Some points about doing
a medical elective at BPC
Bairo Pite Clinic is a primary healthcare
clinic run by Dr Dan Murphy.
Dan works 6 and half days a week, with
a teaching round on Sunday mornings.
Opportunities exists for experience in
the following areas: obstetric, paediatrics, infectious disease
management (eg., malaria, tuberculosis, dengue, typhus), dentistry,
minor trauma public health, tropical medicine, trauma rehabilitation
and working within a developing medical system.
Medical students enter East Timor as medical
volunteers attached to Bairo Pite Clinic.
Bairo Pite Clinic does not charge for the
medical student attachment.
Discounted airfares are currently available
from Air North out of Darwin.
US dollars is the accepted currency. Allow
US$75 a week.
East Timor has a wet season and dry season
like tropical Australia. Wet in the summer and Dry in the
Accommodation is available (see options
Indonesian, Tetun and Portuguese are more
useful than English.
You will be at risk of dengue, malaria,
gastroenteritis - remember this is a tropical country.
As a volunteer there is an expectation
of modest dress for both guys and girls. Remember, you represent
your country and profession.
Your behaviour will also be under scrutiny.
So in addition to modest dress, a polite manner and temperance
There are some great sites for walking,
diving and other tourist stuff during respite from clinic
How to apply
To apply to volunteer at BPC, download the application
form and return your completed form to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please read the Information for Volunteers
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Who we are looking for
People who are:
With Training in:
Medical or health related diciplines or administration
Skills in driving manual cars
Communicating with people
Choosing your Elective
You must discuss the possibility of doing an
elective in East Timor with your occupational health department
and seek the latest advice from the foreign office. The country
is becoming a common destination for Australian students, but
details for other students are sketchy.
For Dr. Raines' advice on funding your elective,
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information for volunteers on Working
Tips | Accomodation
| Malaria | Money
| Things to Bring
by Virginia Dawson
Virginia has worked at BPC for almost 2 years
assisting in administration.
It is important to consider the context into
which you are travelling when you come to Timor-Leste. It is great
if you can read up about the history of this new nation before
coming. The website has a useful list of articles and books to
read. It is also great if you can learn a bit of medical Tetum
before you come.
The clinic is a great place to learn about tropical medicine in
a developing country. It also provides a great opportunity to
take ownership of a project or area of the clinic and work towards
improving health care. To be effective here you must take initiative.
It is also important to realize that sometimes administrative
help can have greater net benefit to the clinic than purely medical
help. Therefore, those who contribute most to the clinic are often
those who are willing to be flexible.
Things can be more difficult to achieve here
due to language barriers and a lack of resources, but that’s
all part of the BPC experience. It is also important to remember
that the staff here see a lot of volunteers come and go and that
in order to be effective you must work with them, rather than
tell them what to do. Many volunteers come in and try to change
the way things are done without first spending time with the staff
and learning how they do things and why they do them that way.
Therefore, time spent carrying out simple day to day tasks with
the staff will help you gain their trust and increase your understanding
and therefore, effectiveness when implementing projects.
Remember, it is often carrying out the simple
things here that have great effect.
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Tips for Timor-Leste
It is important to remember when volunteering
at the clinic that you are working in a different culture, which
you must be respectful of. As you are working here in a professional
capacity it is vital that you act as professionally as you would
in your own country. Here are some tips complied by past volunteers
to help you out with cultural difference and enable you to work
effectively in Timor-Leste:
Respect: In Timorese society
it is very important to respect those older than you. When working
at the clinic it is very important that you show respect to all
the Timorese staff. They are the ones who run the clinic and have
been working here for many years. They have seen many volunteers
come and go and are extremely patient considering the circumstances.
Take time to get to know them, you will find they have a lot to
History: It is important to consider the historical
context of Timor-Leste. The effects of years of colonization and
occupation (Portugal, Indonesia, UN…) have created an environment
where people have got used to being repetitively told what to
do by foreigners. It is important not to reproduce these oppressive
power relations. The best way you can do this is by taking the
time to get to know people, learning how and why things are done
in certain ways, encouraging staff for taking initiative and by
not taking over.
Sustainability: Linked to the two above points
is the concept of sustainability. When working at the BPC it is
important to think about whether your actions will create sustainable
outcomes. For example, stepping in and taking over is not a sustainable
action, however working together and sharing skills can increase
knowledge of local staff and create sustainable positive changes.
It also may be more sustainable to work on systems and capacity
building rather than doing consultations alone. By keeping this
in mind you will be of most benefit to the clinic.
Language: The clinic aims to provide a service
that is culturally sensitive and this depends on your ability
to communicate with patients. Therefore it is very important that
you take the time to learn as much Tetum as possible. You will
find that when you can communicate in Tetum your relationships
with staff and patients will develop more quickly.
Dress: Timor-Leste is a conservative country
and has only been exposed to many foreigners in the last 6 years.
Scantily dressed foreigners have been known to cause quite a stir.
When you are working at the clinic you are doing so in a professional
capacity therefore it is important for both men and women to dress
conservatively. In the past staff have said that patients have
felt uncomfortable with some volunteers' attire. For example,
do not wear short skirts, board shorts, shoestring singlets, ripped
or torn clothing, or tops that reveal mid-drift or are too low
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While working at BPC you have many options of where to live.
Thrifty: Thrifty is a car rental company that
also have short-term accommodation in containers. The containers
are clean and comfortable. They have air-conditioning, a fridge
in each room, shared western bathroom, washing machines and shared
kitchen. They kindly offer 5 rooms at a discounted rate (currently
$4/day) for volunteers at the clinic. If you wish to live here
it is good to book in advance to ensure there is a room and increase
your chances of getting a discounted room. To enquire email Sean
Perunas: There are often several rooms available
at Perunas. This is a Timorese share house and where Dr Dan lives.
They do not have the same western comforts as Thrifty but there
is more opportunity to interact with the Timorese community and
other Timorese staying there. If you wish to experience living
in a Timorese community this is a good option. It is also very
close to the clinic. This can be arranged when you get here.
Celeste’s Brother: There are rooms available
at Celeste, the clinic manager’s, brother’s house.
The accommodation is good and provides similar opportunities to
interact with the local community to Perunas. It is a bit further
away from the clinic though, however very accessible if you can
get hold of a bicycle. This can also be arranged when you get
For other options it is probably a good idea to look up the new
lonely planet guide to East Timor.
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Over the last few years many of the international volunteers at
the clinic have contracted Malaria (especially in Dec-Jan). As
we have good testing facilities and treatment at the clinic we
have all made good recovery and have not been too sick. It is
a good idea to prepare yourself for the possibility of getting
Malaria. Most of us were on prophylaxis (doxy or mefloquine [Larium]
) and still got it though believe the severity was decreased by
The clinic treats malaria with arthemether combined with mefloquine.
This treatment is very effective. However, if you chose to take
mefloquine as your prophylaxis you are not advised to also use
it as a treatment. Those of us on mefloquine prophylaxis who contracted
malaria have taken Malarone for treatment. Getting hold of Malarone
in Timor has been very difficult. We therefore recommend that
if you are taking mefloquine prophylaxis that you bring with you
a treatment dose of Melarone in case you need it. A treatment
does consists of 4 tablets per day for 3 days. If you can get
your hands on some cheaply we would also love any donations to
Naturally the best thing to do is not get bitten by Mosquito’s!
So bring lots of long sleeved light shirts, long pants, sock and
shoes. Mosquito repellent is also very expensive here so it’s
probably a good idea to bring some of that over if you have room.
It is also a good idea to bring a Mosquito net to sleep under.
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Dili is quite expensive depending on how you live. This is due
to a combination of the US dollar and the presence of the UN,
which has increased the prices. Here are a few approx prices to
give you an idea on how much you will need:
Accommodation: $75 upwards a month
Lunch: $1-$4 day
Dinner: $1-$10 night
Taxi: $1 a ride
Visa: $35 month
Drinks: $1 water, $2-3.50 beer
Supermarket prices for western foods are expensive – it
often costs around $3-4/meal/person to cook at home if you buy
ingredients at western supermarkets.
Hiring a car: $75/day plus fuel (approx)
Phone Cards: $22 SIM card, $15 a recharge card – calls are
Things to Bring
• Mosquito Net
• Conservative Clothing including Light long sleeved Shirts
and Long pants
• Comfy shoes and socks/sandals (if you like that look)
• First Aid Kit (however, you can get most of the drugs
you need here cheaper)
• Malarone (if on Mefloquine prophylaxis)
• Pocket text books and drug dosing schedules – e.g.,
Oxford clinical handbooks
• Mosquito repellent
• Swimsuit & towel
• 1 set of good clothes and shoes (in case you get invited
to a wedding…)
• Clothes at the markets are really cheap – though
it is a bit of a hassle to go there and sort through them…
and they are pretty small!
• Books/iPod/CD player etc
• Camera & Film (lots of good photo opportunities!)
• Phone (you can buy a SIM card here)
• Small gifts – perhaps from your country
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