05.05.2009 By Nathan Crombie - Health professionals Jenny and Chris Clarke today farewell their back paddock Masterton paradise to help rebuild war-torn medical systems in East Timor.
Mrs Clarke, a registered nurse, has spent decades alongside her social worker husband in their chosen fields including time spent for both with the Wairarapa District Health Board, and for her at Whaiora Whanui and with the Public Health unit in Masterton.
Last year the couple decided a change was in the wind despite finding immense peace and enjoyment at their lifestyle block "hideout" at Rangitumau north of Masterton farming a scattering of sheep, cows, chickens and a dog.
They submitted their CVs online to Volunteer Service Abroad last year "not knowing what may come of it" and soon afterward were called and accepted for a two-year mission with the Fred Hollows Foundation in Dili the capital of East Timor about 640km northwest of Australia helping to rebuild medical systems with Timorese health managers and professionals.
In April 2006, riots broke out in Dili, sparked through rivalry within the military and police; 40 people were killed and over 20,000 fled their homes.
Upon the invitation of the then prime minister, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal sent troops to Timor, attempting to quell the violence.
The couple are excited at the challenge of working in an exotic location among a people of another culture and speaking a new language and neither fear at all for their safety "because there are still New Zealand and Australian military and other compatriots in Dili and because we have to take a break out of the country every six months due to the risk of any ongoing tensions anyway", Mr Clarke said.
Mrs Clarke first came to Wairarapa about 23 years ago to work with the DHB at the then Greytown Hospital and Mr Clarke managed the mental health unit at Masterton Hospital for seven years until 1999.
The pair, who share two adult children, had also worked for two years together in the Far North at Cooper's Beach during a time when severe flooding struck the area.
"We've been wanting to do something like this for a long time and we're both looking forward to working alongside nursing and health managers and helping to formulate their own policies, programmes and procedures," Mr Clarke said.
He said the couple would maintain focus throughout the two-year mission on good clinical practice and quality health access and training.
"And we're both very aware of what these people have been through and we'll be there to help them grow their own systems and find their path to good health."
ETLJB Editor's Note: Although ETLJB focuses on law and justice issues in East Timor, we applaud people who foresake the comforts and indulgences of the developed world to give of their talents and time so generously to the long-suffering people of East Timor, whose deprivations and burderns are so harsh. There is much suffering in East Timor - both physical and psychological - as a result of the terrible traumas of the past, more recent catastrophes, poverty, illness and injury. ETLJB wishes Jenny and Chris the very best in their endeavors to contribute to East Timor's health system and, therefore, to the alleviation of these sufferings.
ETLJB would like to take this opportunity to remind our readers to consider donating to a humanitarian organisation working in East Timor. A complete list of those organisations in on East Timor Directory. Obrigado!