The below story appeared on the Australian Embassy’s facebook page about ‘OUR JESS’ – one of the marvellous Australians currently working as an
About Jess Harries….
Jess was born in Tasmania but lived in Alice Springs, a remote town in Australia’s Northern Territory before moving to Timor-Leste. Jess has been visiting Timor-Leste since 2009 when she came over for her brother’s wedding. “Like so many, I was immediately drawn to the place and the people as well as the challenges, the resilience, the history. I visited several times over the next few years and even cycled around the country for a month in 2016 which provided an excellent introduction to this stunning country and hospitable culture.”
With her background in public health, Jess started volunteering for Maluk Timor in 2017, and moved to Dili fulltime in 2018 as an Australian volunteer. At Maluk Timor she mentors a team of 6 health care workers in their efforts to end rheumatic heart disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement required Jess and her team to quickly find new ways to ensure their patients could continue to safely access critical health care. Innovations included transitioning patients to new services, securing new penicillin supplies, and shifting their model of mentoring in the districts from in-person to using phone and WhatsApp. “I am so proud of the work of my team throughout this time.
Their tenacity and dedication has ensured that most of our patients were still able to access treatment despite the challenges.”
Jess attributes Timor-Leste’s success to “swift decisive action by the government and the health sector, combined with impressive work from health personnel at all levels. This has left us in a much stronger position for facing this pandemic than we anticipated.”
Reflecting on her own experience of the past few months, Jess said that “so many people around the world have worked hard, have been isolated from loved ones and have faced devastating loss and grief throughout this pandemic. Although I have missed my loved ones and there have been challenges, I have also felt so lucky to have had the opportunity to be here in Timor-Leste.
Volunteers Strengthen Maluk Timor
“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi AnnanAustralians and Timorese are connected; across that tiny strip of ocean we share a long history, we share family, friends and colleagues. Apparently, we now even share crocodiles – although I think the science on that one is still pending! COVID-19 has been a great opportunity for Australia to step forward and support our close neighbour.”
The next big challenge is resumption of primary health care services. As we farewell a number of our long standing volunteers we are pleased to welcome 12 new international volunteers – from all corners of the globe – Australia, Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, Scotland, Singapore and Germany. We are sure these new volunteers will bring with them skills, expertise and new experiences to bolster the training., education and mentoring in the primary health care centres.We look forward to the new team arriving over the next few months.