After a delayed commencement day of one day (due to personal circumstances), I commenced work on the 26/5/14.
My main trepidation in going to KD was my lack of language skills, even though a former volunteer, Fran, did her best to teach me. At the end of the day, I knew some very basic words e.g. greetings and numbers.
My other trepidation was that I didn’t have a specific task to do, although I knew Maria, an AVI volunteer, was keen for me to write up some medical policies e.g. how to look after people with certain illnesses – I doubted my ability to do that, possibly partly because I didn’t have the language skills.
I wondered how I could best improve my general knowledge of some medical conditions and decided to go to Ballarat’s Aboriginal Co-operative and pick up as many brochures as possible, which explain many illnesses simply – the brochures proved very valuable.
So, at the end of the day I did write prospective brochures on care for people with common illnesses, leaving off some of the more western complicated interventions.
These brochures, took much of my time and included the topics of – hypertension, Diabetes Type 2, heart attack, asthma, common cold, glucometer, the dangers of smoking, care of elderly residents, stroke patients and lastly, palliative care.
They will now be translated into Tetum and Maria will start some education with the clinic staff – she can speak tetum.
Maria has done a wonderful job during her time at KD and has put many practices in place for both the clinical staff and, of course, the patients but still feels like she has more to do – !!!
Punctuated with writing up the procedures, I went into Dili with Maria when she took patients in for their twice weekly haemodialysis. These patients live at KD, although they can go out for visits. They really require dialysis x3 times per week, however, Dili hospital unfortunately doesn’t have the facilities to fulfil that need. I was introduced to the medical and nursing staff and learnt more about haemodialysis in Dili.
We also took in patients who required chest X-rays for suspected TB.
TB is rife in East Timor and in a district adjacent to Dili there were 174 cases diagnosed last year. KD has 11 TB patients at the moment and 1 patient with multi drug resistant TB. He is having more intensive treatment.
So, all in all, I felt that my time spent at KD was worthwhile – I didn’t have any expectations prior to my arrival. Even though my time was short, I felt I had a slight hands-up because of my previous experience in Volunteering, but for some short term volunteers, talking to previous volunteers is very important so that prospective volunteers can learn about the placement and possible challenges, eg, the environment and even, the weather.
The other thing which is important is for volunteers who are working with you at the placement (whether they are doing the same job as you or not) is to debrief and share what’s going on, that enables everyone to grow and limit any issues that might come up.
My objective in going to Timor-Leste was more than adequately satisfied and that was to learn about a nation which is experiencing a new democracy and learning all about the challenges with their health care.
As for my lack of language skills, it wasn’t a real issue, because of the tasks I was set to do. As long as the locals could see I was making some sort of attempt at speaking, it was fine. Even if I made mistakes we all laughed. Eye contact and body language was very important.
I have some extra tasks to fulfil at home now, and that is to think about an education program to explain the dangers of smoking. This will be done in conjunction with The Director and the local Ballarat Ryder-Cheshire Support group.