Jenny Shepherd and Kylie Knellwolf, nurses, and Nicole Frazer, clinical support officer, visited some ATLAS projects in Timor-Leste in May 2018.

The main purpose was to undertake a vision screening program. The program facilitates diagnosis, intervention and treatment to optimise good vision, especially prior to starting school.

In the days before screening began, Jenny visited the Timor-Leste National Eye Centre, a Fred Hollows NZ project in the grounds of the National Hospital in Dili which is run by the Timorese government. Eye testing is free for Timorese and glasses were quoted at $6. No appointments are necessary. Arrangements were made for the team to return with any children requiring testing.


                  Eye test underway


Eye screening took place for twenty-one of the girls, Sisters, students and the sewing group at the Carmelite convent at Fatuhada in Dili. Here the Sisters care for young women who have progressed from the Maubara Orphanage, and are attending High Schools in Dili, some with a view to go to University or other courses.

The group was thrilled to be able to give some English lessons to many of the girls, with an emphasis on telling the time and body parts vocabulary. This was very popular with lots of interaction and note taking. Even the handyman joined the group at the back. A calendar chart was presented to them with changeable days, dates, months and seasons. A session on hand hygiene was given with theory and a practical session which was also enthusiastically received.

                              Learning words


The group visited the well-known HIAM Health institution, which serves families and communities especially from rural areas. Their nutritional garden project includes growing the extraordinary Moringa tree (Drumstick tree). Trees are grown from seeds and the leaves of the mature trees in the garden are processed. The equipment they use are drying racks, a dehydrator and a blender. At HIAM Health they package and sell the dry leaves (used for tea) and powdered dry leaves, used to supplement undernourished children and the sick.



      Getting rid of germs on the hands

At the happy orphanage in Maubara, thirty residents were given the eye screening and follow-up will be undertaken by the Sisters.

Basic English lessons were given to the children using alphabet and number puzzles, flash cards, colour by number, shapes and colours and other activities such as picking the odd one out. Songs “Little Peter Rabbit”, “Head Shoulders, Knees & Toes” and also “Open, Shut Them” were sung with the children.

At the hand hygiene session coloured glitter “germs” on hands were spread to the action and music of the “Chicken Song”. The posters used in the education session were then placed at appropriate places around the orphanage by the children.

The Sisters at Maubara said they still make Moringa at the clinic but they need a new press.


One evening everyone enjoyed a night at the movies! “Toy Story” was played on a small laptop screen with the children sitting on the floor. Although it was in English, no-one left and there were plenty of gasps and laughs right to the end.

In all, the visit was a great experience for the group and for Australia’s Timorese friends.

                      Enjoying the film “Toy Story”


                               Group at Fatuhada