Last month, Maluk Timor was lucky to have a visit from some of the Australian Board and some volunteers to our office in Dili. Dr Jeremy Beckett, the previous CEO and current Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee for Maluk Timor, was part of this group. We had a chance to sit down to talk about what it was like to be back in Dili.
It was almost a year to the day since Dr Jeremy last saw the palms of the Dili waterfront from the air, with the familiar outline of Atauro Island off in the distance. He was back in the country in which he and his family had lived and worked for five years.
“I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like to come back to Timor-Leste after such a difficult year, with COVID, floods and dengue on top of the everyday struggles that people face. But as I was driving through Dili and taking in the familiar landmarks, familiar smells, and I couldn’t help but smile – it was like putting on a forgotten old pair of shoes and remembering how comfortable they felt.
“I love being back in Timor-Leste – reconnecting with the relationships that have ripened over time – there is a lot of trust and mutual respect. I feel like I’ve picked up where I left off.
“I popped in to watch some training of health care workers that our ASTEROID Team was delivering. Joining the MT team training was a Doctor from the Ministry of Health (National Health Institute) who we’d previously trained through the Post-Graduate Family Medicine Program. I sat back and listened to her presenting the training package our team had developed. I was so very proud of her and of our team: they were ‘hitting it out of the park’. For me it was bringing together everything that we had been working on… doctors we had trained were now representing the Ministry of Health and training their colleagues in best practice care in their own language. It struck me that what had felt like a pipedream years ago had become a reality. It was what we set out to do, and it felt fantastic to see it really happening.
“When starting something as ambitious as Maluk Timor, there is a lot of investment that goes in – emotional energy, time, money, everything – and you sometimes wonder whether any of it will be left standing after you leave. Well, here was the proof.
“I am tremendously proud of the Maluk Team. Even though everyone has been through such a difficult year, there is such resilience. Things have changed since we left, but for the better. The staff have matured and grown in themselves. The work has carried on and its expanded; and has broken through ceilings that – to be honest – I wasn’t sure we’d ever be able to. Problems that I wasn’t able to overcome as CEO have now been resolved, and MT is breaking into new projects that I’d never dreamed of. It’s an exciting time.
“I loved being back in Timor-Leste and I feel a real sense of peace and optimism having seen it all again.”
Viva Maluk Timor.