Through her local Rotary Club, ANMF member, registered nurse Jenny Selway is helping to make a difference to malnourished children in Timor-Leste in ways both big and small.
The Lilydale Rotary Club coordinates a knitting project in which volunteers knit teddy bears to send to children, and has sent supplies such as soap, antibacterial hand gel, and a washing machine to the Bairo Pite Clinic in the Timorese capital of Dili.
The club has also raised approximately $16,000 to employ a staff member Lidia Dos Santos to to oversee the malnourished children’s area of the clinic, with the support of two assistants. Having staff on hand to weigh and measure the malnourished babies and flag any issues to medical personnel, means nurses and doctors can attend to healthcare.
In a country where 44 per cent of children are malnourished, that’s a valuable contribution to the developing nation.
Ms Selway, who has worked for 14 years in Maroondah Hospital’s day procedure and endoscopy procedure room, visited the Bairo Pite Clinic in 2012 with her nurse unit manager Judi Seath.
They met with the clinic’s newly appointed manager to discuss the clinic’s needs and how they could best help.
As the two Australian nurses would only be in Dili for a few weeks, offering their nursing skills would be of little benefit.
‘There was a room where malnourished children were looked after, managed by the nursing staff.
‘But the nursing staff had 40 or 50 other patients to manage…so we thought what we could do was help the clinic employ a staff member to look after the babies in that room.’
Ms Selway has since approached the ANMF (Vic Branch) and met with Branch Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick. As a result, ANMF is (Vic Branch) is offering Bairo Pite Clinic health workers free access to our online CPD Portal and hopes to assist Ms Selway in setting up an exchange between Timor-Leste maternal and child health nurses and MCH nurses here.
The Bairo Pite Clinic was founded in 1999 by an American doctor, Dan Murphy, as a makeshift clinic in the ruins of an abandoned Indonesian health clinic.
With the withdrawal of the Indonesian militia, 60,000 Timorese refugees had returned to Dili desperately in need of healthcare.
Today ‘Dr Dan’ leads a team of over 80 Timorese staff assisted by the clinic manager and a second senior doctor, along with volunteers. The clinic provides primary care to about 300 patients per day, with many walking for days to access the treatment they need.
While the Bairo Pite Clinic has thrived with the support of volunteer medical personnel, fundraising by the Bairo Foundation and financial contributions from organisations like the Lilydale Rotary Club, the health challenges of Timor-Leste as a developing country continue.
Timor-Leste has one of the highest rates of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Asia. Limited access to clean water and basic sanitation contributes to the spread of preventable infectious diseases that can be fatal. Malaria is highly endemic and tuberculosis is a major public health problem.
While Ms Selway would like to revisit the clinic and see its progress, the prospect of a return journey presents her with a dilemma, as the cost of the trip could pay for a year’s salary for one of the staff in the malnourished children’s area of the clinic. While she hopes to return to see firsthand the clinic’s development, Ms Selway is aware that her involvement with fundraising and coordinating supplies for malnourished children at the Bairo Pite Clinic has benefited both patients and herself.
‘I’ve had to learn public speaking and I would never have met (Branch Secretary) Lisa (Fitzpatrick) otherwise,’ Ms Selway said.
‘I’ve grown as a person.’