Bairo Pite Clinic

Volunteering for BPC

about volunteering for bpc | How to apply | Who we are looking for | Choosing your elective | information for volunteers
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 winter.
  • Accommodation is available (see options below).
  • 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 is expected.
  • There are some great sites for walking, diving and other tourist stuff during respite from clinic work.


How to apply

To apply to volunteer at BPC, download the application form and return your completed form to: Please read the Information for Volunteers section, below.

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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, click here.

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information for volunteers on Working in Timor-Leste

Tips | Accomodation | Malaria | Money | Things to Bring

by Virginia Dawson
January 2006

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 teach you!

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 cut.

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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 on:

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 here.

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 our prophylaxis.

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 the clinic!

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 quite expensive

Suggested 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
• Sunscreen
• 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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Bairo Pite Clinic
Tel: +670 3324118

© 2006 Bairo Pite Clinic