Thursday, October 30, 2008

Clinic in the Mountains

Some more photos of a medical clinic in the mountains. The children under 5 were all given a midday meal of high protein and milk which had been supplied by the government and carried by the clinic staff to the village.
The photo of the clouds was taken at 5pm and we were still seeing patients. Many had a long walk home after the clinic so we were lucky to be driven back to Maubisse.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rice Bags for East Timor

This is one of the rice bags made for Hiam Health, an organization which distributes free rice to the people who are suffering from malnutrition. They use the bags to refill each time the people come for more rice and this helps to keep their costs down.
They work in Dili and do a wonderful job with saving the lives of many people.
The bags measure 35cm (13.5") across by 50cm (19.5") down. Then turn down a 2cm part for a drawstring to go around the top of the bag. Make a drawstring to measure 140cmx 2cm (55"x 3/4") wide. You can overlock or just sew the drawstring together.
Just email me for an address if you want to make some to donate. You can use fabric which isn't suitable for quilts but not rubber backed fabric, in case it rubs off into the rice.
It's another good way to give some help to others.

Sunday in Maubisse continued

There are two mass services at the cathedral on Sundays. The first is at 6 or 6.30 and and the second is at 8.30am. The service lasts for about 90 mins and the singing was beautiful. The cathedral is the focal point of the town and is opposite the bakery. The view of the outside of the cathedral may give some indication of the steep hill I had to climb to go to the town clinic and to visit the nuns for lunch. The top view is from the cathedral overlooking the hospital (with the green roofs) and looking down to where I was staying. I was very glad that I'd lost weight and had been working out at the gym before I went and yet I was still out of breathe after climbing up to the town centre. I'd better keep up the exercise before I go back.

Sunday in Maubisse

We woke up at 6.30am every day which is as late as we could sleep as the village sounds and the rooster crows start to intrude.
Then a walk up a very steep hill to the bakery by 7am to get the bread fresh form the oven. Here's the bakery and people are waiting for the next batch from the oven to be ready. Bread is 5cents each and is like a small dinner roll. Lovely when warm but hard to get the teeth into and we couldn't eat them if they were a day old.
Blogger won;t load more photos so I'll try again later.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Photos at a Mobile Medical Clinic

Here's some more photos of the medical clinic where the village's health worker is weighing babies in a sling on the left hand photo. Note the chicken wandering across the dirt floor in the next photo (just in front of the UN policeman in blue). The ladies who give out the medication are to the right of the UN policeman and are shown in the next photo. We started in the same village hut until the day became too dark to see the patients and we moved outside. The people just queued patiently all day while they waited to be seen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mobile Health Clinic

Some of my photos from a mobile health clinic I helped in the hills. It took 1 hour to drive about 5 kms over unmade roads. We worked inside a large native hut with a thatched roof and when the light faded we moved our table and chairs outside. Before we started the clinic we shook hands with the whole village and the people were lovely and tried to kiss my hand. The whole experience was very humbling and I was blessed to have this opportunity. Blogger is slow with the photos at the moment so more to follow. Sr I. is at the table in one photo and getting set up to work. The people all stood in line for hours while they waited their turn. Some queue jumped- I think because they had a longer walk home in the dark. I've never expereinced the provision of health-care as a spectator event but everyone was very respectful but we had to clear the people away at times so we could see in the fading light.
More later if you're not bored.

A composite of emails

I've had a lot of interest in my trip so I thought I'd share some of my emails to give you more detail. I'll add a new post later with more photos.
Well I've been back a week and have finally caught up on sleep. I came
back with a cough but that has finally gone I think.
I wasn't surprised to bring back that as a souvenir as I ending up
helping with medical clinics for most of my stay. I hope that those who
sent sewing things aren't disappointed that I didn't do any sewing with
the ladies, as the medical need took priority. I became good friends
with a Carmelite nun who runs medical clinics for the hill people and
she asked for my help. We saw over 200 people in a day and treated
malaria, TB, and pneumonia primarily and antental and postnatal care.
She also did a lot of public health education and vaccinations as well
as being a nurse practitioner. There were 2 ladies who dispense the
medication and 2 men who keep the medical records. Then the two of us
ran the clinic in full view of the people waiting to be seen. We stopped
for a brief lunch at 3pm and as the day became darker we moved our table
and chairs outside so we could see. We ended the session by candlelight
as there was no electricity.
We saw some very sick babies who we sent into the hospital which is 2
hours walk away. I lanced an infected finger and took B/Ps and listened
to every chest- what a marathon. We had to see everyone, as the clinic
only goes to that village once a month and the people had walked for
more than 2 hours to attend the clinic. It took us an hour to drive
there each way over unsealed roads. We were only about 5 kms away from
the town but didn't get back until 8.30pm. I was priviledged to get this
opportunity and have also been asked to train the hospital staff at the
new hospital in the town, as they have equipment but don't know how to
use it. This will be a huge undertaking so I'm waiting for more
information for this project.
I did hand out the sewing things to the nuns to distribute and left
donated money to fund the care of twin boys who's mother had died and
the father's new wife didn't want them. I hope this was OK with you all.
I did see lots of knitted hats and jumpers using the Aids baby pattern
and they really need warm clothes in this area. I didn't see any of my
quilts up there but did speak with the administrator who had given them
out. However when we got back to Dili we stayed at a former orphanage
which is also used for accommodation for travellers as well as for
former orphans to use while they find work in Dili. Imagine my surprise
when I found that one of my quilts was on my bed. It was donated about 5
or 6 years ago and still holding up well.
I also met the First Lady of Dili, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, and she thanked
me for the donation of quilts. I was surprised that she knew about them
and apparently her boys were given a quilt each as well. She was very
gracious and was happy to pose for a photo. I did buy some polyester tie
dyed long scarves and can sell them for $10 if anyone is interested in
helping to raise money for more projects. I also made lots of good
contacts with ex-pats and locals and have a much better understanding of
the country.
Two Aussie Federal police, based at Maubisse, came to say hello and
said that the isolation is the hardest part about the appointment. They
watched the 1989 World Cup on TV last week as it was all they could get
apart from Indonesian TV. I did manage to learn some Tetum but also
found that I could diagnose the patients, often based on their actions.
Sr I. and I decided we talk "nurse and medical" language and found we
agreed on the diagnosis. She seemed to like to have someone to share
with too, but I'm sure she'd manage on her own as she usually does.
So many things to reflect on but just wanted to let you know that the
quilts and warm clothes etc that we've been making and sending over
really do make a difference. Many thanks for all your help and good wishes and I hope you're not
disappointed that I didn't do the sewing as it had been intended. The
nuns will work on that as time allows as their need for medical care is
much greater.
I have so many things to share about this lovely country that I thought
I'd expand a bit on the information. The country is very young with
very old traditions. I don't profess to understand everything after only
2 weeks but I did get to see a lot and speak with lots of people.

A main feature of the health clinics was checking the kids for signs of
malnutrition and there was evidence of that and parasitic infections. I
didn't see the kids playing with any toys other than a stick used to
propel an old tire rim, like my grandparents used to have. The kids are
supposed to go to school but a lot seemed to stay at home to look after
younger siblings or to work in their vegetable garden.

The hill people's lifestyle is based on subsistence farming and growing
coffee which they sell in markets on Sundays. There was also tobacco
sold and whatever vegetables are extra to the family's needs are sold at
the markets. There is money in East Timor but it doesn't seem to filter
down much out of Dili as there is little infrastructure and this is a
major problem with getting things done. You can buy most things in Dili
such as fabric, embroidery threads and wool but it is expensive and not
available to most people. There are many NGOs doing invaluable work and
the govt is trying to improve the health care of the people. Vaccination
is really promoted and they are also providing high protein food for the
under 5's and this was given to the kids at the health clinic and extra
milk is provided. The people were very friendly and accepting and I felt
very humbled that I was given their trust at the clinics. I heard that
they won't complain about the lack of electricity etc as it has proven
to be fatal to complain in the past.

Things will improve now but lack of food, and health care will be major
challenges for some time. Many of the young adults are very keen to
learn English as there is very high unemployment and English skills
gives them some chance of work in Dili.

The UN police man in charge of the district I visited said that
environmental health is also going to be a big issue. The people dump
their rubbish for the animals to forage through and then it is burnt.

They are in big need of warm clothing and they also loved the tote bags
I took them. They have little to carry things in other than black
plastic biodegradable bags. They use these for rice and to carry bread
from the bakery. The bread is like a small scone and is lovely when warm
but hard on the teeth otherwise. It cost $1US for 20 rolls ie. they are
5cents each and a staple diet with rice and vegetables.

The kids and adults love having their photos taken and seeing them
instantly with the digital camera. I was very lucky to have the
experience and hope to go back again next year to help with the health
care. The nuns were very happy to distribute what I took over to donate
and I have lots of contacts now to continue with them. There is no
reliable mail service so any goods must be sent in by shipping container
to a reliable contact to distribute the goods or taken in by people.
As for helping over there I'm in the process of finding out how to do that
without standing on official toes. The Ministry of Health is in the
process of getting a new standard of education for nurses but it is
unclear what will happen for those already working. I've been told that
they have very little knowledge of basic hygiene practices etc.
As for the sewing/quilting progress there will be plans for future
sewing lessons etc but heath is a major concern at the moment. There are
no patient medical records as far as I could tell as there was a
population of over 24,000 in the area I visited and they visit each area
once a month and it's doubtful that the card for the day would be filed
in a history somewhere. We relied on the patient giving us the history
and not any case notes.
I was also asked to see children of nearby neighbours as their kids were
sick. I'm not sure why they asked me as there is a free clinic. They
used traditional medicine at times rather than the clinic. I found the
kids were scared of me putting the stethoscope to their chests at first
but they all lined up afterwards for their turn. I'd never experienced
the provision of healthcare as a "spectator event" before but everyone
was very patient and stood in line for hours while we worked our way
through them all. The saddest things was seeing young kids (approx
10years) who had walked to the clinic on their own for treatment. I also
saw an 11 year old boy who had been blind in one eye for 3 years, from
an apparent cataract. I'm trying to find out if he can get eye surgery
now as I've heard that there's an eye Dr going over to operate next year.
travelling there.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Trip Features

I was part of a group of people who are building a new school at Likitei in the hills out of Dili.
Here you can see the old school in the background and the framework for the new school is already up. We poured concrete for part of the new floor. I didn't work on this much as I was involved in medical clinics but this shows some of the work we were doing. Believe it or not this is the type of school some of these kids attend as shown below. There are plans to build new schools all over East Timor but it's a big job. The chap working in his garden is a typical scene and shows the satellite dish that many have to get Indonesian TV. That is, when the power is on which is spasmodic. It should be from 6pm to midnight but that doesn't always happen. The thatched house is a traditional house which is still very common in the hill district. The house living part is in the roof area at the top. It takes a long time to build these houses but they last for years and then may only need re-thatching. Couldn't resist showing another baby photo with the knitted hat being used. The number of babies is enormous and the need for warm clothes in the hill area is always great. Only at Dili and along the coast is it warm and humid.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

East Timor Highlights

Here are some photos of Mums and their babies at the health clinics I worked with while in East Timor. They were all shy at first but I found that they love to have their photo taken.
I was also surprised to see quite a few babies and toddlers wearing little jumpers/sweaters and hats, which had been knitted using the Aids Babies patterns. They are obviously useful and keep the kids warm. I was in a mountainous area of East Timor and it gets very cold in winter so I plan to make more of these jumpers and hats as well as quilts to keep them warm.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yes, I'm Back!!

Here we are getting ready to board a 25 seater airplane to fly to Dili after having no sleep. I took about 500 photos and I won't bore you with them all but will take several days to share my news about the trip.
It was more special than I'd expected and I had a wonderful time meeting and working with the people of Maubisse in East Timor.
We flew into Dili and collected supplies and then drove for nearly 4 hours to reach Maubisse in the hills 70km out of Dili.
We were sleep deprived for a lot of the time and now I'm trying to catch up at home. I came back enthused to get more quilts and warm garments finished to send over to the "hill people" where the weather becomes very cold.
More tomorrow when I can think straight. LOL
Hugs JJ