Donna Furler: Donna Furler’s CommUNITY News no. 1

Bonoite kolega no familia hotu

Donna conducts a dental check-up
I’ve been back in Timor for just over a month after spending nearly six weeks in Adelaide recovering from a broken clavicle. Initially it threw a spanner in the works, but turned out to be the best ‘break’ ever! I’m well and truly settled back into life in Timor, work in the clinic is keeping me very busy with programs involving the local school, outreach mobile clinics to remote villages and a visit to the local SiSCA post each month, a health promotion post. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find a Timorese dental nurse who can work along side me each day, but we will be working with the dental nurse in the closest village soon: visiting remote villages together and possibly one day per week he will work with me at Bakhita. As well as providing a dental service, and teaching the local health workers, it will be great to work with Paulo the dental nurse. We will learn a lot from each other.

Soon we will receive funding to begin a fluoride program into the local primary school. We will provide each student with a fluoride treatment, every three months, for three years. This will become part of the clinic outreach program.  The health workers will be trained in giving fluoride so that they can continue this program once I leave and will continue for the next three years and possible longer. So the dental program is going pretty well, ideally it would be best to have a Timorese dental nurse to take over from me and continue, but the second best thing would be to find another long term dental volunteer, who can continue the program, so we’re also working on a PALMS Position Description for another dentist/dental therapist.

Even the agriculture group at Bakhita are becoming interested.  Who knows; in the future Bakhita might market it’s own cheese.

Donna, with Ellie Virgona
Thankfully it’s not all work; life has been very interesting lately. At Bakhita we have adopted a goat and two little kids.  There are so many goats here in Eraulo, mainly used in ceremony and eaten. We decided to try our luck at milking this lucky goat and making goat cheese. So for the past few days, it’s been early mornings, with one person holding the horns, one holding the two back legs in the air, and another person milking….it’s so hilarious! I think we scare the poor goat from our laughter more than the unusual task we’re performing. It’s definitely not usual for people to milk goats here, let alone make cheese. But, it’s amazing how the community are becoming interested, every morning and afternoon more and more people come and watch our performance. Initially, they thought I was mad but I think they’re coming around, more and more people are asking to learn. It’s fantastic. We’re making a little bit of cheese each day and letting as many people taste it as possible. Even the agriculture group at Bakhita are becoming interested.  Who knows; in the future Bakhita might market it’s own cheese. We’re thinking of giving a demonstration at the clinic at the next nutrition program day.

I can understand what Palms mean when they explain that the second year of placement will find you really progressing forward in your work.

Eating rice and vegies everyday is slowly taking its toll; finally after 18 months in Timor, I have made a BBQ with the help of Leone. We used some cement bricks and placed a hot plate on top, we cooked chicken wings and sausages for lunch one day…it was delicious! The girls at Bakhita always cook meals over a fire in the outdoor kitchen.   We had our BBQ right by the door of their kitchen and when it came to lighting our fire, we really didn’t want the girls to think we were hopeless!! We were trying for ages to light this little fire, it would light and then go out, after twenty minutes of this we were starting to feel a bit embarrassed….I walked into the generator room and found some fuel in a little jerry can. Just a little bit won’t hurt, we thought as we filled a water bottle half full and walked casually back to our poor attempt at starting a fire. Next minute whoom, our fire was fantastic, we felt very proud as the girls came rushing out of the kitchen praising us at how well we can start a fire!! Hee hee, if only they knew!

I’ve been in Timor for nearly 18 months of my two-year placement. The time has absolutely flown and it’s been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Having the opportunity to live amongst people of a culture different from my own, in a rural area where Timorese culture and tradition are very much alive, is an education and such a humbling experience. I feel that I’m on the home stretch, often I find myself thinking about the future and about what’s next in my life, mentally preparing myself to return to Australia. The next few months will be an interesting time, and I can understand what Palms mean when they explain that the second year of placement will find you really progressing forward in your work. Having built genuine relationships with people in the community, understanding the language and having more of an understanding of how things work in Timor, allows my work to progress as I’ve gained the trust of the community, which is needed. The most important aspect is definitely the building of relationships, and this takes time. It can’t be rushed, and unfortunately the approach of many in the development field is just that, without building relationships, how can you understand what the community wants?

Until next time, take care

Love Donna xx

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The future of every community lies in capturing the passion, the imagination and the resources of its people. - Ernesto Sirolli