make them feel right at home. The only downside are the bells…and the dogs….a very early wakeup call. Fair warning!!
NB: This video was taken from bed. Note it’s pitch black!
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!
This swelling arose from a baby tooth that didn’t fall out by itself. Fueled by TB infection, it grew until it covered this 12 year old boy’s teeth so he could no longer eat. It took him 4 days to travel to a doctor
Timor Leste (East Timor) has a population of 1.1 million people. Of the less than 10 dentists in the country, almost all practice privately in Dili, the capital. There are a few free dental clinics – also located in Dili. In comparison, the vast majority of East Timorese live rurally, reliant on subsistence farming. Hence, for the majority of East Timorese, dental treatment is something that is both financially and logistically unattainable. The Timorese government has tried to address this need by employing Indonesian-trained East Timorese dental ‘nurses’ in some rural hospitals. Unfortunately, these individuals are poorly trained, have minimal experience and are expected to attend their communities’ dental needs with almost no equipment.
The Timor Leste Dental Program is based in Maubara, a town 60km west of Dili, a trip of about 1 1/2 hours. Each year, several teams of volunteer Australian dentists, dental assistants and other dental professionals give two weeks to help our nearest neighbours. The purpose of the program is two-fold: Firstly, to support the rurally-emplaced Timorese dental nurses with equipment, training and mentoring so that they can better serve their communities. Secondly, to provide much-needed dental care to the people living in rural areas of western Timor L’este.
Timorese communities suffer from high rates of dental decay and much of our treatment involves extraction of teeth that have caused pain for years. Many people have never seen a dentist before. The chewing of betel nut is common and so there are also many extractions due to gum disease. There is also a high incidence of oral cancer and tuberculosis-influenced oral infection. We see many things over there that simply do not exist here in Australia.