Volunteering at Klibur Domin (2009)
My wife Sheridan and I were delighted to have the opportunity to go to Klibur Domin in East Timor during July-August 2009.
Sheridan was a trained nurse and I am a professional engineer. We thought that together we could assist with a wide variety of basic needs and also enjoy working and relating with the beautiful people there.
Klibur Domin is about 15 km from Dili. The facility caters for people needing care. During our stay the residents included those with partial paralysis due to accidents, people with TB and elderly. The KD facility is a beautiful large natural reserve allotment with sheltering trees and green fields on which about 27 single story buildings are provided for residents, administrative staff, volunteers and storage facilities. KD has a staff of about 33 local workers. Sheridan and I worked there with other volunteers and it was an added delight to have “nibbles” and mix with them in the garden outside to share experiences at the end of each day in the warm Timor climate.
The day’s deeds started early. Sheridan mingled with the residents and performed a host of practical activities which involved teaching the people basic requirements for healthy living that we in Australia take for granted due to our childhood upbringing. However the Timorese are a developing nation and basic elements such as those mentioned below need to be engendered by example and discussion. These include cleanliness approaches for maintaining hygiene such as regular and particular hand washing when required and prior to wound dressing. Sheridan engrossed herself with the residents in caring and playing games. The friendly nature and joyous responses of the people made the interface a pleasure for everyone.
One day every week KD provide a van to take the residents and volunteers to the beach. The beach trip was gaiety for all – the residents, the children of residents, the Timorese carers and the volunteers. I remember seeing Sheridan and another volunteer Kerry, carrying a partially crippled young lady and her walking stick to the beach shore. The expression of joy on that young ladies face is for me a permanent jewel in my memory.
Sheridan had an infectious smile blended with warm loving hugs that lingered with the residents that little bit longer to provide a feeling of special caring. This close warm hug – part of her genuine friendship, was shared so often with the residents. This sight became for me a treasure to behold when I looked across at her with her joyous charges. The residents returned this warmth to her on every occasion with an appreciative smile.
On my first day of work, I walked over to an area which had a small enclosure used as a work shed and another that was used as storage shed. Sheridan asked me to make a small cabinet on which to place autoclaves that had been donated from Australia for possible use for sterilisation in the clinic. As soon as I started the woodwork I was welcomed by a multitude of youth that were so jubilant at the prospect of engaging with me. They all wanted to learn more English and just wanted to help me with any task I could suggest they undertake. Methods of wood cutting, sanding, nailing and general discussion about my country Australia were all on the agenda which I must say I enjoyed with great delight. I found enormous pleasure in teaching anything or everything of what I did to these very appreciative young Timorese “students”. They love Australians and just like involvement combined with stories of how we do things in my country. (Their appreciation made me recall elements of a sombre past for these young people. Most of them did not have the magic history of a father’s knowledge transfer. Their fathers were not there – not available to them due to the Indonesian conflict in 1999). For me it was so rewarding to liaise with the youth and also the adults working in the maintenance departments of the facility. The adults also enjoyed learning methods of doing things.
My tasks became many and diverse and included teaching of practical skills that were gladly absorbed. Some of these tasks were instructions for wiring an Australian electrical 3 pin plug, the principles of soldering wiring to give a more permanent connection, using a hack saw to cut piping, cleaning inside of pipes after cutting and setting up a tool store with shelves for tool storage.
Other tasks involving local staff support included:
Re-plumbing the filtered water supply.
Replacing the leaking taps and replacement of old PVC pipes with polypropylene ones. Installation of valves at the outlets of the main bore water storage tanks so future maintenance could be done without draining the water . (As a further volunteer activity a year later Andy went over there and commenced a project to gather and store rainwater to supplement the bore water so that water now becomes more available. Andy shared the same level of delight in working with the people as I did).
Some of my tasks involved office work on one of the computers they provided. A drawing mapping the buildings was provided to keep track of existing and new buildings that are being constantly constructed. I also generated a building maintenance file which identified the upgrades needed on the existing buildings.
The weekends were our time off. We went to Dili very often to visit markets, local points of interest (historical and new) and commercial organisations which manufactured beautiful local handcrafts. There are many tourists in Dili and we met a few in the hotels there. We also adventured to other towns. I used the word “adventured” because road travel is an experience requiring a certain level of adventurousness due to the frequent pot holes. However the natural beauty of the gardens and bushland made it all worthwhile.
We found the beaches near Dili a pleasure to swim in and relax under the palm trees. A pleasant stairwell walk to the “Jesus Statue” provided outstanding views of the local terrain.
The trip to Timor Leste was a very enjoyable adventure and the delightful memories are often shared back in Australia among friends, who have participated in the same experience, with whom I now meet regularly.