15 December 2008 by Jenny Geelen - This year I did my first clinic in East Timor. The logistical difficulties of setting up the clinic were immense.
Although I arrived with no expectations I certainly under estimated how tough it was going to be. The communication was my biggest challenge. There are four languages spoken and english is the least common. Many of my clients were blind which meant that I couldn’t even communicate with hand signals!
To establish a clinic like mine, you really need to take absolutely everything that you are going to need. The very few assumptions I made created significant problems for me.
For example, butane gas lighter refills just weren’t available anywhere.
Running water was not available in the clinic space. I had an open window for a sink and bottled water for washing hands.
Time is not regarded in the same way in Timor. No matter what time I made appointments for people they all showed up at the crack of dawn. I would arrive to find a crowd waiting for me.
I am looking forward to going back to the East Timor Clinic some time next year. With this first visit out of the way I now have a better understanding of the challenges.
Next time I’ll be better organised, with a hospital clinic space, a translator and experience of how things work.
See also The eyes have it and East Timor Eye Program
East Timor Directory