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RotaRians against MalaRia
By Jess Main
Rotaract Club of Canberra, ACT
I’vE NEvER BEEN so HoT as the day I was handing
out long-lasting insecticidal nets for Rotarians Against
Malaria (RAM) in Manatuto, Timor Leste. All my sweat and
exhaustion was forgotten, however, the moment I handed
an elderly lady her first net. She was so excited she kissed
me on both cheeks and repeatedly thanked me for it.
After a red eye flight from Canberra I walked into
breakfast with all the nuns at the Carmelite Sisters
Convent. The warmth and kindness provided by the nuns,
and especially waking in the mornings to their marvellous
singing, made every day in Timor extraordinary.
The first week we headed to Manatuto where we
delivered approximately 9000 nets to every man, woman
and child in five villages and six sub villages. During this
time we held two training sessions; one for all the chiefs
in the region and another for local volunteers. Each chief
had to select a number of volunteers who would assist
us with the local census. These volunteers were paid a
wage to assist us. They were provided with information
about malaria and how to undertake a census. One of the
amazing aspects of RAM was that it not only provided
malaria nets, it also provided 20 Manatuto locals with
training and work experience during the project.
In the second week our 20 volunteers went house-to-
house to count everyone in the five villages and six sub
villages. We assisted on two occasions with this census.
During this week we also visited the fabulous Rotary
project in Baucau called East Timor Roofing and their Mini
Silos Project, which assists locals with storing grains from
one harvest to the next.
My third and final week in Timor was the hardest of all.
The six of us worked from dawn ’til dusk each day in the
heat. We were back at the health centre assisting with
calculating the number of nets for each family and writing
the pick-up slips (date, location and time). It was the first
time in years I can remember having writer ’s cramp. We
had six Rotarians, seven Ministry of Health workers and
20 local volunteers all working in this extremely hot room
for two very long days. One of the volunteers left some
of his census papers back in this home village and had
to walk five hours to pick them up. He got a surprise the
next day when our youngest Rotarian picked him up in
the four wheel drive.
The day before the net distribution all the volunteers
went back to the local communities to hand out the
pick-up slips for the Malaria nets. Rotarians assisted
with driving volunteers from village to village. Two of us
accompanied the Ministry of Health staff to announce
9000 nets to every man, woman and child in five
villages and six sub-villages in Timor Leste
20 volunteers went house to house to get an
accurate count of the population
For more information on Rotarians Against
Malaria visit www.ramaustralia.org or
Over 9000 insecticidal nets were handed out in Manatuto,
Timor Leste, recently by Rotarians Against Malaria volunteers.
over a loud speaker that tomorrow was distribution day.
We visited every corner of Manatuto. I was sitting in the
middle seat and jumped out at one point to take photos
of the children listening to the loud speaker message – I
was like a novelty and all the children were coming up to
chat to me.
Distribution day was a bit like Election Day. It started
at the health centre where we assisted with putting the
bundles of nets into the utes. The six Rotarians broke up
into three groups and went to the District centres. Before
the distribution started all the communities members
heard about how to use the malaria nets and why they
are so important. My co-worker and I handed out over
1000 nets! It was a very hot and emotional day, but the
response from community members receiving the nets
was overwhelming. They were so grateful that Aussies
had helped their small community.
The trip to Timor was a life changing experience for me
and the people receiving the malaria nets.
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