By Alana Mitchelson
ROTARY clubs of Pakenham and Berwick have contributed to the establishment of a much-needed dental clinic in East Timor.
Villagers held a festival in the town centre to celebrate the opening of Balibo’s first permanent dental clinic last month.
It was an occasion so special for the town that former President of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta attended its official opening.
The clinic’s first volunteer dentist Dr David Bladen found the oral health of the community very poor – with a high prevalence of gum disease – as he treated hundreds of patients for pain relief.
Rotary Club of Pakenham past president Roger Thornton was among the Rotary representatives who visited the town to deliver the project after two years of combined fundraising efforts and the collection of relevant equipment.
“Prior to that, they had nothing; dental care was virtually non-existent. There might be five dentists in the whole country,“ he said.
“Rotary plans to send rotating teams of volunteer dentists to run the Balibo Dental Clinic, and educate residents about regularly brushing teeth and avoiding sweet foods.“
The facility also has a kitchen to cater for patients who have travelled a long distance to obtain dental care and an accommodation unit for the volunteer dental clinician.
Rotary Club of Keilor’s David Dippie had visited Balibo exactly 10 years ago and noted the dramatic changes to the village.
“When I was last there, the country was still in the middle of a civil war. There were a lot of displaced people and a lot of people were living in tents outside the airport,“ he said.
“There have been some serious advances. There are kids who will be the first in their family to have an education.
“But there is still much more to be done.“
Rotary also works on a number of ongoing education projects supporting Balibo schools with classroom furniture, equipment, computers and sport facilities to meet the needs of the children.